Book: The Measure of the Universe by Ellen Larsoncategories: Book, Dystopian, Aliens, Humor, Speculative Fiction, Greek Romance, Paleanthology, Greek Mythology, Prometheus, Greek Ruins, Alien Romance, Literary Fiction, Science Fiction
Ellen Larsonabout this book: I got the idea for The Measure of the Universe while sitting in the Wimbledon queue, waiting to watch some tennis. I'd been on a bit of a Greek Mythology kick, which had led me to read Prometheus Unbound, the long poem by Shelley. I've always been fascinated by the origins of language and storytelling, so the Prometheus myth--especially in the version that has Prometheus giving science and the arts, particularly writing, to humankind, appealed to me. I wondered what life as must have been like before the invention of writing, and how hard it would be for humans in a preliterate society to picture life with writing (and all the things that writing allows). There is a line in the poem about the gifts Prometheus has given (and been severely punished for giving) to humankind, including "Painting, Sculpture, and rapt Poesy, And arts, tho' unimagined, yet to be." Those words "And arts though unimagined yet to be" thrilled me, and made me think, perhaps there is another form of communication beyond writing that we now are as blind to as the preliterate humans were of writing.
The result was the Measure of the Universe, a story set a hundred years in the future, telling of how an alien Prometheus comes to Earth, and gives the gift not of writing (because we already have that), but of some unimagined art one stage more advanced to humankind. Describing that "unimagined art" was the hardest part of writing the book. I ended up researching every reference to the Prometheus myth that I could find in art, literature, sculpture, theater, and music (an effort that is memorialized in the Author's Apology to the book). Thus I realized how deeply this particular myth permeates our lives. Not least with the warning that it carries: that there are always powerful people who believe that the masses should be kept in ignorance, because wisdom is power, and that to share wisdom is therefore a crime.
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