[This article was written in August 2014. I have reposted it to support my latest episode of the Library Discoveries podcast about Station Eleven which you can hear here, or search your usual podcast provider.]
As part of the review for Station Eleven in 2014, I agreed to suggest a relic to put in the Museum of Civilisation. This is a concept introduced in the book. It needs no introduction, it really sort of does what it says on the tin.
This is no easy task. First of all you have to discount the kind of things that are readily available in the aftermath of a plague-style apocalypse. Things like iPhones, iPads, keys, and so on. Laptops, all that kind of fluff. Surprisingly, there are a lot of aeroplanes floating around. Except they no longer float. They’re sort of used as arks for storing stuff people don’t need, like corpses.
There is no internet or technology really. People have instruments too, hence the Travelling Symphony which plays a big part in the book. There is a text used by the characters, sort of like a bible, except that it’s a graphic novel. This forms the basis of a new religion for a man styled as a prophet. This led me to think about bible stories. The best ones are very good. One of the most famous is about feeding five thousand people with a fish and a loaf of bread. Some people say that if you give a fish as charity, that’s nice. But if you teach someone how to fish for themselves, that’s really something special.
So, after much cogitating, my gift to the Museum of Civilisation is the manual printing press. What those people need are newspapers and books. New ones, to help them deal with what happened to their entire civilisation. They need the ability to print books again.