Walker finds the brighter side of dread, at TED

June 28, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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By Eli MacKinnon

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Finding the brighter side of dread is a running theme for Park Slope author Karen Thompson Walker.

She told the Brooklyn Eagle that thinking about the apocalypse can, as a point of contrast, make her happier to walk down the street on a sunny day.

And at the TEDGlobal 2012 conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Tuesday, she argued that we should stop thinking of our fears as something to be ashamed of and start thinking of them as small achievements in speculative fiction.

“We all know fear,” says Walker, “but we think of fear as a weakness. … What if we thought of fear as an amazing act of the imagination?”

According to Walker, fears are simply stories that we tell ourselves about what might happen in the future. And as such, they are rooted in the same fantastic impulse that inspires great works of literature.

“We should think of ourselves as the authors of those stories, and more importantly the readers of our fears,” she said.

It’s easy to see that Walker walks the walk. In 2004, she was startled to find out that the Indonesian earthquake of that year was so powerful that it sped up the earth’s rotation by a few microseconds, quietly shifting a property of life on earth that she had always taken to be immutable.

She kindled the initial spark of fear she felt at that realization into her debut novel, “The Age of Miracles,” which imagines what would happen, particularly in the life of an 11-year-old girl in San Diego, if the earth’s rotation gradually began to slow.

“When read in the right way, our fears are an incredible gift of the imagination. Properly read, our fears are as precious as our favorite literature,” she said. “[And they can give us] a little wisdom, some insight, and a vision of that most elusive thing, the truth.”

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