Perhaps I'm a little bit more aware of mortality right now, what with first someone I'd been on a panel with on a con not a month past suddenly and dramatically being whisked from this life by a massive heart attack, and then a long-time Internet friend, married to another long-time Internet friend, dying yesteday after a lingering battle with liver cancer.
It comes to everybody, in the end.
What of me? What am I hoping for? Why do I write?
John Scalzi says that his work is meant to be read now, and not a hundred years' hence - who remembers the bestsellers of a century ago? He even quotes a couple of titles, none of which I'd heard of, which seems to prove his point handily - but also, I think, misses it, in my own case.
His premise might hold true of a mega seller like ROwlings - but I don't write the bestsellers. What I would hope for, as far as my own legacy is concerned, is a rather different dream. Let me give you an example - I have in my possession, on my bookshelf, an old-fashioned hardcover book in reasonably good whack. I bought this book second hand; in it, there is an inscription: To Deda, Xmas 1905".
The book is "Mill on the Floss". How much of a "bestseller" that was in its day, I'mn ot certain - but it had to have had some status, seeing as it has survived as a "classic". But what I would hope for of my own books is that someone, somewhere, many years after I am dead, finds a copy of my book in a second hand bookstore somewhere, inscribed by a loving hand to some other now long-gone person. Extending my hand to that first reader who extends theirs to the person to whom they gave my book who in turn, across the years, extends theirs to some other reader, many years down the line.
I don't aspire to bestsellerdom. But the idea of still being read and remembered a hundred years from now - that, now, that is something. I don't write for posterity, that's for certain - and I would very much like for a sufficiency of readers in the here and now to give me a decent chance of living out my life as a writer in the days allotted to me on this earth. But I'd like it very much if my books outlived me, if my dreams were to be continue to be dreamed by a new generation of readers. If that should happen, my spirit will look down from the heavens and smile.
Both scalzi and jaylake have families, kids, and perhaps that colours their own ideas about posterity and inheritance - but I don't. My children are my cats - and I'll certainly outlive them, and possibly another generation of them, too, given the disparity of cat and human lifetimes - and my books, and those books are the only thing that I will leave behind me when I go.
That, and a memory - in those who knew me, and who might continue in this life after I leave it - of being a certain kind of person, someone who believed strongly in certain things and acted on those beliefs, someone who chose to live a life of passion rather than a life of practicality and ease, to follow a dream rather than the road to 2.5 children and a white picket fence and suburbia. Someone who could follow a recipe, but did not care to cook; who laughed with delight when she saw a butterfly and wept when she saw a redwood tree; someone who listened to birdsong, who paused to smell the lilacs, who liked to bury her fingers in soft cat fur, who liked the taste of chocolate, who heard the songs in the wind and the slow dreams of stones. My body will not be remembered, because I did not reproduce it - my genes will wither, and any traditions which I continue today I will take with me when I go without children to carry them on. I hope that my mind and my spirit - my words, for that is in which those two things are cocooned - will remain as a memory of me in this world.
I don't know what my legacy will be. I only know what I *hope* it will be. For those of you who have read my books and enjoyed them - give one as a gift to someone you love, with an inscription inside, and a date. Who knows who might find these things in the fullness of time, and wonder about both you and me, and think that they must have found a treasure.