- Daily Prompt: I’m ready for my close-up. Where’s Mr. Demille? (teepee12.com)
- Daily Prompt: Can’t Drive 55 (angloswiss-chronicles.com)
- Daily Prompt: A Little Sneaky (dailypost.wordpress.com)
Unlike many other books I have read and forgotten, Earth Abides has stayed with me. I’ve returned to it many times in recent years, but there was a period of almost 30 years when I couldn’t find a copy of the book anywhere. Nonetheless, I could recall it with remarkable clarity. It was especially remarkable considering the thousands of books I read every year. That I could remember this one book — not to be too punny — spoke volumes. It turns out that I was not alone. Many people found the book unforgettable, including many writers. George Stewart’s masterpiece became the jumping off point for an entire genre.
Earth Abides is a “foundation book,” one of a handful of books that you must read if you are a science fiction fan. It is frequently cited as “the original disaster” story. A foundation book it most definitely is, but classing it as the “original disaster story” rather misses the point.
Earth Abides isn’t merely a disaster story or post apocalyptic science fiction. Above all it is a book of rebuilding, renewal and hope. The event that initiates the story is a disaster, a plague resulting from either a natural mutation or something escaped from a lab that runs amok. Whatever its origins, it kills off most of Earth’s human population. As has been true of plagues throughout history, a small percentage of the population is naturally immune. Additionally, anyone who survived a rattlesnake bite is immune.
The plague is the back story. The front story of Earth Abides is how humankind copes with the tragedy as scattered remnants of people slowly find one another, form groups and gradually create a new civilization. Through marriage and the pressures of survival, groups become tribes. Simultaneously, the earth itself revives and finds a new balance.
Most diseases of old earth are eliminated by depopulation. New generations are wonderfully healthy. Along with physical disease, mental illness, archaic religious and outdated social structures are shed. New human generations have no memory of institutionalized bias and prejudice and the color line becomes non-existent. There is much that needs doing in this new world, but there’s an infinite amount of time in which to do it.
Ultimately, earth will be repopulated. But gently … and hopefully, in peace. The reborn world will contain bits and pieces of what went before, but without its demons.
The book was re-released as a 60th anniversary edition in 2009, including an audio version with an introduction by Connie Willis.
The last time I read it was immediately after it was re-released. Four years has given me time to be surprised by the book all over again. Be surprised by how much Ish — the main character — changes over the years, how much he grows and matures. How his belief structure adapts to new realities, how much more open his mind becomes. It’s a rare transformation from a literary point of view. Few characters I’ve read have transformed as much as Ish does in Earth Abides.
Earth Abides was published in 1949. In some parts of the U.S. and other countries, the issues with which the book’s characters grapple are still very much alive. They shouldn’t be. We have moved on but only to a point.
The technology stands up surprisingly well because it’s essentially irrelevant. All technology disappears, so it doesn’t matter how advanced it used to be. When the power goes off, it’s over. The world goes back to pre-technological. It has wind, water and sun. Books remain, so knowledge exists, but in stasis, waiting to be rediscovered and deployed. Meanwhile, earth abides.
The world ends, the world begins. Ish and Emma are the “mother” and “father” of the new tribe. Ish, in Hebrew, means “man” and “Eema” means “mother” which I am sure is not coincidental. It’s a wonderful story that suggests the human race has the capacity to not only survive, but reinvent civilization and make a better world.
Earth Abides is timeless. As is the Earth. There’s an entire site dedicated to George R. Stewart – The EARTH ABIDES Project. Definitely check it out!
It’s available in every configuration including Kindle, Audible download, audiobook (CD and MP3), hardcover and paperback. There was time when it was difficult to find, but it seems to have found its way back. I have owned at least a dozen copies of Earth Abides and keep an extra copy tucked away to give to friends who haven’t read it yet. I’m glad.
It remains among my top five all time favorite science fiction novels and if you haven’t read it, there’s no time like the present. I have a spare copy, just in case.
Saudade is a Portuguese word that describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone who one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing will never return.
My friends, who came as I did to live in Israel, shared the fear of receiving “the phone call” telling us a parent had passed away across an ocean and perhaps half a world.
We were haunted children. Each Passover we gathered. Elijah’s cup stood on the table. It was my mother’s cup and though she lived, she was also a ghost because she was so far away. I looked at my son. When I am old, I wondered, will he go far away to live in a different country?
I was 31 when left the U.S. and moved to Israel. I left in a ferocious need to be. Nothing would have stopped me. My mother never tried to stop me. She told me she admired me – admired me – for having the courage to leave.
I lay in bed the morning my mother died. Images tumbled through my head. In my mind’s eye, I saw the funeral I could not attend, my brother, older, sadder. And my sister. My mother was her protector. What would Ann do now? Two birds twitter as they build a nest on my Jerusalem window ledge…
I lived most of my adult life within half an hour’s drive from my mother and never gave it a second thought. We talked by phone, saw each other now and then for a bit of shopping and a chat. Such was life in suburban New York.
Living in Israel – being so far away – taught me about family We saw each other through a time-lapse sequence. Each visit, she was visibly older, changed. A call – “Your mother is in the hospital” – brought panic. Nothing could reassure me.
Another visit to Israel. It is the year after my mother’s surgery and she looks so tired. I can see the weariness, yes, but she is still Mother. I saw her as I had always seen her: strong, an elemental force in my world. A friend commented: “What a fragile little woman your mother is!” That stopped me short. I had never seen my mother as fragile. Or little. She was as she had always been … but maybe my eyes were faulty.
My mother was with me, then had to leave and another year passed.
It was 1983. She had come for Passover. I was overjoyed to have my family together. We would have three uninterrupted weeks. My mother looked wonderful. Her color was back. Just before the Seder, she tells me that she is dying.
“Dying?” I was inane in my shock. “But you look so well.”
She was not well. She had cancer. It had spread to her lungs and stomach. She said she could feel herself sliding away. “I don’t want to lose you,” I cried. If I cry, Mother will fix it, it will be okay.
“I don’t want to lose me either,” she said, and laughed.
“How can you laugh?” I said.
“What else is there to do?” she replied.
Fears and prayers and hopes. Relentlessly, she told me what I need to know about the will,my brother and sister. I am the first to be told.
We took a two-day trip to the Galilee. The wildflowers were blooming. They were scarlet and blue, white and pink, yellow and purple. The Galil was ablaze and we saw it together. I remember. The Hermon, still crowned with snow. The Kinneret, mist-covered.
My mother always talked to me. I was little, very little. I sat next to her while she ironed and she talked about life, her thoughts, her dreams. Was she lonely? Did she miss her own mother who had passed away?
The final summer of her life, I went to the United States to be with her. She still looked well. How could she be so ill? Yet the signs were there. Her will sustained her. She wanted me to remember the Mother I knew, and not as she would be in weeks to follow.
She let me take care of her, and that spoke volumes. We talked, talked, talked. I tried to tell her all the things I’d never gotten around to saying, never found the right words.
I just let the words fall out. I wanted her to know that all the little hurts … they were nothing. Forgive me Mother … I forgive you, too.
I am my mother. I am the cycle, the pattern. I sit by a pool and watch my granddaughter play in the water, and I am my mother, and I am in the pool. I am the one, mother who is and will be.
My mother gave me a diamond that was her mother’s and perhaps, though no one can remember so far back, her grandmother’s. It was the one thing that had been passed down the generations. All else was lost, long ago, left behind in another old … older … country.
I have become the woman my mother raised me to be. As she molded me, I am – for good and ill. I am my mother’s daughter.
- Rarasaur: Prompts for the Promptless - Episode 10 – Saudade (rarasaur.wordpress.com)
A friend asked me why I do this, why I blog. So I asked her why she plays golf.
We do what we do because we love it, need to do it, or both. Writing is like breathing. If I don’t write, I suffocate. My friend needs to compete, to be active. To play golf or she will suffocate.
I can’t begin to count the number of people who have told me they want to be writers, but don’t know how to start. They want me to tell them how. Because they asked the question, I’m reasonably sure they will never be writers. If you are a writer, you write. No one has to tell you how or when. You will write and you will keep writing because it is not what you do, it is what you are. It is as much a part of you as your nose or stomach.
I started writing as soon as I learned to read, which was about 45 minutes after someone handed me a book. It was as if a switch had been thrown in some circuit in my brain. Words felt right. Putting words on paper was exactly the same as speaking, but took longer. I didn’t mind the extra time because I could go back and fix written words. Being able to change my words and keep changing them until they said exactly what I wanted them to say was the grail.
I was awkward socially and my verbal skills were not well suited to my age and stage in life. I was not good at sports and no one wanted me on her team. In retrospect, I can understand why. But when I was a kid, it hurt. Games and other social activities let you become popular, make friends, and do those other things that matter to youngsters. I couldn’t do the regular stuff … but I could write and I could read and that gave me wings. I might be a klutz, but words let me build my own worlds.
I was consuming adult literature when I was so little that my mother had to run block with the librarian to make sure I was allowed to read whatever I wanted. I had to be told to stop reading so I would eat, sleep, or go outside. If I was writing, nothing could stop me. Some things never change.
If you are going to be a writer, you know it. Practice will make you a better writer, can help you understand how to build a plot and produce books that publishers will buy, but writing itself is a gift. If you have it, you know it.
Writers have words waiting to be written, lining up for the opportunity to get put on paper or into the computer. It may take quite a while for you to find what your special area will be, fact or fiction. However it sorts out, you will write, professionally or as a private passion.
There are many gifts. Talent comes in an endless number of flavors. If you have the soul of a musician, you’ll find a way to make music. The same with painting, photography, drawing, running, hitting a baseball or throwing one so that it just skims that outer corner of the plate at 96 miles per hour. Mathematics, engineering, architecture … creativity and talent are as varied as the people who use it.
Gifts are given to us. It’s up to us to use our gifts as best we can. Not everyone is gifted, Plenty of people would give anything for gifts that you may take for granted. What is easy for you may be impossible for most people.
So my advice to all hopeful writers is simple. Write.
Don’t talk about it. Do it. Write a lot, as often as you can, even if most of it is awful and you never show it to anyone. Sooner or later, you’ll find your way to where you should be. If you don’t write, it is your loss, but it may also be the world’s loss. You will never know how good you can be if you don’t try.
This blog is my way, in retirement, to find an outlet for the millions of words stuffed in my head, seething restlessly through my brain. Blogging is freedom in every sense. I have no deadlines to meet other than those I set myself. No editor is looking over my shoulder, I can write about anything and I have no word count to meet.
I hate golf. I can’t figure out why anyone would want to walk or ride around an enormous lawn hitting a little white ball. I can’t think of anything more boring … but I know a lot of golfers and they live for it. The rest of the week is just a pause between tee times.
So, if you don’t get why I write, that’s okay. You don’t have to get it. That I get it and can do it and other people actually read it … that’s enough for me. You do your thing, I’ll do mine. If I believe in anything, I believe with all my heart that we should all be what we were meant to be because that is the only route to any lasting happiness.
My mother loved dolls, but she had grown up poor. She had only had one doll in her entire life, a china-headed doll she got from her mother. That was a big deal in a large, poor family. There were 6 other brothers and sisters to keep fed, clothed and who also had birthdays. Mom loved her doll and when one day, the doll fell off her bed and broke her china head, my mother was inconsolable. She said she had cried for weeks and everyone was sympathetic, but she never got another doll.
Then there was me, her first daughter and the one who loved dolls as much as she had. My sister, who came afterwards, never cared for them as I did.
Annabelle was the first of a line of expensive dolls with which I was gifted through my girlhood. Annabelle was followed by Toni,the big 24″ Toni with platinum hair and the whole set of curlers and “permanent wave” solution. After that, there was Betsy Wetsy, though my mother, in the midst of potty training my younger sister couldn’t imagine wanting a doll that wet herself. Many other dolls would follow. But Annabelle always had a special place in my heart. I talked to her, slept with her, dragged her around. I loved her through restringing, rewigging, repainting and redressing.
After all my other dolls had passed along into dolly heaven, I still had Annabelle. Right before I left for Israel, I gave her to my friend’s daughter … and Loren still has her to this day.
Some years back, I went hunting for Annabelle. I knew I couldn’t get my original girl back. She was Loren’s now. Even though Loren was grown with a son of her own, she was not parting with Annabelle. Most of Madame Alexander’s dolls had long production runs, but Annabelle was a one year only limited edition. But I found her, and she has rejoined my life. I even have her original box, traveling beauty supply kit and tag. She’s perfect and obviously had never been loved quite as voraciously as I love her predecessor.
I still do give her a furtive hug now and again. Sometimes, the best person in the world to talk to is a doll that will always smile and understand. That’s my Annabelle.
- The Daily Prompt: Prized Possession (wordpress.com)
- *Madame Alexander Favorite Friends Fashionista Doll – 18 (madamealexanderfavoritefriendsfashi9w.wordpress.com)
- Effanbee Doll Company Reinvigorates the Doll World – Robert Tonner Reinvents Patsy (prweb.com)
- The Dolls (noncomposmentisramblings.wordpress.com)