|Silverberg resides in good company,|
atop a stack that never diminishes
In yesterday’s blog post, I discussed Robert Silverberg’s award-winning novella “Born with the Dead” in Phases of the Moon: Six Decades of Masterpieces by the SFWA Grand Master. Although his character Jorge is a widower, he is financially well off, has a good career, and could easily be getting on with life. Yet he cannot let go of his dead wife, Sybille. Her Will stipulated that after her funeral, her body would undergo the rekindling process. Thus, while she is no longer a “warm,” she still inhabits the planet Earth. She visits the barricaded communities of the “deads” known as Cold Towns. And she regularly travels the globe, still pursuing the academic fields of study that fascinated her before she died.
Jorge tracks her movements as best he can. He tries to gain access to the Cold Towns she visits. He flies after her when she travels to far off counties. Yet every time she refuses to meet with him. Finally, he uses drugs and fakes his death to sneak into a Cold Town. When he meets with her, she tells him a story she discovered on one of her research trips. Then she leaves him, and only later, after he researches the details of her story, does he realize that she was lying to him. For the characters she spoke of did not live during the period she placed them in. It appears that she saw through his disguise. Her story was her way of saying that she did not desire to speak with him further.
Still he pursues her. In Zanzibar, one of her dead friends finds him in the restaurant at his hotel. Sybille knows he has followed her here. She wants him to stop. Her dead friend Gracchus urges him to give her up and move on with his life. He tells Jorge that he can do anything he wants to do. He explains to Jorge that a massive gulf exists between the warms and the deads. There is but one way to cross it: to die and be rekindled. Gracchus then shows him the self-defense darts carried by the deads. He offers to kill Jorge with it, and oversee an immediate rekindling. When Jorge awakens in a Cold Town, he can then visit Sybille. Once they both reside on the same side of the gulf that currently separates them, perhaps they will find they have something in common. Perhaps not. But that is the only way Jorge can find out.
This incident in Silverberg’s story strikes me like a knife. For so long I have attended science fiction conventions. Yet I have never really connected with the fans. That was…okay, as my primary purpose was to connect with the authors. Yet the moments I shared with my writing heroes were all too brief. Our discussions left me (largely) unsatisfied. What I sought from them they could not offer me. For the answers I seek have, and always will, reside inside me.
For too long now I have traveled between two worlds, belonging in neither. Stung by past rejections, I have left finished works unsubmitted. I have abandoned promising stories because they seemed to grow beyond my ability to complete. Rather than finishing and submitting, I have put myself through countless cycles of story revisions. Yet the key to unlock my success has always resided in my pocket. No author can tell me how to pull the key from my pocket, place it in the lock, and turn it. That much I must do myself. After I battle past my fear and walk through that door, perhaps then I can find other published authors with whom I share something in common. Perhaps not. But that is the only way that I can cross the gulf that separates me from my literary heroes.
What fears separate you from your achievements? What dangers must you brave, to cross the gulf to your new tomorrow?
Related Dragon Cache entries
Some Silverberg wit: video from 2009 Worldcon