HAL-9000: What is going to happen?
Dave: Something wonderful.
Last night, as I was doing my taxes, something wonderful happened. Keep in mind: this is “wonderful” on a small, very personal scale. I did not happen upon the answer to problems in the Middle East or a cure for rampant stupidity. Nor did I find a loophole in the tax code that doubled my refund.
So, that’s what it wasn’t. With your expectations properly lowered, let’s move onward to what it was.
I was filling out Schedule SE (rather pleased that I had enough writing income to warrant its use) when an email came in. It was a message redirected to me from the Contact page here on this blog. I don’t get many direct messages from blog readers, and about half of those I do receive are from people wanting to market their wares via a guest-post on my blog–cheeky bastards–so when it was clear that this message was from a reader and not a self-promoter, it was already a good sign. I opened it, and I read.
In the hyperbolic style of internet memes: What happened next blew my mind.
The email was from a fellow who was ecstatic at having found my short story, “Spencer’s Peace,” here on the blog. He first read the story twenty years ago, in Dragon Magazine, but ostensibly lost the publication details. Since then, he had searched for the story but, knowing neither author nor title nor specific issue number in which it appeared, his hunt went unfulfilled. Tracking down a story based solely on thematic content–hell, finding anything on the internet without use of identifying details–is a difficult task, but finally, a score of years later, he succeeded and was reunited with one of his favorite stories.
This, to me, is wondrous. A story I wrote so affected a young man that it stuck in his memory for decades. It drove him to expend hours of effort over the years searching for it, proving that words–and the stories we make with them–are powerful. They can touch people deeply and become part of their psyche. They can force tears and laughter unbidden, and can engender emotions that people want to experience again and again.
I hope this reader enjoyed re-reading “Spencer” after all this time. I do hope the story lived up to his recollection–sometimes our memories become sepia-toned with the passage of days and years–but even if it didn’t, I hope at least it helps keep that memory of his younger self alive and strong. Owning a bit of our own youth is powerful, too; such talismans can reinvigorate when life makes us weary.
I have a box filled with such small talismans–seashells from the Mediterranean, keys to locks long rusted away, a coaster from a pub that’s been closed for thirty years–but I also have stories that I remember with great fondness. Some stories I recall simply for the sheer power of their words, but some are favorites because of who I was and how I felt when I first read them.
To have written a story that holds such a place for even one reader? It’s a privilege and honor I would not trade away.