Saturday, February 14, 2004

Telling Stories

I finished reading a pretty good book last night, Ammonite by Nicola Griffith. It's a science fiction book first published in 1992. The story takes place on the planet GP, or "Jeep" to those who live on it. The planet had been colonized centuries before but the colonists and the "Company" who owned the planet lost touch until now. The Company shows up to start mining and exploiting the planet only to have most of it employees soon die of a deadly virus. Interestingly, the only ones who survive the virus are women. All of the colonists, now natives, on Jeep turn out to be women. Enter anthropologist Marghe Taishan. She is both a guinea pig for a recently developed vaccine for the virus and there to find out about the natives and how they reproduce and where the virus comes from and why the natives are not affected. Of course things never turn out as planned and much story ensues. The book takes quite a bit of time to get going. About the first third of the book is backstory and before I was through it, I almost put the book down. But just when I thought I couldn't take it anymore the story started to move and then it fairly zipped along. What Ammonite is ultimately about is memory and identity and how one affects the other. It is also about the importance of stories of which memory and identity also play a part. Stories can change who we are but also keep us from changing. Stories can save our lives or kill us. And stories can by used to create or destroy. The book made me think about my own story and the stories we tell ourselves as a culture and a nation. Some may say that stories and storytelling are not important. They are old fashioned and no one cares anymore. I disagree. The more I think about it the more I realize that stories are just as important today as they ever were, we just don't acknowledge it. And I think because we don't acknowledge it, we don't recognize that there are so many stories and storytellers out there. And because we don't recognize that I think we are more easily manipulated by the stories. All stories, both fiction and nonfiction, are a mixture of truth and lies. It's up to the listener of the story to ferret out the difference.