Sunday, 27 March 2011

A Life Less Plastic

Reading the email from my tutor made my heart sink and my frustration levels rise.

January 2011 and the deadline for the final submission for my MA is looming. The email tells me I have to hand in two hard copies of my final project, properly bound.

So what's the problem? Over the last two years I've gotten away with handing my coursework in simply tied together with interesting pieces of ribbon, but something tells me that's just not going to cut it this time around. Properly bound is all well and good, but it usually means a plastic binding comb to keep all the pages together, coupled with acetate covers. Which seems rather hypocritical given that my final project is all about quitting plastic.

There are always ways around these little problems though (well, nearly always; I still haven't solved half the problems I've got when it comes to plastic food packaging, but hey, that's a different story). A quick email to KallKwik revealed that they can bind manuscripts using a metal comb if I want, rather than a plastic one. For a few extra pennies, of course.

Well, I thought, that's a start. So when I finally got all my pages together I toddled down there - and then convinced them to not use the acetate covers. Instead, the very helpful lady photocopied my title page onto a piece of card to act as the front cover instead of using the ubiquitous plastic. Although I think she thought I was a little odd. Why wouldn't I want a nice shiney acetate cover?

And now I've finally gotten around to updating my website, where you can read the introduction to my project, A Life Less Plastic. Next stage in my grand plan to conquer the world: win over an agent and start writing chapter six.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Fictional Plastics

In honour of Saturday's World Book Night, I thought I’d write a post about books. Alright, I admit it, I’ll jump at any excuse to talk about books. The challenge is to link books to plastic…

So I’ve just been reading The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. It’s set in a future dystopian world which is essentially controlled by – surprise, surprise – American multinational corporations. At some point there was worldwide economic collapse and it seems that, in an attempt to regain control, two or three companies created a set of plagues that wiped out virtually all plant life around the world. Then, these companies kindly stepped into the breach with their genetically-engineered plague-resistant plants, saving the starving nations – at a price, of course.

At its heart, The Windup Girl is about politics and corruption, about what is right and wrong, and the grey areas in between. But it’s also very much about the environment and how humans manipulate and destroy it for their own needs. It has many lessons to teach. And the plastic? Well, this is a world where oil no long reins. No oil, no plastic. Well, except for cellulose-based plastic.

In short, The Windup Girl is environmental fiction at its best. Look for it in the Science fiction section of your local bookstore. Oh yes, on a book-geek note: the science fiction section? Why are some environmental fiction titles pegged into this genre when they are of equal literary value as those more commonly classified as fiction? I’m thinking J. G. Ballard (The Drowned World), Margaret Atwood (Oryx and Crake), Ian McEwan (Solar). Paolo Bacigalupi deserves to be considered with this stock too.

Anyway, pop out to your local Waterstone’s tomorrow night and you should find it open. And if you’re really lucky there’ll be someone there giving out free books. Unfortunately not Paolo Bacigalupi, though. Maybe next year?