Since the dawn of humanity's self-awareness, death has always been a cold, dark fact of life. We honour our dead. We find ways to ensure they are respected, even though they cannot know what we do. And we also try not to speak ill of those unable to defend themselves.
But we have never been able to control it. We have fought against it. We have developed ways to prolong life; but prolong just means delaying death. We know from the moment we're born we are all aimed at one ending, no matter what happens in between. My latest novel is the question of what if?
What if we could control it?
What if we could just skip the parts of life we don't like and shift a bunch of people from one century to another without thought? It's not a new inception, however, many works available now deal with cryonics as already perfected. Space travel and transporting to new worlds is simple as just a drip in the arm and light speed travel. I was more interested in the effect of the procedure, and the effects of the guinea pigs.
In Perpetuity was a work in progress for a long time. Not only was the story of Frankenstein (eventually) integral to the novel as a whole, but it provided a kind of serendipitous grounding of the primary themes of my work.
Mary Shelley's famous novel was not about death. It was about life. About discovery, and fear, and love, and realising, ultimately, you are alone in your pursuits and your own fierceness may be the destructive force to the ones you love. It has an extraordinary set of layers, of intrigue, of exploration, of tenderness, of destruction. It is a book deserving of its remembrance, and though its primary happenings can be confused (that Frankenstein is the scientist, not the monster, for example) our culture is firmly aware of what the epithet of "Frankenstein" means.
Sebastian Eastman is a man with progressive intentions just like Victor Frankenstein. His era is far advanced from the early electrical investigations of the 18th century, but the necessity of discovery hasn't changed. Those with the ability will always pursue, but many of the questions will involve the general morality of those pursuits. Though my intention wasn't to base the story heavily on Frankenstein, it just happened that many of the themes I was exploring were already extant in not only Shelley's work, but many more of my favourite authors. Thus is the writer's unoriginal life. I wrote my tale before I'd actually read the novel (I'd seen adaptations), but when I did read the novel, I found what she was saying reverberated strongly, and so embraced the Frankenstein connection. Realising the anniversary this year, I decided it was time to finish my unintentional derivation.
Exploring life, living, deprivation and control, were some of the most challenging and exciting themes I've had the pleasure to work on. I think generally, these themes are around in diluted form in much of what I write, but never have they been at the forefront so clearly. I have been lucky to be able to include some of my favourite human innovations and creations in this story, and it stands as my personal tribute to the people who have inspired me along the way. My privilege stands with being able to discover these things continually, in relative peace, and experience what the extraordinary creators of the past have left us as deep and perpetual messages.
What if perpetuity was possible. Who would win? And who would lose?
I refer (usually through the voice of Sebastian) to multiple sources in the book itself, not always directly. Music, books, poetry, places, paintings and whisky.
There isn't a column below for one of the most incredible and intriguing aspects of my research into the subject of biology and brains, but I'll add the link here the Ted talk that hugely inspired one of the most important and recurring themes of In Perpetuity - Jill Bolte Taylor's experience of a stroke as a neuroscientist. Her delivery inspired one of Sebastian Eastman's presentations, and I think gives us an enigmatic and glorious insight of our brains, from someone having suffered the effects of a deteriorating one.
Mary Shelley – Frankenstein (Simon & Schuster, one of the most pertinent covers)
William Shakespeare - The Sonnets
John Keats - Ode on a Grecian Urn
Geoffrey Chaucer - The Book of the Duchess
Anne Bronte - The Narrow Way
Gabriel Dante Rossetti
I have been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell:
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.
You have been mine before,—
How long ago I may not know:
But just when at that swallow's soar
Your neck turn'd so,
Some veil did fall,—I knew it all of yore.
Has this been thus before?
And shall not thus time's eddying flight
Still with our lives our love restore
In death's despite,
And day and night yield one delight once more?
Music & Art
Muse – Starlight, Explorers, Exogenesis Symphony, Aftermath, The Void
Better Half, Sons of Liberty, There She Is, 21st Century Survival Blues
House of the Hanged Man
Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, Song for my Father
Edward Elgar – Enigma Variations (featuring Nimrod)
Hadrian’s Wall – Cumbria/Northumberland, UK
Castlerigg Stone Circle – Cumbria, UK
Westminster Abbey – London, UK
York – Yorkshire, UK
The Eden Project - Cornwall, UK
The Isle of Skye (for Talisker whisky) - Inner Hebrides, UK