The Big Idea: Jennifer Brozek

We all know what it’s like to be human — you’re doing it right now. And having the knowledge could make it difficult to imagine what it’s like to become human — to view that humanity from the outside, as it were. That was the mission of the writers who contributed to the anthology Human For a Day. And for how these writers managed this mighty task, anthology co-editor Jennifer Brozek is here to give you an inside view, and her own thoughts on how what the writers accomplished was different from her own assumptions of how they would do it.


What does it mean to be human?

This was not the question I meant to ask when I set out to create the anthology, Human for a Day. But it is the question that was answered by my authors.

Originally, I had the thought “What if something wasn’t human became human for a single day—what would that be like?” My thought pales in comparison to the stories I received. I was not thinking about the concept of being human. I was thinking of the transition from one state to the other and back again.

Every story tells the tale of being human for a day, but every story brings with it so much more. Becoming human is more than a transition of biology and sentience. It is an emotional epiphany on the part of the fictional character and the reader.

What does it mean to be human?

Before a thing can become human, it has to be something else first. You must know where you are coming from to know where you are going. I invited fantasy, horror, and science fiction authors to tell me the story they wanted to tell about becoming human; to bring in the aspects of humanity they thought were important or undeniable.

I also wanted as many points of view as I could get: animals, supernatural creatures, inanimate objects, and the artificially intelligent. I received these and more; cities come to life, comic book characters, legends, and even a book. Each point of view became a different facet of life.

What does it mean to be human?

This anthology answers that question in sixteen different ways. Some of the answers are tragic. Others are humorous. All of them made me sit back and think. Laughing and crying, I thought about the different aspects of humanity. What makes life precious and painful and lovely and ugly and every other emotion out there?

What I came away with was a better sense of life bordered by death. By giving such a short timeline—one day—I required each author to tell a tale of birth, life, and death. Though the stories ranged from the far past to the far future and into worlds that never were but could have been, there was single thread of familiarity. There was a sense of wonder and emotion that was at the heart of it all.

In the end, I discovered that becoming human was an emotional thing rather than simply a biological one.

That is the big idea.


Human For a Day: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Powell’s

Visit Brozek’s Livejournal. Follow her on Twitter.

Whatever Shopping Guide 2011, Day 5: Charities

For the last four days, the Whatever Shopping Guide 2011 has been about helping you find the perfect gifts for friends and loved ones. But today I’d like to remind folks that the season is also about helping those in need. So this final day is for charities. If you’re looking for a place to make a donation — or know of a charitable organization that would gladly accept a donation — this is the place for it.

How to contribute to this thread:

1. Anyone can contribute. If you are associated with or work for a charity, tell us about the charity. If there’s a charity you regularly contribute to or like for philosophical reasons, share with the crowd. This is open to everyone.

2. Focus on non-political charities, please. Which is to say, charities whose primary mission is not political — so, for example, an advocacy group whose primary thrust is education but who also lobbies lawmakers would be fine, but a candidate or political party or political action committee is not. The idea here is charities that exist to help people and/or make the world a better place for all of us.

Also, informal charities and fundraisers are fine, but please do your part to make sure you’re pointing people to a legitimate fundraiser and not a scam.

3. One post per person. In that post, you can list whatever charities you like, and more than one charity. Note also that the majority of Whatever’s readership is in the US/Canada, so I suggest focusing on charities available in North America.

4. Keep your description of the charity brief (there will be a lot of posts, I’m guessing) and entertaining. Imagine the person is in front of you as you tell them about the work and is interested but easily distracted.

5. You may include a link to a charity site if you like by using standard HTML link scripting. Be warned that if you include too many links (typically three or more) your post may get sent to the moderating queue. If this happens, don’t panic: I’ll be going in through the day to release moderated posts. Note that posts will occasionally go into the moderation queue semi-randomly; Don’t panic about that either.

6. Comment posts that are not about people promoting charities they like will be deleted, in order to keep the comment thread useful for people looking to find charities to contribute to.

All right, then: It’s the season of giving. Tell us where to give to make this a better place.