The Afterword for RESET

 

“I wrote this story to poke a bit of savage fun, by comparison, at our dangerously presumptuous society, and at man’s tendency toward willful and widespread forgetfulness.”

EX POST FICTO: THE END OF THE OLD WORLD, AND THE NEW JERUSALEM

A green world, home to thinking beings, and ruled by unseen forces: so like Earth–Aerda.

Sexually conflicted, black, and a woman: the perfect antihero(?)–Willow.

Stories have a life all their own. Originally planned as a long short story, Reset took hold of me and did what it would, causing me to set aside several other projects, as it grew and grew into this little book. I’m glad it did, I enjoyed (almost) every minute of it, but it left me with the odd question of, “what to do with it?” I liked it just the way it was. I look at its brevity as one of its virtues. There’s no shame in taking only as much space and time to tell a story as is necessary, quite the opposite.

What then does one do with a book–technically an over-long novella–a hair over 43,000 words? Same as with anything just outside the mainstream publishers box; let it moulder and die, self-publish, or go to the good old Vanities.

A born do-it-yer-selfer, I was led to self-publish for several reasons, artistic freedom being not the least of them. I was aware of the concept through our town’s farmers’ market committee, which is opting to self-publish a cookbook. Also, our family is putting together a book of my father’s stories, poems, and letters, as a bit of our family lore.

Many self-published books fall into some wayward niche–a small subculture of readers prefers the novella, over any other length, for instance–and sales aren’t always the driving force. They may be passionate, some are good, many are comparatively bad. Something plagues them; a lack of this, too much of that . . . .

A writer ultimately seeks to create that which will be deemed classic, maybe something Ray Bradbury’s firemen would love to torch. In aiming for timeless-ness though, I am often aware that an equally important goal is timeli-ness. One without the other–while achievable and admirable–was not my idea for Reset. While I will always write to produce works aimed for my grandchildren’s grandchildren, bless their unborn hearts, perhaps none will be as ‘now’ as is this story.

One reader described Reset as the perfect post-apocalyptic dream. We’ll have to wait for Armageddon to verify that, but by then it may be too late. Another said that the only thing I should change about it is to get it published. Keeping in mind that speed is ofttimes a mix of blessing and curse, the quickest way I saw to do that happened to be self-publishing.

Reset was cooked up partly as ‘welcome to my world’, which is really Marian’s world (more about her in a bit), and partly in response to the challenge to “write something better,” when I complained to several people about the mildly nauseating storyline from the movie ‘2012′. So I started with a plausible disaster recipe, pulled a couple of old but still edible plot lines out of the brain-dump, stirred in some well aged legend, added spices, let it simmer, and here you have it.

I wrote this story, to present the Great Spirit, or God, whoever, as a mostly mechanistic force, ultimately unknowable, super-instinctual, neither good nor evil, functionally all-knowing and all-powerful, but somehow unthinking, and even unfeeling. And to hint at some of the qualities that this Great Spirit might favor in a person–in addition to the simple likelihood of their survival, in the wake of comet El Vaca–when It chooses to reset the game on one of Its living planets.

I wrote this story to poke a bit of savage fun, by comparison, at our dangerously presumptuous society, and at man’s tendency toward willful and widespread forgetfulness. I wrote it to further the argument against all future war, and to advocate for some sort of planetary defense against killer comets, as a much worthier objective.

I won’t apologize for use of the metric system throughout. They say the United States is the only country in the world not totally committed to adopting it, but that we encourage the voluntary use of it. I guess I have to appreciate not being forced to use one particular system over another, and I do wish that tendency toward choice might proliferate deeper into a few other areas of the government. But so few Americans use the metric system, so few volunteer. Maybe in a hundred years. If we’re not all using it by then, I shudder to think why.

I mentioned the passion found in the self-publishing crowd, which is what I was talking about when I said that this story took hold of me. ‘Willow’ Walker, one of a few survivors of a worldwide catastrophe, comes to accept it after she finds herself stranded on the island of a technologically advanced group of descendants of the ancient Far Seers, who have come back from an alternate reality where they have dwelt for two thousand years. For me it was several months of taking another woman to bed, and watching her story unfold on the backs of my eyelids.

RESET is my first novel, several others are in early stages, and several shorter stories are going into submission stage now. Much of my writing experience comes from a year as news reporter for the Waterfront of Missaukee County, Michigan. Recent nonfiction work includes, writing newsletter articles, and producing the notes from meetings for three different organizations, one of which is a paying gig.

Yes, my name really is Cool. German immigrant ancestors adopted the spelling because they thought it would be cooler than K-u-h-l. 

I originally wrote and planned to publish this story using a pen name, Marian Evans, for several reasons, but decided to publish it under my own name for several others. The perceived benefits of using a pen name, compared to the real complications involved, are hard to balance. Growing up with a name like Cool, I knew it was likely that some people would think my real name a pseudonym anyway. I mostly wanted to avoid any limelight that would inevitably follow someone who writes as well as I hope to. I also wanted to avoid any controversy provokeable by the uneasy thoughts I might put on paper.

So, I created Marian, and she wrote Reset. I think she’s good, if a little strange. But alas, “words weren’t made for cowards,” says Happy Rhodes. Heeding her advice, I must take the credit, the blame, and any fame, if people recommend this story to others.

—What’s that? Umm . . . Marian asks me to note that she was NOT conceived and created by me.

Fine fine–I don’t think I need to point out that (shhh) her initials are M.E. In return, she may be kind enough to refrain from explaining, yet again, that it’s just as likely that she created me, and that I am but a crazy dream of hers.

Her name sounds like another writer, whose name and works are as liquid on the page, who was obliged to publish as a man, that her words might sell. I always wondered what that says about a man, which is all I meant to point out through the similarity to the late great Mary Ann Evans-Cross (one spelling). She had skill and grace with the written word that far exceeds my own.

Writing is my therapy for being human–after all, writers aren’t cut from perfect cloth, so there are many things I do not know. One more thing I was trying to do with Reset was to answer myself the riddle; why do we have this universal fascination with doomsdays? Precognition en masse? Or is this morbid obsession linked by some strange dynamic to the instinct of species preservation (the granddaddy of all instinct)?

There is no real rationality behind the gut feeling that it would be a bad thing if our species ceased, at some future date. Though we would understandably prefer the end, if it is to be messy and inevitable, to come after our own, preferably natural, passing. In reading speculative tales, we experience mourning for even the implied death of humankind, even if it is presented as a billion years away. Looking to the past or the future for meaning, we may think it would be a waste of all that we think we have accomplished, or may accomplish. But would it? Really? Will we ever know?

I don’t know that we have ever accomplished anything, or ever will, or if we are even meant to. We may be the meaningless byproducts of an infinite meaningless, a possibility not easy to meet head-on. The end of our own species by our own hand would then be as unimportant as all the other extinctions that we continue to cause.

Whatever the case, we are driven to bring meaning and purpose to our own lives, in part because we can’t answer the big questions definitively, so we speculate on our own potential, and most of us find a reason or two to live and love, and to have hope for our species. Maybe that isn’t easy, but I wouldn’t wish for it to be–not because a God wouldn’t grant it, nor would an infinite meaningless–but because of the obvious and simple fact that instinctual behavior is tied so intricately to survival. There seems to be reason enough in that. No matter how instinct developed in us and all other animal life, and regardless of the fact that it may exist for no more than its own sake, the will to live at least gives us the opportunity to ask the big questions. If there are unknowable answers to some, so be it.

One question leads to another and twenty, as usual, and I am not much closer to answering myself about, why the doomsday obsession? I will try to take what cold comfort I can from appreciating all the more, the questions I can answer. And to be thankful for, as an aspiring writer, the stories born where our reason meets our instinct.

Now it’s done, but other questions remain. Like: why would the bears in the story wear collars? And, what was happening off the island with the scattered seeds of humanity? And why was there no contact with two of the other three hidden islands? And—

Wait—

Marian is telling me another story.

Gotta go!

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