I was having coffee with a friend, recently, Peter Kasting, a fellow author who, sadly, has stopped writing. His last book, written several years ago, was a work of science fiction: Journey of a Thousand Miles. In it, cities had mysteriously become poisoned wastelands, forcing survivors to flee into the mountains and form enclaves that were governed by private militias. Rafael, the protagonist, begins his flight from the city with a friend, but along the way he is tormented by dreams which he comes to believe may unravel the mystery of society’s collapse.
Kasting is a fine writer and I found his story compelling. Like windmill paddles in a storm, I flipped the novel’s pages, eager to learn about these fledgling societies so full of hope yet so riddled with evil. When I closed the cover on the final page, I was hungry for more — a wish that continues to this day.
As we sat over our steaming mugs, I asked my friend why he hadn’t gone on with his writing. He answered, in part, that publishers these days were more interested in pap than literature. He found sitting with his cats more rewarding than struggling against the current standard.
When I left him, I drove home, thinking about what my friend had said. I’d just received editorial remarks on a draft for my 4th novel. They came with the suggestion that I write an epilogue to tie up loose ends. My 3rd book, Trompe l’Oeil had been too open-ended for some readers, a fact that had made me wince.
I’m not an admirer of epilogues. I hated the one that ended the J. K. Rowling wizardry series. The last image I wanted of Harry Potter was one of a middle-aged bureaucrat with children. I preferred to remember him as a champion against evil.
Is my editor right, I wondered as I drove into my garage. Is Peter Kasting right? Must a novel end with all the doors closed and the windows shuttered? Do readers no longer wish to dream beyond a book’s cover?
(Courtesy of www.amazon.com)