The Shore of Forever
A Note: This brief introduction was written for a little collection of short stories I planned to give to a few friends. I think I only actually gave it to a wonderful fellow (and Hugo winner!) named Chuck Miller (no relation, at least by blood - spirit-wise, we're cousins at worst). Both "Ari" and "St. William" can be read here; "Keep the Books" was published in issue #1 of Pravic, and if you haven't snagged a copy, well, you're out of luck for the time being - that particular tale won't see print again until I do some serious revisions.
Well after each of these stories experienced their independent geneses, I noted a thread of continuity connecting them. Each story, in its own way, is about permanence. What lasts, and for how long? In what form does it last, and at what cost?
“Ari Ascher” is the sober success story: immortality by diffusion, a microcosm of heredity, of our physical history itself. It’s also about Science Fiction itself. There’s something of a reaction against escapism in our Journalist’s breakthrough; he realizes what I’ve come to realize about SF: you can’t live here. The best you can do is commit good journalism, good anthropology, be a good friend, maybe even a transient participant. But you will eventually have to go home.
“St. William…” is Ascher’s opposition – the natural and inevitable end, arriving despite the availability of eternity. I’ve always wondered how the perfection of death would change if it weren’t inevitable. For me, putting Gates – or some iteration of him – in the role made a lot of connections. I could afford to leave most of the substance between the lines.
After the death of Steve Jobs, I wondered whether to remove his nasty comment, since not only would he have to be alive to make it, but the level of vitriol itself requires the assumption of events having happened between “today” and that distant present. In the end, I thought it was even more impactful (and funny) in lieu of this schism in the timeline.
“Keep The Books” contains nothing immortal. Even its oldest constituents are teetering on the shovel, barely current, let alone permanent. But they have not yet fallen into the hole their forbears have dug. Even in the wake of history, these are the things which last, not forever, but for now. This is what is tenacious.
The story is, in part, based on an experience I had with a beautiful but woefully unlivable house. I chose to leave. I feel confident that, had I made the other decision, I would have been devoured. I hope the future is not so dire for the young couple, but I am not hopeful.
In their own ways, Ascher and the ersatz Gates are successful, either in achieving immortality or in eschewing it and the burdens it brings. Even Ward and Sophia might survive, though the hopeful tone at the end is, for me, a bit of bitter irony. But these successes serve to highlight our own lack of options. We probably won’t go on, in this way or that. It’s really a rather hopeless situation. On my loneliest nights, I wonder if this is the farthest boundary of our shared condition, the place none can traverse despite our differences. If so, that is the place where we should build our fires and drink our wine and tell joyful stories of the death of kings.