News · 01/08/2010

Amber Sparks on 2009

Contributor Amber Sparks (author of “The Chemistry of Objects”) writes in response to our recent question about what sparked imaginations in 2009.

My writing is often inspired by history. A particular historical incident will bounce around in and generally haunt my brain until I’m forced to get out my pen (okay, laptop) and perform the required exorcism. And the end result is usually the depressing reminder: no matter how fascinating we are or how spectacular our stories, we all die and are eventually, utterly forgotten.

That’s why I keep thinking about a smallish news item from last September, when this guy with a metal detector in England stumbled across the largest horde of Anglo-Saxon treasure ever discovered. All this booty from the seventh century: crosses, sword decorations, gold and silver pieces inlaid with precious stones — stuff archeologists can’t even identify yet. All this treasure that must have been crazy valuable to somebody, or a bunch of somebodies, and yet — to paraphrase Nigel Tufnel — we have no idea who they were or what they were doing. We may never know. But at least now we have a shot at figuring it out.

I mean, think of the people that buried this stuff way, way back in the day. Surely there’s a story there; surely one or more of those dudes must’ve been a Very Important Person, a warrior or a chieftain or an infamous bandit. But after we die, our bodies go, then our cities go, then our civilization goes, and eventually our history goes, too. Until and unless an archeologist somewhere can dig up our bones and our pottery and our gold and bring a little of our history back. That’s why I would have been an archeologist if I couldn’t write and I didn’t suck at science. Because somebody has to tell the story of humanity, the best way they know how.