Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Death and Science Fiction

Was thinking about Jay's post on his life and science-fiction when I recently came across the announcement of SF writer Octavia Butler's death. This in turn made me think about mortality and the legacy passed on by writers like Butler and Robert Sheckley, who had also died recently (okay, it was last year).

Let's put it succinctly: there are too many books to be read. I sometimes feel like I'm Cuchulain, fighting vainly against the sea tide; there's so many books I still have to read, and more and more good books are coming out. Unfortunately, I'm not as young as I was before when I could finish a book in a day. There's work to do and life in general to attend to before I can sit down and read for a bit.

When Sheckley died, synchronicity tripped such that I found a copy of his novelette The Status Civilization back-to-back with his short-story collection, Notions Unlimited, at the cheap bins of a secondhand-book shop a week after. Given how hard it was to find Sheckley's stuff here, I thought it was a fortuitious sign. (Okay, maybe not. I just remembered that Sheckley wrote an Aliens movie tie-in called Alien Harvest. Someone's gotta pay for the food on the table, I guess.)

Now there's Butler. Fortunately, Butler's books seems to be available here, especially her more well-known books like The Parable of the Sower and Wild Seed. However, I never got a chance to check them out because... well, like I said, too many books and too little time. And now I guess I'll have all the time in the world to read all her stuff.

Ironic, isn't it? But that's how the world goes: people only appreciate your art when you're dead.

When I was younger, I remember watching this Twlight Zone episode about a terminally-ill old man who was kept alive by his son (or was it his daughter) in a somewhat imaginative way. Every night the son would tell his father a story and stop in the middle. The next night, he'd continue the story and then start another story altogether (shades of Scheherazade yes?). Because of this, I came up with an ingenious way to become immortal: I would constantly keep reading books so that my need to find out how each story will end would keep me alive forever.

In fact, because of this, I even thought of my epitaph back then if I ever kicked the bucket before I was ready: "I can't die yet, I haven't finished reading Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn!" Hey, I was young.

Of course I don't think like that anymore. Not because of any disenchantment or anything but...

Recently, the past few weeks have been rather hectic. I've been contemplating on what direction my life would take, whether or not to shift to a higher-paying job, yadda-yadda. Sometimes, during the long dark tea-time of the soul, I would wonder about throwing in the towel in frustration over having too much responsibility (i.e. as an adult and as a man).

Want to know something funny? When I thought of that, the immediate response in my head was, "Wait! I still haven't finished writing all my stories!"

Heh. The irony is killing me.

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