The Flash Forward podcast, written and presented by Rose Eveleth, is consistently fascinating. Once a fortnight, Flash Forward visits a different possible scenario for our own future. The epidode lays out the premise with a series of imagined news broadcasts, and then interviews a range of experts to fully explore the likely consequences and ramifications for society and our everyday lives. These potential futures include everything from a world where you knew the exact date you’d die, to one with universal translation devices, or all drugs were legal.
Last month Flash Forward covered a scenario close to the thought experiment behind The Knowledge. ‘Episode 15: KABOOM’ explores what would happen if all the active volcanoes on the Earth were to start erupting at the same time. Obviously the answer is: lots of bad things… But what happens to humans and our planet? Who survives, and how?
This is a slightly older radio show, but if you’ve not heard it already it is certainly worth a listen! The Kasper Hauser Comedy Podcast plays with the idea of how much useful knowledge you could meaningfully communicate to someone from the fourteenth century in just one-minute of a time-travelling phone call… This topic of encapsulating key knowledge links very strongly to the themes of The Knowledge, and is absolutely hilarious!
June Is National Audiobook Month, and to celebrate Tantor Audio are running an audiobook special offer through the month. Throughout June, The Knowledge audiobook will be discounted 50% on their website. The audiobook is unabridged and available as either audio CDs or MP3s. It is narrated by the remarkable John Lee, who has also narrated some of my favourite novels by Alistair Reynolds and Peter F. Hamilton. You can listen to a free sample of the audiobook here.
A wake-up call, encouraging us to leave our comfort zone and learn the basics of caring for ourselves in a disaster and it’s aftermath. — Mixed Media Reviews
The epigraph introducing the whole book is a line from T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land:
These fragments I have shored against my ruins
(although see the unfortunate typo that appeared in one of the early drafts of the book…)
The Waste Land is a very powerful poem, and is commonly quoted. For example, lines from Section IV have been borrowed for two book titles by one of my favourite authors, Iain M. Banks: Consider Phlebas and Look to Windward; and the opening line of the poem, ‘April is the cruellest month’ has been adopted as a lyric by electronic music band Hot Chip. It is an absolute joy to hear the poem read aloud with the due rhythm and performance. I would, therefore, heartily recommend The Waste Land app released by the publishers Faber. It offers recordings of the poem read in its entirety by Eliot himself, as well as Ted Hughs and Viggo Mortensen (who of course plays the father in the film adaptation of The Road), alongside reproductions of Eliot’s edited manuscript and a filmed performance by Fiona Shaw.
I appeared this week on The Guardian science podcast, chatting with Alok Jha about The Knowledge and how to orchestrate the recovery of civilisation after an apocalypse. The 15 minute interview starts from the 21:50 time-stamp. Listen here
The themes of doomsday, surviving in a post-apocalyptic world and rebuilding from rudimentary means have been common tropes throughout the history of literature (it’s by no means a recent trend in sci-fi) – as explored in the article on recommended novels. Many of these older publications have fallen out of copyright restrictions and so are now with the public domain, available as free audio downloads. There is also a fantastic body of audio recordings that are free to download. I’ve collected together my recommended list of essential listening, pulling together the very best short stories and full novels. There are also a few poems here, such as Eliot’s ‘Wasteland’ and Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’ that feature as chapter epigraphs in The Knowledge.
To help get yourself into the mood for the end of the world as we know it, you can’t go far wrong with some of these albums – the very best post-apocalyptic music. These provided the soundtrack within my work bubble whilst researching and writing The Knowledgeand I hope you enjoy them too…