Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Of super volcanoes and the Old West
Americans cleave to the things of this world as if assured that they will never die, and yet are in such a rush to snatch any that comes within their reach, as if expecting to stop living before they have relished them. They clutch everything but hold nothing fast, and so lose grip as they hurry after some new delight.
Death steps in in the end and stops him before he has grown tired of this futile pursuit of that complete felicity which always escapes him.
At first there is something astonishing in this spectacle of so many lucky men restless in the midst of abundance. But it is a spectacle as old as the world; all that is new is to see a whole people performing it."
~Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1835
Public domain image via Wikipedia
To create a future I've been on a trip through the 1800s. Not a deep immersion in books and film, but more of a refresher survey to look up interesting events and concepts to help with generating a sense of place and atmosphere for the Post-Yellowstone super volcano novella I'm writing. Or more accurately, to create the feel of a unique time period in which the circumstance of human life and behavior differ from our own in strange and exotic ways.
It's a pioneer story on one level, crossing the wastes of snow and silicate volcanic ash in the Midwest and Great Plains towards a distant goal, so I've been going back to stories of the westward migration. And since I'm looking for tension, drama, and a tragedy to triumph over, I'm revisiting the history of the Donner Party.