Prologue to an epitaph

THE WRITER’S LIFE

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Even if my passing were to be imminent (there’s nothing planned or threatened), I’ve achieved one of the things I always wanted to do: I’ve written and published a book which is being acclaimed on some popular media channels. The few who follow this blog will know that things were very different, just three years ago. Like Douglas Adams, I seem to have found myself in a place where I never knew I wanted to be.

I spoke to my dad today, as it’s his 75th birthday. We spoke about all that’s happened, in our family recently, and in the world during his lifetime. We spoke briefly about the current geopolitical state of the world, and of his upcoming (routine) surgery to drain liquid from the base of his brain. At the end of the conversation, I wished him many happy returns and congratulated him on reaching such a grand age. His response surprised me: Whereas the dad I’ve always known might be expected to respond with an observation on his good innings and not knowing how many more years he might have, he said something quite profound: “You never know, I might yet get a telegram from King William IV.” My dad has become more progressive and positive in his thinking than what I’ve always been used to. I commended him on having a mind receptive to such a concept, and explained how it might be quite possible for him to live to 100, given the medical advances we are making.

Because I write mainly science fiction, I obviously do a lot of reading and research of science fact and speculation. This often forms part of any conversation with visitors to my little studio, as most find the subjects fascinating. While it’s unfortunate that more people don’t seek out this information, it’s encouraging that someone of my dad’s generation listens to what I’m saying, thinks about it, and perhaps does some further research. The conversation came to a natural conclusion when I told my dad that I love him. Those words would not have been spoken three years ago, and my family have never been sentimental, but my dad then said, “Yes, and when I think of all that you’ve achieved over the last three years, I’m bloody proud.”

My dad will probably never read my books: He’s not a great consumer of fiction, and sci-fi isn’t really his genre, but he’s read some of my published short stories and he listens to his son. That’s what I set out to do in this life: To have an authorial voice which people listen to, to engage people through writing, and to make my parents proud. It’s why The Perpetuity of Memory is dedicated to them.

My greatest wish would be for everyone to hear all that I have to say. But while that’s not going to happen, I’ve written it all down in three published books. One day, more people may read them. Others might learn of all I do to help troubled teens and other causes. Until everyone knows, I’ll just keep doing it.

At the other end of my family’s generational span, I spoke to my son today as well. He’s twelve and decided a while ago that he’d like to write science fiction. I’ve cautioned him to not expect any riches or immediate recognition but he countered with something which could have come from my own mouth, and just as poignant as my dad’s earlier comment: “I know no-one will read my stuff but if I’ve written it, then it’s out there if people want to find it and I know I’ve done it.” When I take my kids for lunch every month, the conversation is very often science-based, because my children have active and receptive minds. They know that they could be a part of the first generation of humans to become immortal. They know that they will most likely see the birth of the first human Martian in their lifetimes. They listen. They listen to their father, the writer. And that’s why I do it.

So I’ve said all that I have to say for now. Most of it is in The Paradoxicon, my semi-autobiographical novel (it was easier to write about that period of my life in fiction). The rest is in The Perpetuity of Memory and there’s a lot of comforting thoughts in A Girl, Frank Burnside and Haile Selassie, my award-winning children’s story, illustrated by my daughter. That’s why I do it.

There’s plenty more to write, because there’s so much going on and which needs to be spoken about. There’ll be more short stories, because there are so many subjects to address. There’ll be a second anthology. And my long-term background science fiction epic, Infana Kolonia, will see the light of day in the next year or so. Given the interest from certain quarters, the latter could even become a series of shorter books.

For now, I’ve done all that I set out to do in making myself better after my drunken breakdown three years ago. It’s all written, in my books and on this blog. The story is there and it’s one which has helped others. They just need to find it.

But I’m done, for now.

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