Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Looking for Star Trek, High and Low

(Along with the Beatles, Herman Melville and Harry Potter)

by William S. Kowinski

Science fiction writer Bruce Sterling has a fascinating new non-fictional but still scientific book called Shaping Things (M.I.T. Press), which should be of interest to anyone into design, the future and the interface of information technology and the stuff in our lives. Plus it’s very short.

This isn’t about Bruce Sterling, however. It’s been inspired by an “endintroduction” to his book by Peter Lunenfeld, editorial director of Mediawork, the outfit that puts out this series of little books. He starts off: “I was mulling over Shakespeare’s observation that the future is an ‘undiscovered country.’ No, that’s not true; I was watching late night cable and stumbled across one of those forgettable Star Trek films from the 1990s, with that phrase in the title.”

We’ll overlook the slight to the films, and mention that he was of course referring to Star Trek VI (which I’ve conveniently just posted an essay about, here.) Lunefeld goes on to say that then he “remembered that Shakespeare wasn’t referring to the future, he was referring to death. Actually, that’s not true either.” He looked up the phrase on the Internet, and got the “proper context from Hamlet” which he swears he actually did read, but long ago.

His conclusion, and presumably the reason for mentioning all this, was: “This mix of the high and the low, the dread and the absurd, constitutes the future, and that’s what this Mediawork pamphlet is about.”

It’s also an aspect of the future that Star Trek had a hand in creating, and that it embodies. Especially the “mix of the high and the low.” And that’s a very good and very necessary thing.

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Now back to the show...

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