Last night R-Spec, the Rochester Speculative Fiction Fans, held its monthly meeting, an occasion I nearly always enjoy. This month we had a program of three presentations on non-English SF. Ruhan Zhao, a Chinese national currently in the United States to teach mathematics and also an SF writer, gave a power point presentation on SF in China. Two other people talked about SF in Romania and in the old Soviet Union. The whole thing was fascinating.
One detail that I keep turning around in my mind came from Gabe, the Romanian. He said that during the Soviet rule of Romania, books were scarce, but those that existed were often put to unliterary uses. A man he knew acquired a complete set of Lenin's works -- because the leather bindings made excellent shoes.
Tied in with this (although only in my own mind) is my recent reading of Cory Doctorow's on-line story, "After the Siege," in which people in a future besieged city go to any lengths to survive. I wonder: Could I eat rats? Would I think to use book leather for shoes? Could I kill to eat?
I don't know. I hope I never have to find out. But...it also rankles me that I don't know. I think this is one reason writers write -- to test out extreme situations that, with any luck, we'll never have to face in "real life." Still...it's not quite the same.