about the book of oil

The Book of Oil (half completed) is a zany narrative that examines the ramifications of the discovery of oil, engaging themes of environmental sustainability and degradation, against a backdrop of global economics and geopolitical machinations. The main character is a microspically small diatom (algae), named Pseudonana (scientific name: Thalassiosira Pseudonana). We follow her life over millennia, beginning with her narrow escape from an ancient biomass grave (already marking our protagonist as a rebel who refused to become oil), which caused her to suffer from PTSD for the rest of her long life. The book moves on to the genomic sequencing and cloning of Pseudonana — the first marine phytoplankton to be sequenced — and on to her hard labor as a donor of oxygen, food, and ultimately oil. Pseudonana surrenders, allowing her pursuers to harvest her body for oil. As Pseudonana weaves her way through prehistoric underground geological traps, oceans, scientific labs, and outer space, we encounter environmental disasters, death by plastic, oil spills, corrupt governments, international espionage, and fundamentalist revolutions.

What compels me to do this project is my attempt to make sense and understand the meaning of fossil fuels in the 21st century and the complex interconnectedness of oil and geopolitics with civil wars, a new form of colonialism, global warming, and personal greed (the list goes on). I aim to tell the story of oil, and, in a playful manner, draw myriad connections — some fictional and completely implausible, others factual and plausible, yet others factual but unbelievable — in an attempt to show the interdependence of events and interests that determine much of global politics and effect people’s lives at a local and individual level. This individual level is personified, absurdly, by the diatomic heroine, Pseudonana.