The Big Idea: Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law
Posted on August 11, 2021 Posted by John Scalzi 4 Comments
People age — it’s what happens if you get to live for a while — but how aging is portrayed in literature is often one note. As editors Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law want to show in their new anthology Seasons Between Us: Tales of Identities and Memories, there’s a symphony of experiences going on.
When people think of an anthology on aging, their blink is that the stories will be about end-of-life. But when my co-editor, Lucas K. Law came to me with the concept for Seasons Between Us: Tales of Identities and Memories, his vision was far more inclusive than this. Far more exciting.
He hoped to explore the process of becoming throughout life, the responses individuals will make to all the myriad points when being changes to becoming, changes to being. Because identity is not static. None of us is the same person today that we were yesterday, or will be, tomorrow. Every day, every moment, we grow and change. Every day, every moment, we cross borders taking us from who we were, to who we are, and who we will be.
Some elements of identity persist. I was a hyper-responsible child, and I think I shall be rule-bound until the day I die; and though others may find this surprising, I consider myself an introvert. Other elements of identity progress along maturational arcs. I love the self-confidence I’ve developed over the years. Other elements are “seasonal”: in my twenties, I could not fathom any reason why I might want to stay home one night a week; a seven-day rehearsal schedule was fine with me. Today? Yeah, not so much. And, when I have lived my life and given of my experience, I hope to transcend the flesh’s drive to rage against the dying of the light and be content to die.
And in this process, do people “age well”? Perhaps. It is possible many of us gain insight and tolerance over years lived. Those who do not, who remain stuck, failing to find self-understanding or to develop compassion—or those who grow rather in bitterness—might be considered tragic heroes of their own stories. Yet, if there is one thing we’ve learned in recent years with the democratization of voice through media and social media, there may not be a single perspective against which we can measure what it might mean to “age well.” Cynicism may equate to realism and wisdom in individual circumstances.
Therefore, we invited our authors to consider these threshold-crossings, whether momentous and life-changing, or intimate, personal epiphanies. We invited them to think beyond facing aging or facing death, to facing the unknown in any part of our lives. We invited them to share with us and our readers what it means to be, and to become.
This was the big idea behind Seasons Between Us.
LUCAS K. LAW:
Sometimes, there is no one “big idea”. Rather, there is a cumulation of ideas over time.
The concept behind Seasons Between Us began its journey many years ago when a young boy asked his mother, “Why do people get old and die?”
That curiosity (or rather morbid thought) never truly went away, and it followed me for more than half a century. When Laksa Media started working its anthology series on social issues in 2014, “growing old” was one of the topics high on my list for an anthology (I want a forum to discuss eldercare, affordable housing, and mental health). But I couldn’t propose it because I couldn’t reconcile “getting old” with something positive. At least, not at that time.
What comes to your mind when you see the word aging?
“Old people”? “Ancient,” “feeble”, “useless,” or one of the other negatives!
Then, five years ago, I attended a stage play, and to my surprise, it was about being getting old after 30. (Imagine after 30!) Two years later, the aha moment came when I attended a musical act about a struggle from childhood to adulthood, and then into elderhood. The vision for the anthology became clear. I believe it is important to use the phrase “growing older,” instead of “getting old” or “growing old.”
Aging is a natural progression that begins in our mothers’ wombs and ends with our last breaths. No reversal—just getting older. It includes all of us. No exception. Each season in our journey is a series of waves, rising and falling between joy and sorrow, touching a range of human emotions—some named, some not, some indescribable. Aging opens the door to new insights, to the opportunity to re-evaluate what is relevant. Do we accept and embrace these experiences? Or do we run from them? What choices would we make? Or do we have a choice at all? How can we live a life of purpose in every season?
These questions became the touchstone for the anthology. Aging isn’t about doom-and-gloom. There are moments of joy, moments of goodness, and moments of festivity in each season. We have a lot to learn from each other—the young from the old, the old from the young, and everyone in between. Being independent does not preclude needing each other: to grow, to expand, and to flourish. There’s no shame in asking for support—or accepting support. Each of us matters. We must live, and we must dream.
In Seasons Between Us, the authors—their ages ranging from their 20s to 80s (and every decade is represented)—examine the power of self-exploration as they cope with the undiscovered country of their journeys through growing older over the years. They leave us with probing questions: Who are we? What is the meaning of existence? Do we make a difference? What lasts? What endures? What is a life well-lived? What stories will you leave behind?
Only we can answer these questions personally as they relate to our own lives.
At the end of each short fiction, the author provides a note to their younger self. So, Susan and I will leave you today with the same question we asked each author to share in Seasons Between Us: Tales of Identities and Memories: What would you tell your younger self?
Seasons Between Us: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s
Read an excerpt. Visit the Twitters of Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law.
When I retired one of the strongest emotions I had was that I was no longer becoming, but could just be. I was always having to adjust to new jobs, many of which required be to adapt a somewhat different public persona; developing new skills and abilities; having to adjust to outside forces, everything from the initiative-of-the-month to industry and economic changes. But now that I was retired I could just be, instead of having to becoming.
It was part of a great sense of freedom and expanding horizons, where I was now able to control my life instead of having others have a legitimate claim on me.
As for retirement, one of my big values is time to call my own, so I am looking forward to it.
Business sage Peter Drucker often pointed out that if you don’t do volunteer work before retirement, odds are slim that you will do after. So start now, if that is your plan.
A published science fiction writer once pointed out that the learning curve is steep, so if you plan to write fiction then you should get started while still working. …Then I guess instead of being puzzled you may “hit the ground running” upon retirement.
Lucas, to the phrase “growing older” I might add “aging and growing.”
Susan, as for my younger self, I don’t exactly know if I am forgetting or in comfortable denial, but I know I have really changed. My pastor mentioned once—I’m so glad he did—that my very voice changed as I got less uptight down the years.
Looks very interesting!
I like how your excerpts were of various stories. I have ordered the book!