A Sliver of Immortality
By Brad R. Cook
Plato once said, “Books are immortal sons deifying their sires.”
Good quote and I like the premise. The thought that my books will live beyond me is comforting – I put a lot of work in them – but knowing people will read my work after I am gone is both joyous and sobering.
Several years ago, as Historian of St. Louis Writers Guild, I lead the Legacy Project. Tasked with discovering the history of the Writers Guild, a team of interns and I scoured the records for any information. Before I arrived, the president and previous historian had learned the names of the founders, some famous members, and few other tidbits, but I was tasked with finding more details. I was a researcher at the time so it was easy to do. Within the year we had discovered all kinds of interesting facts, filled in several gaps in the line of presidents, and I’d even tracked down a lost Tennessee Williams short story that he’d entered in a St. Louis Writers Guild contest.
From census records and other state documents we learned the facts of their lives, who they married, the names of their kids, the occupation of their parents and other sterile information about the six founding members of St. Louis Writers Guild. However, because they were writers, I was able to find not only the facts but through their writing I found something else – their voices.
Through the short stories that ran in the newspapers and magazines of the day I can hear their wit, their slang, the words or phrases they repeated. In the letters to the editor I hear their outrage, the causes that drove them to action. I’ve researched many people before, but I have to admit that I know the founders of St. Louis Writers Guild better than I know most people. They might have lived a century ago, but through their words I know how they sound, what they cared about, their thoughts about the world – I know them. Like an old friend, I haven’t seen in too long.
My books, short stories, articles, and even this blog post will live beyond me. Through the words and phrases I’ve chosen, people of the future will be able to know me – a scary thought. I doubt I’ll be like the pharaohs and still spoken about after millennia have passed, only the truly great writers seem able to defy the places where history is lost and forgotten. But they do exist. I love to read the classics from the Victorian era, or Le Morte D’Arthur written in 1400's by Sir Thomas Malory. Beowulf was written around 900 A.C.E. and Homer’s Iliad is even older. Pluto was right, stories can last forever.
So snag your little sliver of immortality. Write something worth reading in some long distant future, pay attention to the words you choose, or the phrases you turn. You never know who will come along and prolong your book’s life a little bit more.
We are not immortal, but through our words, we reach further into the future than our lives ever could.
Brad R. Cook, author of the YA Steampunk Series The Iron Chronicles. http://www.amazon.com/Iron-Horsemen-The-Chronicles/dp/0989207951. He is a contributor to The Writers Lens and Write Pack Radio. He currently serves as Historian of St. Louis Writers Guild after three and half years as its President. Learn more about his books and endeavors at www.bradrcook.com or on Twitter @bradrcook https://twitter.com/bradrcook. Follow my blog Thoughts from Midnight on tumblr http://bradrcook.tumblr.com/