Sunday, 26 August 2012
Paying Homage to the Creator of the Galaxy's First e-Book - by Rosalie Warren
As for the connection to this blog... well, The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy - not Douglas Adams's book but the original (and fictional) work upon which is it based - is arguably the Milky Way's first electronic book, though of course there may be others as yet unknown to our civilisation. It was certainly the first one to reach Earth. This revolutionary piece of technology predated the web and most of the internet, foreshadowing it while Tim Berners-Lee was probably still wrestling with BBC Basic. The entry in it for Earth described said planet as 'Mostly Harmless' and then went on to engage with some of the rather more interesting features of the galaxy, such as the Total Perspective Vortex and the poetic heritage of the Vogons.
We visited Highgate Cemetery on a grey morning with occasional glimmers of sunshine and a cool rushing wind. My back was playing up so I hobbled from grave to grave with the aid of a walking stick, feeling about 90 and almost ready to take my place among the inhabitants (thankfully, I'm much better now). The atmosphere struck me not primarily as one of sadness (though some of the memorials to children were almost unbearably moving), but of lively minds far from silenced... still interacting in the wild swirl of meme and memory, engaged in meaty confrontation with intellectual rigour, style and wit. George Eliot's was another grave I stopped beside and offered my thanks for her wonderful novels, her intellect and her courage to be herself. Most of these minds never met in life but they meet now, not just as ghosts (if you believe in ghosts), but as living beings enshrined in their words, still read and discussed today and still influencing the world in which we live.
And some of them, of course, were 'ordinary people', if there is any such thing, who made contributions of a different but no less vital kind. Some lost their lives long before making the contributions they should have made, through disease or war or domestic disaster. All rustle together on that windswept London hill, reminding us how short are lives are but how important it is that we discover what we are meant to do, while here, and do it with all the energy we can muster.
I was pleased to discover in my bag a pen marked Coventry Tales, the collection of short pieces brought out by Coventry Writers' Group last year. I proudly placed it among the pens, pencils and notes in Douglas's little tub. Douglas died far too young, long before he had achieved all of his potential. But at least he reached some of it, doing great work for the conservation of Earth's endangered species, as well as creating amazing characters and writing very funny books.
A final note to this rather disjointed piece. Over the last few days, I've been sorting through the belongings of my recently deceased father, George Warren. Dad achieved many things in life, but I did not know he was a writer, or not to any great extent. Among the things he left is a red holdall full of papers - diaries, short stories and perhaps a great deal more. I haven't read them properly yet. I don't know whether I should. Surely, if he'd wanted me to read them, he would have shown them to me while he was alive? But if he hadn't wanted me to see them, wouldn't he have destroyed them? I wish I knew...
All this, though, has made me even more determined to be true to myself as I write. If I lapse, I will think of Dad's red holdall and of that windy day in Highgate Cemetery. I will forget to worry about publication and 'success', and focus on the bit of me that knows what it is meant to be doing, for as many years as I have left to do it.
My first e-book - Charity's Child
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