Here’s a thought: the problem with teaching non-fiction in schools is that as a culture we value story, even it its most cliched forms, over memorization. The great wave of edutainment hitting us now is trying to meet this need, merging story (the “Mario” adventure, in a nutshell, is a fairy tale in which it is man, or plumber as the case may be, vs. nature, albeit a very twisted view of nature, to rescue his true love) with facts. While the grooters are tied to the tube wonking on flying turtles, they have to solve puzzles that actually contain meaning.
Story and facts have been merged into one for years. There’s some speculation that the Bible was preserved to retain warnings for behavior (food choices, ethics), while histories are basically the story of the past written by the winners. Today we get our non-fiction in a multitude of forms, but I have to admit that I prefer a well-done story version as in Bruce Sterling’s The Hacker Crackdown and here in Ed Regis’ take on wacky (but plausible) science.
Regis’ idea on science goes something like this: there’s always been science that people thought a little strange if not laughable (tiny living organisms that carry disease?), so what’s the current wacky science, is it really plausible and why, and where’s it heading. But he tells us this through the lives of the scientists (and I may be using that term loosely for some of these people). People like Eric Drexler (nanotechnology), Hans Moravec (downloading brains), Dave Criswell (stars for energy), and Michael Darwin (cryogenics). What they have in common with each other and such people as Robert Heinlein, Timothy Leary, Evil Knieval, and Richard Feynman illustrates the heady stuff of science on the edge. If at times it seems science fictional, then that’s probably because SF writers make it their job to keep up with fringe elements such as these.
[Finished 16 October 1994]