We all know that stories sometimes go viral, apotheosizing into memes. But much more interesting than a single story propagating itself through retelling is when stories inspire the telling of other stories in a cascading cultural daisy-chain.
What anecdote can you share with a friend that inspires them to share an anecdote of their own, deepening your mutual understanding? What might inspire them to share their story with others in a way that inspires those others to open up in turn, each a domino falling across an expanding web of conversations that stitch humanity yet more tightly together?
William Gibson on losing our sense of a capital-F Future:
I have a nagging suspicion that evolution (a wholly random process, though too few of us understand that) has left most of us unable to grasp the idea of an actual apocalypse being possibly of several centuries’ duration. The jackpot began one or two hundred years ago, it seems to me. I myself can dimly recall a world before utterly ubiquitous injection-molded plastics. Toys were of metal, wood, rubber. Styrene was as exotic as Gore-tex, briefly. I’m yet to discover any record of a culture whose imagined apocalypse was a…
A rigorously researched history of the eleventh-century warrior-knight Rodrigo Diaz.
With extraordinary precision and concision, Fletcher illuminates the complex cultural, economic, technological, and political dynamics at work in Diaz’s homeland and peels back layer after layer of legend to reveal the man beneath.
As a writer, it’s important to remember that only a tiny percentage of people read, far fewer read full articles instead of just headlines, fewer still read books, and — even if it’s a massive hit — only a minuscule fraction of those rarified few will read your book.
Knowing that you will never reach everyone frees you to write for a particular someone. You can tell a singular story just for people like them, a story that speaks to who they are and who they are becoming, a story they won’t be able to put down or forget.
Danny Crichton interviewed me for TechCrunch about the feedback loop between imagined worlds and the real one:
Current events are a painful reminder that unlike fiction, reality needn’t be plausible. The world is complex and even the wisest of us understand only a tiny sliver of what’s really going on. Nobody knows what comes next. So while it may feel like we’re living in a science fiction novel, that’s because we’ve always been living in a science fiction novel. Or maybe speculative fiction is more real than so-called realistic fiction because the only certainty is that tomorrow will be different…
Stories are Trojan Horses for ideas, a metaphor that proves its own point. Composed thousands of years ago — initially in Homer’s Odyssey and later in Virgil’s Aeneid — Odysseus’s gambit still reverberates through our culture, evolving as it leaps from mind to mind, seeding generation after generation with images, archetypes, and ways of making sense of the world.
You can craft a story that conveys a single big idea like The Tipping Point or that teems with ideas like The Big Short. Stories can map new conceptual territory: 1984 became the definitive allegory of state surveillance. They can spark…
“Technology and politics are inseparable. There’s a kind of nerd determinism that denies politics (‘Our superior technology makes your inferior laws irrelevant’). But just as pernicious is the inverse, the politicos who insist that technology is irrelevant to struggle, sneering about ‘clicktivism’ and ‘solutionism.’”
Fiction is the lie that reveals the truth.
The artist on her journey will make everything up, including herself. Her creations will be fictional, apparitional, chimerical. And yet the artist is neither a fabulist nor a charlatan. She is not lying. She is not deceiving. Rather she sees, with the vision of imagination, what lies beneath the box scores and the market quotes. She sees what is real and brings it forth so that others can see it.
From Steven Pressfield’s The Artist’s Journey.
If you want to do interesting work, a great starting point is to work on things you find interesting. Instead of trying to optimize for what you think others are likely to find interesting — chasing the market is a Sisyphean task — just keep digging deeper into what you find interesting.
That way, making your work interesting to others is simply a matter of sharing your enthusiasm. I took a geology class my freshman year of college. It’s easy to imagine how boring a class about rocks could be. But my professor loved rocks. She had contributed to the…