Thursday, April 20, 2017

Jetpacks, East St. Louis, and science fiction

Image sources: jetpack and Spivey Building

A couple of years back, my colleague Geoff Schmidt, a creative writer, composed the beginning of a short story that included the Spivey Building, which I was researching as part of a project on East St. Louis. Yesterday, I shared Geoff's opening with high school students who attended our "Language Arts and Leadership" conference.

In addition to presenting the text of the story, I shared an audio, recorded version, which included deliberate distortions of recording as well as various sound effects. The idea was to present the students with a science fiction story, or in fact, the beginnings of a science fiction story set in East St. Louis.

For our activity at the conference yesterday, we read and listened to the story and viewed images that served as reference points in the story, like jetpacks, the Spivey, and three bridges in the region: the Poplar Street Bridge, the MLK Bridge, and the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge.

In the story that Geoff presents, a group of "brave-crazy young" people soar over the Mississippi River using their jetpacks. They fly up into the night sky until all you can see is "the sleek glowpaint of their packs and the blue tails of flame that plumed out behind them."

Based on the feedback of students in discussions at the conference, one of the most fascinating aspects of Geoff's story is his focus on jetpacks. In fact, the fascination is with the jetpacks presented in the context of a story about a historic, abandoned building in East St. Louis.

The Language Arts and Leadership Conference, 2017
A Notebook on Digital East St. Louis  

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