What Stories Would You Tell?

What Stories Would You Tell?

After a friend reminded me that HBO had created a series based on Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, I picked up my copy of the book.

When I first read it, close to its publishing date of 2014, I was reminded of The Stand. The idea of a flu killing most of the population of the world was a fantastic idea to me when I first read Stephen King’s novel. Of course, now we know that this is all too possible.

Yes, I’m reading about a flu killing almost everyone on the planet while a flu virus continues to rage its way through the world in repeating cycles. Maybe because I know St. John Mandel’s story ends on a hopeful note?

In Station Eleven, a travelling group of musicians and actors make their way from town to town in year 20 after the pandemic that brought civilization down. A couple of the characters sometimes break into abandoned houses to find things of value – useful for the group or sentimental to the two characters. One collects TV Digests and the other is obsessed with a particular celebrity from the before times. That led me to think about what I would treasure enough to carry it around in a pocket or backpack. Technology would be dead, but books could still tell their stories, as long as there were people to read them. What stories would I tell if I lived through the collapse of civilization? What stories would I value enough to want to preserve and perpetuate? Even now, I think the history we are taught in K-12 isn’t focused on the right things. So much is left out and minimized, and the wrong things emphasized – for example, I think it’s stupid to make kids memorize the dates and locations of battles, no matter how pivotal the war was. I think teaching the future generations about how humankind has made mistakes as well as the ways we’ve have been the best possible humans would be valuable, hopefully instructive, as people went from survival to some new form of doing civilization.

If I were limited by what I could carry on my back, I wouldn’t choose religious books, nor great ‘masterpieces of literature’ written by long dead white men. I’d want to find books holding stories that spoke of many different kinds of lives, and of hope, resiliency and the importance of community and connection. Poetry or prose? Some of each. Poetry by Maya Angelou, Richard Blanco and Mary Oliver, perhaps. Stories by Octavia Butler, Ursula Le Guin, some Neil Gaiman, and as many BIPOC, trans and queer writers as I could carry. As a person living on Turtle Island, I’d want to carry and share the words of indigenous people of this part of the world.

Guess I’d better plan on creating a library in the post-apocalypse world.

What stories do you think would be the most valuable in the world after the collapse of all we find normal today? What books would you treasure, and share around a campfire? What kinds of stories would you want to have continue from the before times to after?

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