Friday, April 04, 2008


It’s interesting to think that each generation of mankind is a link in a chain that goes back to the beginnings of our species, and that only a few links can span a very long time.

I think I mentioned in one blog that when I was just starting school in 1941 (probably a couple of links away in your own generational chain), a man I knew as “Mr. Bement” lived on the street behind ours. He was, as I recall him, incomprehensibly old in comparison to my then seven or eight years. He was, I believe, 90. Which meant he was born somewhere around 1853 and would have been old enough to remember the Civil War. My own grandfather Chester Fearn was born the year after the Chicago fire; my dad the year before the Titanic set sail. WWI had only been over 15 years when I myself was born.

I think of these things and am awestruck. I am only two links in the chain of generations away from the Chicago fire. Astounding.

The entire population of the planet when Grandpa Fearn was born no longer exists. Within a few years, the planet’s entire population when my parents were born will also be dead, and within 35 years, every single human being living on the face of the earth on the day I was born will be gone. Astonishing!

Each succeeding generation overlaps the ones before it like the clapboard siding on a house, and the link-forming is a continuous event.

I’ve spoken often of my fascination with cemeteries, and the sense of calm I feel when walking through one, reading the tombstones. I am aware that as I read the names on the older ones and wonder who they were, what they sounded and looked like, what they did for a living, their families, their friends, their hopes and an infinite number of other questions, that I am probably the first person in many years to have been aware that they even existed.

I’ve occasionally, too, wished that I had somehow had children (artificial insemination only, thank you), only to realize that the main reason most people have for having children is to leave a legacy of themselves, and I do that with my writing. While children, and their children, and their children’s children on through time carry the genes of all who came before, individuals, with infinitely few exceptions, are totally lost to time within three or four generations. Family memories seldom go back beyond one’s grandparents.

Every parent wishes the very best for his/her children. They want to protect them, and see them grow to be healthy, happy individuals. But it is inevitable that as they reach maturity, they wander off on their own and begin forming their own lives and families and histories. And it is here I feel I have something of an advantage—though the word “advantage” can certainly be questioned. The characters in my books are in effect my children, and they never change. Dick and Jonathan and Joshua are a loving, happy family, and they will remain so forever. They won’t grow old, or grow apart from me. They live in a world without time, and it is, again, time which is my principle enemy. I could not protect my real children, had I had any, from it, but I can do so for my characters, who are almost as real to me as flesh and blood offspring. And while I cannot hold them in my arms, I can hold them in my heart.

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