Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Pebble in My Shoe

by guest Camille Minichino

I can't be sure what Edgar Allan Poe meant by this quote: "The past is a pebble in my shoe," but the sentiment fits me, too.

Maybe it's because my high school history teacher's primary duty was to coach the football team to victory. (He failed at that, too.)

But I can't blame Mr. T. forever. I've had ample time to visit the past in a meaningful way, to learn the details of wars, to imagine lunch with the greats of bygone ages.

In his latest movie, "Midnight in Paris," Woody Allen takes us on a trip to the past, giving a contemporary screenwriter a chance to cavort with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and many others from the surveys of English literature even physics majors were required to take.

We see this “poll question” all the time: if you could visit the past, whom would you have lunch with?

Edgar Allan Poe comes to mind. I might ask him if he could sleep at night after writing the "The Tell-Tale Heart." I couldn't, after reading, the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. The same with "The Cask of Amontillado." I was young enough to worry myself sick that I'd hurt someone enough for him to take that level of revenge.

But if I ever did have a chance to time travel, I'd go forward, not back.

I don't want to revisit the time when some women had their lower ribs surgically removed to achieve a more pleasing (to whom?) waistline. And I already know all I want to about the days before plumbing and the zipper and all the iStuff.

I'd like to know what becomes of the Kindle.

It's fun to have my slide rule hanging in my office, as a reminder of earlier times, but I wouldn't want to give up my new 27-inch iMac!

I'd love to go away for a while and rest, and then come back and talk to my grandchildren’s grandchildren. That would put us at around 2060.

Some questions for them:

1. Has there been a First Gentleman in the White House yet?

2. What did Sue Grafton do after Z and how many Reacher novels were there in all?

3. What became of all the little kids at the mall whose mommies told them "Good job!" just for grabbing the sippy cup?

4. Did Keira Knightley’s face ever wrinkle?

5. What’s the official language of the United States?

. . .  and more.

Of course I could read sci fi and get someone's idea of the future, or I could write it and make my own predictions.

But I want to know what actually happens, whether there'll be paper books in the year 2100, and did we ever give peace a chance?

What would you want to know?

Camille Minichino is a retired physicist turned writer, the author of The Periodic Table Mysteries. Her akas are Margaret Grace (The Miniature Mysteries) and Ada Madison (The Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries). The first chapter of 'The Square Root of Murder," debuting July 2011, is on her website:


Camille Minichino said...

It's great to be visiting this great blog site today. Thanks for hosting me, Daughters!

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Science fiction doesn't tell what will happen because although it postulates advances, it's stuck at the level of technology at which it was written. I have read so many books written in the 80s and 90s that feature giant computers usable only by specialists, for example. And Terran women on Darkover wear pantyhose.

Maybe it's because I'm a shrink, but seeing the quote, I immediately assumed the pebble in our shoe--and Poe's, of course--is our own past.

Camille Minichino said...

Love the pantyhose allusion, Elizabeth!

It makes much more sense that Poe meant his/our own past, but I thought I'd spin it for my own purposes. It's what I do all day!

Liz V. said...

I've never been sure knowing the future would be helpful, at least w/o the power to stop the train wreck. So, I'd go back and, given the site and your quotation, would opt to learn what happened to Poe on his last day.

Camille Minichino said...

Theories of Poe's death read like some of the best mysteries -- so, yes, Liz, querying the man himself would be fascinating.

Jeri Westerson said...

Liz, you obviously didn't watch Star Trek, where they have flip phone communicators, hand held computer devices, and card-sized computer "disks". And Vulcans. :)

Camille Minichino said...

Do Vulcans wear pantyhose, Jeri?

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Jeri, I know that Star Trek was the first to get a few things right. One of the funniest is the doors sliding open when a person approaches, which has been a present reality for an awfully long time now. Note too that Star Trek wasn't a book. Room-sized computers could have been a pain in the neck to produce. ;)

Sandra Parshall said...

I started using my first desktop computer (an IBM PC) around 1980, and it was obvious even then that computers would rule the future. What surprises me is that the computer I'm using now is even bigger than the one I had then. A bigger screen is an advance, but you'd think by now the CPU would have shrunk. And room-size computers still exist -- massive servers for massive companies.

Personally, I'd like to know what's going to happen on Tuesday.

Camille Minichino said...

Ha, Sandra! Short term is definitely on my mind, too! Will tech support call me back?

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