The shelves of the Future Library Project have now doubled in number of books! A year after Margaret Atwood handed over her manuscript for Scribbler Moon—which will not be read until 2114—the FLP has announced its next participant: Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell. He is the second author of 100 invited to write a new poem, short story, novel, or piece of nonfiction—the style doesn’t matter, so long as it matches creator and curator Katie Paterson’s vision of “the theme of imagination and time, which they can take in so many directions.” Mitchell turned in his novel, From Me Flows What You Call Time, down to the wire of his 1 a.m. deadline before boarding a plane to Norway to hand over the completed manuscript.
As part of the FLP’s establishment in 2014, 1,000 trees were planted in Oslo’s Nordmarka forest; 98 years from now, those trees will be chopped down to provide the paper to print the 100 projects, for the authors’ descendants and future fans to finally read. Before he left, Mitchell explained to The Guardian why it’s so important to look ahead a century instead of reading these works now:
Everything is telling us that we’re doomed, but the Future Library is a candidate on the ballot paper for possible futures. It brings hope that we are more resilient than we think: that we will be here, that there will be trees, that there will be books, and readers, and civilisation.
Mitchell expounds on that mentality in a stirring piece for the FLP explaining how he almost let the opportunity pass him by, and points out that this endeavor that is so futuristic to us will seem remarkably ancient by the time it comes to fruition:
Katie Paterson will not be alive in 2114, nor Anne Beate Hovind, the Future Library’s coordinator, nor me, nor the next thirty or forty writers who deposit manuscripts in Deichman Library in Oslo, nor the foresters who tend the plantation of spruces. We have to trust our successors, and their successors, and theirs, to steer the project through a hundred years of political skulduggery, climate change, budget cutbacks and zombie apocalypses. We have to trust that ‘digital archeologists’ will manage to get inside ancient USB sticks. Katie Paterson has to trust me and my successors not to hand in a sheaf of blank A4 pages at the hand-over ceremony at the Future Forest at the end of May. We all have to trust that people not yet born will solve Known-Unknowns and Unknown-Unknowns. We trust that our trust is not misplaced. Being trusted often brings out the best in people—like when the cabin staff asks me to sit in the exit row, I actually read the ‘What to do in an Emergency’ sheet and feel enabled and alert. Trust is a force for good in our cynical world, and the Future Library is a trust-generator.
He also has a great sense of humor about the whole thing:
[The process was] quite liberating, because I won’t be around to take the consequences of this being good, or bad … But I’m sandwiched between Margaret Atwood, and no doubt some shit-hot other writer [yet to be revealed]. So it better be good. What a historic fool of epochal proportions I’d look, if they opened it in 2114 and it wasn’t any good.
While you won’t have the chance to read these books (unless we master immortality as predicted in Monica Byrne’s TED Talk), you will have the chance to see them in just a few years. From Me Flows What You Call Time will be sealed and placed alongside Scribbler Moon in a special wood-lined room in Oslo’s new public library, set to open in 2019. Here’s more from Mitchell: