Hi everyone- I’m helping out with the Half Lives blog tour! Half Lives was one of the best books I’ve read this year, and carries a theme of misinterpreting major issues. Here’s a Guest Post by Sara Grant, on…
Communicating with the Future
In November 2009, my editor at Little, Brown sent me a link to an article on Slate.com’s Culture Gabfest. The article was titled “Atomic Priesthoods, Thorn Landscapes, and Munchian Pictograms: How to communicate the dangers of nuclear waste to future civilizations.” It discussed how a US Department of Energy panel planned to label the site of an underground nuclear waste repository. She thought this might be the spark for a teen novel.
She was right.
Although the article might sound dull and scientific, it raises an interesting conundrum. Some types of nuclear waste are deadly for more than 10,000 years. That seems like science fiction, but it’s scarily true. The article noted: “China, the planet’s oldest continuous civilization, stretches back, at most, 5,000 years. And the world’s oldest inscribed clay tablets—the earliest examples of written communication—date only from 3,000 or 3,500 B.C. It’s impossible to say what apocalyptic event might separate 21st-century Americans from our 210th-century successors. Successors, mind you, who could live in a vastly more sophisticated society than we do or a vastly more primitive one.”
I was fascinated by how you might communicate with future generations, which most likely will not speak the same language or understand our symbols. How do you create a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign from materials that would last and in a way that people would understand thousands of years in the future?
If you mark the site that stores the waste, would it only make others curious? Think this place was special? Wonder if it held treasures? I thought of all the Egyptian ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs – the threats of curses – that hadn’t stopped anyone from entering sacred tombs and looting their treasures. Modern-day museums are filled with Egyptian relics that were never supposed to have been uncovered. Locked doors and ‘keep out’ signs sometimes tempt rather than repel. How can you convince future civilisations that these nuclear waste storage sites are deadly, not special?
These were the questions inspired Half Lives. But don’t be misled by its scientific beginnings. Half Lives is two tangled tales of love, faith and survival — one set right after an apocalyptic event and the other hundreds of years in the future.
About Sara Grant
Sara is an author of fiction for teens and younger readers and freelance editor of series fiction. She has worked on twelve different series and edited nearly 100 books. Dark Parties, her first young adult novel, won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for Europe. Her new novel for teens – titled Half Lives – is an apocalyptic thriller. She also writes – Magic Trix – a fun, magical series for younger readers.
Sara was born and raised in a small town in the Midwestern United States. She graduated from Indiana University with degrees in journalism and psychology, and later she earned a master’s degree in creative and life writing at Goldsmiths College, University of London. She lives in London. www.sara-grant.com @authorsaragrant
Tomorrow’s Half Lives blog tour post will be over at Fluttering Butterflies blog! Be sure to check out the next stops, and the previous ones, too.
Half Lives grapples with these issues in a really interesting way that is also good to read.