Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Snippets

Here's a bit from my science fiction novel-in-editing, Scylla and Charybdis, where I ponder a possible future of books:

The library was an austere rose-marble building with a dome ceiling and two abstract figure sculptures for front pillars. Pulses of light passed through their glass limbs, mimicking features. Inside, two doors led into massive chambers on either side, but Anaea’s attention was drawn to the central dome and the encased pillar there.

“Central terminal,” Gwydion explained. “More comprehensive and faster than using the link.” The other rooms were for group holographs, school programs and tours. Past the terminal was a series of isolation doors.

Anaea pressed herself up against the isolation doors with a little cry of astonishment. In that sealed, regulated environment stood shelves upon shelves of real books: massive hardbounds, some with plastic, others velvet or vineskin, paperbacks staggering in untidy lines, and everything in between.

Labels on the shelves divided them by subject and origin. She could see two sections that dated to before landfall on Elysium.

“Oh,” she said, warmed by some ancestral feeling of ownership. Her hand uncurled against the glass.

“I feel the same way,” he said. “It’s silly, I know, old-fashioned – but something about the fact they don’t change, that every word is permanent, speaks to me.”

“I like that they’re not dependent on anything else,” Anaea said. “A world to themselves.” Like home, she thought, and felt a twinge of regret.

To assuage that sickness, she pondered the idea of working here, the meticulous attention to detail and the constant guard against decay. New books must be printed occasionally for collectors or historians, but the originals were priceless. There was charm in the idea, but that might be the novelty.

Gwydion had moved away, speaking in soft tones to his link. He smiled ruefully when she turned to face him. “The officer I report to wants to speak with me,” he said. “I think it would be better if he didn’t meet you just yet. Will you -”

“I don’t need to be chaperoned,” she assured him. “I can find my way back.”

He slipped out. Apart from a few voices in one viewing room, she seemed to be alone. She studied the labels on the bookshelves, noticing the preponderance of fiction. The soft light blurred too much detail to read more than a few of the covers.

The directions next to the door sternly admonished that visitors must be accompanied, clean, free of food, beverage and disease, and that the decontamination protocols took two minutes during which it was crucial the visitor remain still. The implied castigation turned her elsewhere.

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