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DOWNDRIFT: An Eco-Fiction
by Johanna Drucker
Narrated by an Archaeon, a 3.8 billion year old species, the oldest on earth, DOWNDRIFT: an eco-fiction (978-1-941110-61-4; Three Rooms Press; April 10, 2018; $15.95) by scholar and digital humanist Johanna Drucker, is a work of speculative eco-fiction describing the impact of ecological pressures on animals that are adopting human behaviors, with droll and sometimes alarming, results. The Archaeon depicts this world via the travels of a housecat and a lion that are inexplicably driven towards a rendezvous.
Slowly at first, then with increasing speed, animals worldwide develop and surpass human skills in every field, from manual labor to theoretical thinking, with earth-shattering consequences for the future of humanity. A few isolated harbingers of change appear, but they quickly escalate. Squirrels take up manic knitting, wild hares steal earth-moving equipment, rats go in for disco music and form-fitting metallic leisure-ware. Data-sorting abilities appear among urban populations of birds, and frenzied domestic pets seek celebrity careers.
As author Steve Tomosula (VAS: An Opera in Flatland) notes: “In actual labs, we’ve already been able to engineer goats that manufacture spider silk, and tomatoes that are part fish. In Drucker’s brilliant meditation on the dissolution of species, cats process coffee beans in their guts, hyenas recycle foil and we are left to ponder what is lost when the wild grows out of place among the domestic and the domestic grows strange to itself. Just as profoundly, DOWNDRIFT invites us to take the long view of a humanless future.”
Melancholic rather than apocalyptic, the book is a celebration of species as well as a mourning of the damage done in our time. Throughout, the emergent voice and character of the Archaeon extremophile records events as well as a slow coming to consciousness about its own identity as a hyper-organism.
High Praise for DOWNDRIFT
“Wildly imaginative, laugh-out-loud funny, and ultimately heartbreaking . . . Tales of the many different animals are delivered in deliciously short chapters that build over the course of one year into a story that’s by turns droll, subversive, pensive, brooding, off-the-charts weird, and wonderfully surprising. . . . Animal lovers will enjoy the antics of the beagles, bears, salamanders, cows, spiders, and other creatures, but the author’s beautifully subtle message isn’t just for pet owners or environmentalists. It’s for all of us.” —KIRKUS REVIEWS
“Laughing or crying, Drucker skewers the current cultural moment in a novel extrapolation of epic proportions. Taken to the furthest extreme, Downdrift is dogged by an urgent need to understand the difference between the domestic and the wild, measure it, and recalibrate its implications for survival.” —Foreword Reviews
“Downdrift forces us to ask questions about how much our ecosystems have been damaged or destroyed, and whether it’s possible to put things right again.” —A Bookish Type
“Civilization and its discontents has spread to ‘animals’; a basin of entities performing themselves as social species and known individuals, with all the self-absorptions, neuroses, and mediating technologies of this representational age. It’s an earth of assumed rights and obligations, starlets and exemplars, morals and tastes, histories and powers, and foremost self-concern—sublimating, absorbing, and masking even the most driven of animal instincts. Catastrophe is not the end of entities, but their transformation into figures of human narcissism. This book is a genealogical critique of morals—a migratory picture of that sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, working out of the West’s metaphysics of justice on a planetary scale.” —Ron Day, Professor, Dept. of Information and Library Science, Indiana University at Bloomington
“In actual labs, we’ve already been able to engineer goats that manufacture spider silk, and tomatoes that are part fish. In Johanna Drucker’s brilliant meditation on the dissolution of species, cats process coffee beans in their guts, hyenas recycle foil and we are left to ponder what is lost when the wild grows out of place among the domestic and the domestic grows strange to itself. Just as profoundly, DOWNDRIFT invites us to take the long view of a humanless future.” —Steve Tomasula, author, VAS: An Opera in Flatland
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