So I’m sitting in the BBC canteen in Broadcasting House with one Matthew Webb, who is (I fear) the husband part of our particular TV husband-and-wife Research and Development team. I say that because he sits really quietly and reads things and grunts while I freak out about stuff and try and kick him under the table. In this particular aspect – as in many others – it feels much like my parent’s marriage (except with heated and even occasionally productive debates about social software, recommendations engines and the like).
Anyway, he’s unusually chatty on this day and I think I’m being unusually stoic and calm. I’m tucking into a slab of over-cooked BBC roast-pork with mixed vegetables that have been boiled into submission while he’s chomping on some kind of grey-looking sandwich from the shop that doesn’t have the scary woman with the thrusting money-demanding hand at the cash-till. I’m probably using a plastic knife because they never have any metal knives – my theory being that with the BBC’s internal politics (in other departments, obviously) being what it is, a metal knife would simply prove too much of a temptation. And – while we look out over the bright panorama of London towards the distant hills of Hampstead, across the emptiness of Regent’s Park – Matt starts talking about fog, the diffraction of light (I’m not a physics graduate, so apologies if that makes no sense) and the possibilities of enormous hovering spherical mirrors.
And it was in this fashion that I became witness to the genesis of an UpsideClown story that oozes Borges and Ong called: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia. Since Matt and I talked initially, he took his story seed and doused it liberally in Gro-fast, psycho-tropic substances, a small amount of cat-pee from an animal with prostate difficulty and had it bitten by a passing radio-active spider. Or so I can only deduce from its scale, complexity and total disconnection from traditional human forms of communication. A choice excerpt follows:
“The basis for Patagonian civilisation, the discovery that turned a relatively simple agricultural community towards greater and greater complexity, was the perfection of their science of optics. Every citizen carried a telescope, and at intervals in their cities vast mirrored spheres were winched into the air. Smaller spheres were placed outside windows, and similar ones inside all rooms and scattered in all public places. Strung between cities and villages were magnifying lenses, repeaters, also winched up. From what we’re told it seems that this infrastructure allowed any citizen – from anywhere – to view any other point in the empire.”
At which point I can only say that my competing ideology – that we should bio-engineer human beings to produce nano-enhanced packet-switching uber-networked skin-flakes that were able to sense the nature of the thing they were adjacent to and capable of determining their three-dimensional location in space with relation to nearby flakes with the effect of producing an accurate and 3-D explorable model of the world and all its surfaces that could tell you what and where everything was at any given moment of the day or night – was significantly more fun. And moreover (you will note with respect) had the advantage of not defying any major laws of physics and helping you determine which parts of the world were particularly in need of a hoover.