Nick Arvin may be the new kid on the block in the writing community, but he’s no stranger to the community. This University alum is turning heads with his new collection of short stories, “In The Electric Eden.” Arvin’s technical skills and sincere understanding of human emotion are powerful ingredients in his vivid tales of life and technology.
Arvin explores the ambiguity of social life with the unavoidable and most necessary influence of technology. The title story tells the tale of Topsy, an elephant whose 1903 electrocution at Coney Island marked the personal impact of harnessing a powerful tool aided by modern technology. “People have been dealing with new technologies and a rapidly changing world for hundreds of years now. Amid our computers and cell phones, I think we sometimes forget that things like balloons and canned food and light bulbs were also radically new at one time,” Arvin said.
Many stories from “In the Electric Eden” take place in modern times right here in Michigan. The story “Two Thousand Germans In Frankenmuth” tells about a popular German television show visiting the small Michigan town. “What They Teach You in Engineering School” is a poignant story of understanding between a father and son, but also a sly poke at the practicality of a theory based engineering education.
Arvin isn’t a typical author and these aren’t typical stories. “I look at something … and say to myself, ‘OK, it’s a little weird but how would it affect real people?’ As, in the instances of the elephant and the Germans, it did affect real people because those things actually happened.”
Arvin grew up in Clio, MI graduated from the University with a degree in mechanical engineering and stepped into the other side of education by earning his Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. These seemingly polar opposite interests don’t seem too different to Arvin. “My first instinct is always to try and minimize the differences, to point out that engineering is also a creative activity, and that both writing and engineering require a similar kind of discipline, an attention to detail, and a visual imagination.”
As an author by morning and an engineer for an accident reconstruction company in the afternoons, Arvin makes unique use of his diverse skills. Sometimes, however, the technical and human sides of his life can be conflicting. “Engineering often draws the type of person who likes to see things in absolute terms, black and white. A writer, on the other, is in the business of jumping into ambiguity and exploring and expanding it.”
“In The Electric Eden” is a powerful collection of stories, each with its own flavor of innocence and progress. Tonight, Arvin will speak about the origins of these stories, read passages and answer questions.