Today is the release date my of science fiction short story “The Last Novelist,” which you can read right now at Tor.com. Here’s the synopsis:
“The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard)” by Matthew Kressel is a science fiction story about a dying writer who is trying to finish one final novel on the distant planet he settles on for his demise. His encounter with a young girl triggers a last burst of creativity.
My wife and I were on vacation last year in Barbados, and we were both powering through Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. The book’s subject matter made me ponder the transience of things, how we take so much for granted. It struck me too that the activity we call “reading for pleasure” might have a finite lifetime in human history. What would happen, for example, if we could get stories fed directly into our brains? Would we have need for the literature of words anymore if we could experience stories first-hand? “The Last Novelist” describes such a potential future, many centuries from now, when books are to the people of the future like clay tablets with cuneiform, odd and obsolete.
While on that same vacation, there was a small dead lizard in the back-yard porch being eaten by ants. At first I was disgusted by its leather carcass, and I pushed it off to the side with my shoe. But day after day, I watched the ants work, and by the third day I was severely impressed by how thoroughly they had dissected the animal, how efficient nature was. Nothing dead is every really gone, it’s just changed.
Anyway, that’s how the dead lizard made it into the story. 😉
The story’s cover art is by the amazing Scott Bakal.
You can read “The Last Novelist” here, or if you prefer an ebook, you can get one at this link. I’m very curious to know what you think of the story. Feedback is always welcome!
March 17, 2017 at 6:26 am
Thank you very much for this wonderful story! I loved it, although I do blame you for bringing a lump in my throat in the end.
Besides the imagery and the tenderness, I loved how the opposition works in the story, the friendship between the writer (at the end of his road) and the young girl (at the beginning of her road), but also offering a continuation through the body of work put together by the two of them. I also see this continuation through the dead baby lizard from the start of the story and the skittering one from the end. I was also have been made to think, to an extent, at my love for books, physical ones. I am perfectly aware of the comfort brought by my e-reader, I can carry it around and I can read thicker books with much ease, but I still love more the feeling of the paper books, of turning pages or going back and forth through a volume. It’s the same with writing a letter, for example, the email is an awesome tool, but a written letter on paper seems to be more sentimental.
Thank you again for the story!
March 17, 2017 at 8:24 am
Thank you, Mihai! I too have a love for physical books, but never the space to keep them all.