It’s been a long haul — especially with coronavirus — but this week saw the publication of my book Future Rising: A Journey from the Past to the Edge of Tomorrow!
Future Rising is possibly one of the most important things I’ve published, and certainly the most personal — not because it’s intellectually weighty (it’s not), but because it connects ideas in ways that I think are critical to understanding our individual and collective relationships with the future, and the responsibility that comes with these.
As I’ve already talked about the content and motivations behind the book elsewhere (including publishing a number of excerpts from it) I thought it would be interesting to use this space to dig into some of the trivia surrounding the book and its genesis.
So here goes:
1. High heeling it to the future
The inspiration behind the format of Future Rising–both the physical “holdability” of it and the chapter structure–was the book High Heel by Summer Brennan. I love the way Brennan weaves together a story through 150 short, sharp reflections that keep you intrigued and engaged, while painting a complex picture.
2. An object-like perspective
As I’ve noted previously, the initial idea behind Future Rising was to write about the future as an object–much as Summer Brennan used the object of a high heel shoe to explore a far. more complex and intangible set of ideas. The concept of the future as an object helped scaffold the book, but was eventually abandoned as more interesting ideas emerged. However, you can still see the vestiges of it in the text if you look closely.
3. Concept covers
This concept of the future as an object actually worked its way into the concept covers I sent to my publisher, as we were working on the look of the book. I desperately wanted to use the image of the soap bubble on the cover that you see below. Sadly, it wasn’t to be, but maybe we can wrangle something for a later version …
These are just three of the cover concepts that were destined never to be!
4. Marking time
Future Rising was intentionally divided into sixty chapters as a metaphor for the passage of time between past and future — each chapter representing the passing of the second in a minute, or the passing of a minute in an hour.
Each chapter of Future Rising has a single one-word title that captures the essence of the ideas I explore there. But limiting myself to just sixty ideas that, together, formed a coherent and compelling story, was crazy-tough! Here’s an early brainstorm around possible topics that I’d have liked to include — and this only scratches the surface of what might have ended up in the book!
5. Movie Roots
My previous book, Films from the Future, focused on how sci-fi movies can help reveal new ways of thinking about socially responsible innovation. The subtitle of Future Rising pays homage to this by referencing the science fiction movie that’s now known as Live, Die, Repeat. It’s original release title was Edge of Tomorrow!
6. Audio File
When I was looking for people to “blurb” Future Rising (i.e. writing something nice about it for the cover), one prominent author said they may be able to, but did I have an audiobook version they could listen to?
Of course I didn’t at that point! But just to show how much I wanted their blurb, I self-recorded over an hour of the book and edited it into a one-off audiobook-lite! (and believe me, it takes a lot more than an hour to record an hour’s worth of engaging reading well — one reason I’ll never be good at producing audiobooks!)
Sadly, they still didn’t manage to provide a blurb.
I finished the submitted draft of Future Rising in October 2019 — way before anyone knew about COVID and how devastating it was going to be. As a result, when I was reading the proofs in April 2020, I felt a complete fool! here I was, publishing a book about the future, and not one mention of one of the biggest future-changing events in a century!
Thankfully, Future Rising takes a perspective that transcends the specifics of what’s happening in the world now. But I did manage to slip a reference to COVID into the introduction before we went to print!
8. A picture is worth a thousand words
Back in April I was all set to give a TEDxASU talk about Future Rising. As my initial concept, I pitched the idea of presenting the whole book in 10 minutes, through a series of sixty images — each representing a chapter of the book.
It was a stupid idea, and one that was destined to crash and burn. But it did lead to me amassing a gallery of sixty images that capture the essence of the book, chapter by chapter.
I’ll find a way of using these one day — maybe a tabletop glossy photo version of the book! In the meantime, here’s a montage of those images and quotes from the associated chapters.
And the TEDxASU talk? That was all poised to go ahead, just with a very different narrative structure, until COVID struck. But you can still hear an audio version of the talk here.