The "boomerang" nature of time was discussed at the Vintage for Change evening, along with teen revolution and the sensibilities of sexbots, as Jeanette Winterson and six other authors considered the “turbulent times” of present day.
Joining Winterson at the showcase, at the Clerkenwell social in central London on Wednesday evening (10th April), were academic William Davies, poet and activist Jay Bernard, foreign correspondent Jack Shenker, crime novelist Denise Mina. Footballer Eniola Aluko and academic and writer Ibram X Kendi also contributed video links.
Faye Brewster, Vintage’s deputy m.d., introduced the event before handing over to the night’s host June Sarpong.
“They could not be more turbulent times to be living through and books as a part of that could not be more important and more bold and more engaging and more important just for the population to try and understand the world around us,” Brewster said. “What unites all the authors tonight…. Is they all ask important, urgent questions.”
Winterson showed footage of sexbot factories, revealing how Mary Shelley’s creation inspired her upcoming novel Frankissstein: A Love Story (scheduled for publication in 28th May 2019).
“Sometimes history repeats itself, we know that, because time’s a boomerang, not an arrow and things come back and back and we learn those lessons,” she told assembled guests. “The moment where we are now... we’re busy looking at Brexit, at Trump, and there are two things facing us now which will be the real deal of the future: climate breakdown and the brave new world of Artificial Intelligence.... your robot could do all the jobs nobody wants. But one of the lessons from the past is from the Industrial Revolution is that as soon as someone invents something, the money goes to the few and not to the many."
Meanwhile Shenker revealed how his 18 month study of Manchester teenagers’ appetites for revolution in Now We Have Your Attention: Inside the New Politics (5th September) exposes the underbelly of discontent simmering beneath front-page politics. He said that it is “not so much the earthquakes and volcanoes on the surface, but rather the tectonic plates that are shifting underneath”. He seeks to understand “the roots of our current chaos and what we can learn from it”.
Bernard read from their upcoming poetry collection, Surge (20th June), and the inspirations behind it: namely the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 and the New Cross Massacre of 1981 in which 13 young black people were killed in a house fire.
“I thought about why I was so moved… by the fire of 1981 and why I was so taken with the story and I think because it was at the time, it was like looking in the mirror, it was a reflection of the present so when we talk about change – how much had that changed when Grenfell happened?”