A Geospatial Novel? Why not!

Taken from ASM Magazine

I am a big fan of futuristic movies. I also enjoy science-based stories. It is amazing to watch serials such as Grey’s anatomy or ER, which delivers health-related theme in such enjoyable serials. Numbers is also a good serials presenting math in a not-boring way. I am fascinated by those who are able to present complicated matters in enjoyable stories, such as movies, serials, novel, etc. Why cannot I write a geospatial novel? That is my question since quite a long time ago.

Now, let us go back a while. When I was a first or second year in Geodetic Engineering in Gadjah Mada University in Indonesia, the question that I did not really like is “what is your major?” I did not like it because I found out after sometimes, that kind of question required me to talk about at least five minutes before the person stopped asking more questions. Interestingly, the person usually stopped not because he or she was satisfied, but mostly because he or she got confused. Oh, I wished I was a medical student. Such kind of question would need only three seconds for me not only to answer, but also to amaze the person.

What is geodetic engineering? This is the next question I usually received after my first answer to what is your major? The conversation could then be very long. That was the starting point when I challenge myself to do something to popularise the discipline of geodetic engineering and geospatial issues in general. A novel was my aim. If somebody else can produce a good serial with complicated and fancy medical terms and scenes in it, a surveyor like me should be able to write an engaging story about geospatial issues.

In December 2008, I got an opportunity to be involved in an ocean survey. I was in the ocean for about a month, with very limited connection with the outside world. No Facebook, that’s for sure! We could only access email with very limited quota. Life could be boring because we also had around 5-6 hours of free time during shift. I was in the night shift. To kill the time, I started writing journal, documenting my invaluable experience. Surprisingly, it turned into a 65000-word journal only in three weeks. When I read it, it was not bad, I thought.

The nearly 300-page of story covers divers range of topics but mainly mapping, biological science, and life experience. The draft managed to present not-very-popular topic such as GPS, GIS and bathymetry in a popular manner. I told a story about GPS through an engaging conversation of a kid and his uncle, a fisherman who found his way in the ocean through the guidance of stars. I explain the principle of bathymetry by a story of a boy taught by his grandfather how to fathom the depth of a river in a small village in Bali. I talk about web mapping through a genius project I called “a geospatial diary”.

It took much longer time to publish than to write. After one year of struggle, a reasonable good publisher agreed to publish the draft. Not as a novel, but as a memoir. Mid January 2010, exactly one year after my journey in the Indian Ocean, the book was finally published. It is in Bahasa Indonesia entitled “Cincin Merah di Barat Sonne” which literary means “The Red Ring from the West of Sonne”. What I mean by the title is “The Sunset from Sonne”. Yes, the red ring represents the sunset.

I am not in the position to judge its quality but at least I have lived my dream and it is now up to the readers to judge. I have to admit that I have received quite a lot of positive comments from the readers. Most of them are geospatial people, while some others are the laymen. All comments have been posted in the website: http://www.andiarsana.com/cincin. My hope is simple: the book can fill the absence of popular geospatial books in Indonesia. Should it be able to boost the popularity of geospatial discipline as I dreamed, it may be a different story which I will consider as a bonus.

Written by Andi Arsana, Geodesy and Geomatics, Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia
His book: The Science of Storytelling Across an Archipelago


Author: Andi Arsana

I am a lecturer and a full-time student of the universe

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