Funerals are one particular point at which we stop, look back, and consider a life. The obituary is a condensed recitation of the deceased’s odyssey, and in my experience these small and intimate biographies, declaimed from the lectern above the casket, can convey surprising breadth and understanding of where the beloved has come from, how they went about their life journey, and how much they were appreciated.
Since we’ve had ten days now of mourning for Queen Elizabeth II, we’re pretty much appraised of every public detail of her life by now, so the state funeral this morning will not require a comprehensive account. I imagine that the music will be particularly wonderful, that the pageantry will be some of the best that the United Kingdom can offer, and that the entire service will be awe-inspiring. A life as the figurehead of a nation must be something we can only imagine.
In a different but not entirely dissimilar context, my imagination runs to contemporary science fiction, where I dream of landscapes and worlds that are just beyond comprehension, just out of touch. I’ve done that dreaming, and now I must create an overview that is readable, stimulating and enticing; dear reader, especially for the logline, I must leave you wanting, gasping, for more. Since my synopsis will go out to agents or publishers, I can include spoilers all the way through, as I seek to display my craft. There’s no point in hiding the candle under a bushel when it comes to the big reveals. So my strategy must be to engage the professional readers with the uniqueness of the story, and the thematic development, while proffering the plot in its entirety.
At the end of the life, there’s no further drama; all is retrospective, and all is revealed. These are intriguing joys, I feel, and this is just about the end of my science fiction odyssey too. If I can wrap the submission package up, begin a tour of agents with the best proposals I can come up with, creating a book description that makes the whole effort sing, then it might have a chance at a further life of its own.
It’s very odd to consider these things, but it’s also the case that the end of a novel brings its own post-creative tristesse, and this synopsis, this obituary as it were, is a kind of mourning already for the delight it’s been in the writing and creating. A quiet, reflective kind of joy this morning, then, as I look back at that creative enterprise, and describe it all on a single side.
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