This is a guest post by best-selling author Kevin J. Anderson (Clockwork Destiny, Gods and Dragons), who has contributed short fiction to the upcoming Unioverse anthology Stories of the Reconvergence, available this August from Hex Publishers.
I’ve given many writers’ workshops and participated in a lot of story challenges. One of my favorite teaching examples is the “purple unicorn story.” If somebody asks you to write a story for an anthology about purple unicorns—and you agree to do it—then you should commit to writing the best damn purple unicorn story you can.
The long history and limitless planets, races, and alien civilizations in the Unioverse allowed me to write the best damn story…period!
I had free reign, and as I studied the parameters and background, the biological underpinnings and the nuances of the space transportation system, I caught an idea connected to love and memories, and the true horrors of a debilitating brain disease, like Alzheimers.
I had just turned 60 when I wrote this story. I’ve watched several of my older relatives fade away from dementia—still alive, but losing themselves and their past entirely. And I had just lost my close friend Neil Peart to glioma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. I thought back to my childhood and some friends I lost then, people I had not thought of in decades, and it struck me that I might be the only person left who even remembers them.
In the Unioverse, the practice of instantaneous travel through pods, with the re-creation of a cloned body on the other end, provides a person with a clean slate. And I realized that might provide a new hope for someone with a debilitating brain disease.
I was also fascinated by potential stories set in abandoned alien civilizations, ghost towns on unexplored planets. I saw the connection with those lost alien races and their forgotten histories with my character who is also losing his memories. For additional poignancy, I made him a widower, whose wife had died many years earlier. He’s terrified that if he loses his memories of her, then NOBODY will remember. Will it be as if his beloved never existed?
He can’t stand that thought, so he takes a great gamble … and the story begins.
“Ruins of Memory” turned out to be a deeply emotional and personal story for me, dredging up resonances from my own experiences with a veneer of my losses. I think I was true to my vow of writing the best damn story possible, period. “Ruins of Memory” packs a gut punch, I promise.
When you read it, I hope you enjoy the story, and I hope it draws attention to the amazing possibilities of this universe.