The first chapter of the story of my life does not open with my birth. It begins with my first memories around the age of three or four, when I first really became aware and my mind began seriously pulling itself together. Similarly, it will not ultimately end the final chapter when the lights go out and I pass away. I myself will not be able to write that particular sentence because, as I die, I probably won’t be in the act of writing about it.
This topic comes up because I have been thinking long and hard about how my AeroQuest series is going to end.
The original story in my terrible first-published novel has been divided into five different parts. Admittedly they are not as stand-alone in nature as I had originally intended.
Of course, since it all evolved from an on-going role-playing game, it was never really supposed to have an end point. And if I manage to finish this number-five novel, I already have a story to fill the number-six novel. It will be called Galactic Fire and the story is already tied to the other five.
At the same time, I am rewriting and updating Stardusters and Space Lizards. This too is an ongoing story. As a sequel to Catch a Falling Star, it takes up the tale of the aliens who tried and failed to invade a small town in Iowa. It takes them to a dying planet where the population of meat-eating lizard people are determined to make themselves extinct.
So, naturally, this book has the problem of the need to kill characters who are not the villain. Characters I have come to love. One of the characters shown on this new cover was supposed to tragically die during the climactic battle of the book. It began my awareness of how I can’t seem to end a novel without killing characters.
Of my fifteen existing novels, only Superchicken and A Field Guide to Fauns make it to the end of the story without killing a character.
I am lucky society doesn’t charge authors with murder for killing off characters in their books. After all, we fiction writers are a murderous lot. And characters are real people, at least to the author.
But, life as a story, is like that. Nobody that we have photographs of makes it out alive. And all the exceptions to the general rule may be highly metaphorical in actual reality.
The character in my initial Paffooney, Orben Wallace from The Bicycle-Wheel Genius, is a good example of the ongoing nature of life’s story. I call that book a prequel-equal-sequel because it tells a story that begins before Catch a Falling Star, includes some of the same story as that book, and ends with a story that occurs well after the other story departs for outer space.
I fully expect my own life to end its story like that one did. There is a story that comes both before and after. Birth-to-death stories are always part of something larger. And it is all connected.