Nature Future Conditional

The story behind the story: Broken maps of the sea

This week in Futures, we’re pleased to welcome back Preston Grassmann with his story Broken maps of the sea. Preston has previously written for us about The vermilion market and Midnight in the cathedral of time. He has very kindly taken time out of his busy schedule to reveal what inspried his latest story — as ever it pays to read the story first.

Writing Broken maps of the sea

Mythologies, much like our endeavours in science, are an attempt to give shape to  experience, to order the world in ways that can help us understand its complexity. As the world around us changes, so will the stories we tell. In Broken maps of the sea I wanted to give the sense of a large-scale mythology deeply informed by the world it describes.

The scientific concept that inspired the idea for Broken maps of the sea was a theory proposed by Stephen J. Gould and Niles Eldredge in 1972 called ‘punctuated equilibrium’ — the idea that the rate of evolution changes according to the adaptive needs of individual species. Given the rapid changes taking place in our environment, the question of how a species might adapt takes on a rather ominous poignancy.

Before this theory was proposed, it was widely held that species could evolve only at a slow and continuous rate. Currently, many evolutionary biologists support the idea of rapid changes along with gradualism, and fossil records seem to indicate a case for both views.

Granted, the story takes this concept to an extreme, but the core concept is still there.


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