Trees into books … eventually.
Because there is apparently no end to the inventive riches of Scandinavian literary culture, we now have the Future Library Project.
They are planting a forest of 1,000 pine trees in Norway north of Oslo that will be harvested a century in the future and used to print an anthology of writing. In the manner of a literary time capsule, the pieces for the anthology are being written now at the rate of one per year and held in secret until publication in 2114.
Margaret Atwood, who knows a few things about future writing, is the first contributor, with a piece about which only the title is known: Scribbler Moon. According to Atwood:
There’s something magical about it … It’s like Sleeping Beauty. The texts are going to slumber for 100 years and then they’ll wake up, come to life again. It’s a fairytale length of time. She slept for 100 years.
Fellow quasi-futurist David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, Bone Clocks) is next up.
It’s a fascinating thing to contemplate, writing something that won’t be read until well after one is dead. The advantage? No worries about reviews. The downside? No adulation.
Still, it’s worth thinking about the next time you sit down to your next writing assignment. Pick up a book from the 1910s and see how much the language and underlying societal assumptions have changed since then. Then, taking that into consideration, start writing with an eye for timelessness. Who knows? Somebody may pick it up in 2114, on a screen or yellowed paper, and you want to make sure that they will know what you are talking about.