Friday, August 31, 2012

Moira Crone

Moira Crone is the author of several novels and story collections including What Gets Into Us and A Period of Confinement; her works have appeared in Oxford American, The New Yorker, Image, Mademoiselle, and over forty other journals and twelve anthologies. She has won prizes for her stories and novellas, and in 2009 she was given the Robert Penn Warren Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers for the entire body of her work.

Her latest novel is The Not Yet.

A couple of weeks ago I asked Crone what she was reading.  Her reply:
Born with the Dead by Robert Silverberg, 1974.

I found the collection in a used bookstore in Carrboro, N.C. I was visiting my very aged parents who have been in assisted living for many years now. I was thinking about the unintended costs and consequences of the current commonplace longevity. My parents complain of the “limbo” they have entered in their nineties. They continue on life extending drugs, and have many procedures. Science is keeping them alive—they find this depressing, even agonizing, far beyond boring. Yet there is no way out.

Two of the three novellas in Born with the Dead are explorations of the consequences of cheating death. They are subtle, intense, psychological and mysterious.

I especially loved the portrayal of Jorge Klein in the title story. His wife Sybille has died, but she has been “rekindled” ---brought back to a kind of “life.” A very elegant zombie, Sybille likes to be with her own kind and refuses to have anything to do with her former husband. She lacks desire, or ordinary emotions. She’s called a “cold.” It’s a very ironic version of “retirement,” a very dark in-between she’s entered.

The story is also a great parable about Jorge’s grief, and love.

Another novella in the book, “Going,” looks at the 135th year of a brilliant composer. He lives in a world where people must will themselves to die, for no diseases will kill them anymore. Silverberg’s waiting centers, where citizens go to die, are reminiscent of today’s assisted living homes. But, unlike 2012 residents, this hero has the benefit of counseling, life review, and autonomy. He is encouraged to choose, and celebrate his exit when he is finally ready.

I read the book, in part, because Silverberg was referenced in a review of my recent novel The Not Yet, in the British Science Fiction magazine, Interzone. My novel explores the consequences---emotional, material, societal, spiritual---of extreme longevity. Though Silverberg’s characters have circumstances of plenty, mine know a world where the rich go on for centuries, while the rest barely survive.

But what I share with Silverberg book is that I’m interested in science fiction about the spirit. He asks: what have medical advances done to the way we conceive of life? And therefore, how we shall live it it now?
Visit Moira Crone's website and the Facebook page for The Not Yet.

--Marshal Zeringue