We’re All Wizards Now
by Julie Bertagna
My Gran hated telephones. They unnerved her. ‘Is that really you, Julie?’ she’d demand, as if she couldn’t believe my voice was travelling down a phoneline from Glasgow, all across the gusty Ayrshire moors, right into her ear.
For my grandparents and all the previous generations in human history, the everyday technology we take for granted would seem like the most incredible wizardry. Messages that leap silently through the air from person to person like magic spells? A genie in your car who gets you where you want to be (well, most of the time)? Mail that flies across the world in seconds? Thousands of songs kept in a tiny box in your pocket?
It’s a kind of magic. E-magic.
Just ten years ago, when I began writing Exodus (the first book of my trilogy set in a flooded world of the future) no one had mobile phones, i-pods or satnavs. There was no Facebook or Twitter. No smartphones or e-books. People had only begun to use e-mail. How did we survive?! Nowadays I have a mild panic attack if I leave the house without my i-pod and mobile phone...
But the e-revolution was seeping into our lives. And I was writing about a very changed world, a hundred years from now, when our technology has advanced, then become history, swept away in global floods. In a world devastated by climate change, humanity has divided into those living luxuriously in towering ‘sky cities’, safe from the floods, immersed in a highly-developed technology - and desperate refugees surviving hard, primitive existences at the mercy of a storm-ravaged Earth.
Mara, a 15 year old girl on a drowning island in the Atlantic, finds the key to survival via an old cyberwizz (a kind of palm-computer) which takes her into the Weave, the beautiful ruins of a virtual reality - now abandoned by the flooded world. There she finds Fox, the avatar of a boy who lives in a sky city. He changes her life and leads Mara towards a destiny she could never have imagined. Zenith and Aurora show how technology, the crucial connection between Mara and Fox, ultimately re-invents the fate of the whole world.
It was strange writing fiction about things that were changing so fast in real time. No one was talking about climate change when Exodus was published, but by the time I’d written Zenith it was front page news. Now there have been millions of victims of hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts and floods - the effects of a warming world - and the techno-revolution has transformed millions of other lives.
All of that seeped into my writing. In Aurora, technology has galloped onwards. For the sky people it’s become a part of their own circuitry, embedded inside them. The cities have almost become living organisms powered by sun, sea and winds with a grungy bio-architecture that fuels and feeds off itself. Ideas for ‘living towers’ sparked my imagination.
The key to the future is surely new green/bio technologies that can help feed us, give us fuels and ways to live that won’t wreck our planet, and might even solve global warming and its effects: read my Earthspace blog for some amazing ideas.
Humans are the most destructive creatures on the planet - and the most ingenious. So as we hurtle into the future, armed with all our technological wizardry, let’s see just how brilliant we really can be...
Thanks Julie. I think we all need to be reminded now and then that we have the potential to do wondrous things.