This section gathers together some essays that I’ve placed online. Links to other non-fiction can be found here.
For the past eleven years, Stephen Wolfram has been labouring single-mindedly on a book that presents his ideas about the science of complexity. The result, an 1197-page, self-published behemoth entitled A New Kind of Science, finally hit the shops in May. Preceded by a great deal of hype, and followed by a fair amount of controversy, it has already sold out an initial print run of 50,000 and entered the non-fiction best seller lists. A second printing is underway.
Port Hedland is a sleepy, sun-drenched town, 1300 kilometres north of Perth. Early in September I travelled there for the fifth time, a year on from my first visit.
Each time I return it’s as if I’ve never been away. The tranquil streets and cloudless sky must seem idyllic to someone in the right frame of mind, but whenever the heat and silence start to lull me into a pleasant daze, I remember the words of one of my friends who lives here all year round. He had trouble sleeping, he told me, because his room felt like the grave. For him, the sense of being stranded, untouched by time, isn’t restful at all. It’s exactly like being buried alive.
Last night, I watched a powerful (and often hilarious) film, Divided We Fall, a work of fiction which dealt with the experience of a Czech couple who sheltered a Jewish acquaintance during the Nazi occupation. The film’s protagonists were not saints; they stumbled into their role by accident, and many of the sacrifices they made came down to a fear of the consequences should their “crime” ever be discovered. Nevertheless, they were courageous people, and beneath all their flaws was an underlying sense that it was better to risk death than betray their guest and destroy a part of themselves that gave their own lives value.