Bumbly, Terence. The Museum of Unnatural History

Figment Publishing, $29.95

Well, what a peculiar little book this turned out to be.

Classified “speculative philosophy”, it’s a collection of notes and sketches supposedly written by Terence Bumbly, the former curator of a bizarre twenty-fifth century museum, after the museum (and most of the “exhibits” living within) burns to the ground.

Although the museum experience is still available over “the weave”, following the fire, a now unemployed Bumbly writes this memoir, illustrating it with dark yet childlike sketches he has made over the course of the museum’s life.

These notes are gathered in sections reflecting the museum subdivisions: breeding, generics, evolution control, art pieces, mechalogical, and “Items of Ambiguous Classification”. Many entries are brief; most are barely-cloaked ruminations by the narrator on the ethics of future humanity’s genetic and technological progress.

Humans are engineered so their bodies can cope with the demands of space travel acceleration. “Art pieces” are bred. Miniature humans with superior intellect create a new language and avoid the tedium of communicating with their dull creators.

This amusing book will appeal greatly to a certain geeky readership, and bemuse the rest of us. Its doddering narrator, niftily defined through his archaic (for the future, surely) tone, is all over the place and tricky to follow. “When is ‘too young’ to implant a child with nanos and give them weave-access?” he asks, and, a dozen paragraphs later, wants to know if those who “future travel” should be allowed to vote in the future?

Bumbly is the eccentric creation of David M Henley, a Sydney designer and illustrator. Bumbly’s musings are the type of futuristic ethical conversations usually heard at 3am, and as such, seem somewhat pithy written here. Perhaps there’s more to come. One does wonder what Mr Henley (and Mr Bumble) will do next.

2007

 

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