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For this session we close read an excerpt from the novel Bewilderment by Richard Powers, posted below.
Our prompt for this session was: “Write about what was enough because you saw it.”
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I TOLD HIM ABOUT THE PLANET MIOS, how it had flourished for a billion years before we came along. The people of Mios built a ship for long-distance, long duration discovery, filled with intelligent machines. That ship traveled hundreds of parsecs until it found a planet full of raw materials where it landed, set up shop, repaired and copied itself and all its crew. Then two identical ships set off in different directions for hundreds more parsecs, until they found new planets, where they repeated that whole process again.
For how long? My son asked.
I shrugged. “There was nothing to stop them.”
Were they scouting out places to invade or something?
And they kept dividing? There must have been a million of them.
“Yes,” I told him. “Then two million. Then four.”
Holy crow! They’d be all over the place.
“Space is big,” I said.
Did the ships report back to Mios?
“Yes, even though the messages took longer and longer to arrive. And the ships went on reporting, even after Mios stopped responding.”
What happened to Mios?
“The ships never learned.”
They kept going, even though Mios was gone?
“They were programmed to.”
That gave my son pause. That’s pretty sad. He sat up in bed and pushed at the air with his hand. But it still might be okay for them, Dad. Think of what they saw.
“They saw hydrogen planets and oxygen planets, neon and nitrogen planets, water worlds, silicate, iron, and globes of liquid helium wrapped around trillion-carat diamonds. There were always more planets. Always different ones. For a billion years.”