Tag Archives: death

Mourning the Death of Paper

It appears print media is fading depressingly fast. A short while ago it was announced that PC Magazine is going 100% digital. Today I logged on to Gamasutra.com and found that another of my long-time favorites, EGM, is closing up shop as well. As John C. Dvorak puts it in “Summarizing the Death Throes of 2008”:

When you combine this with the push to take what was a unique American industry and pretty much hand it over to Asia, because it’s cheaper to do things over there, then pretty soon everything is done there. While this in itself isn’t a bad thing, Asians as a whole have no interest in print magazine advertising. Culturally speaking, they aren’t about selling more sizzle than steak. And while this is commendable on some cerebral levels, it creates a humdrum if not out-and-out depressing environment.

I remember my first issue of EGM, way back in 1990. It had a pixelated screenshot of Castlevania 3 on the cover, and a foreboding warning inside that the game might not be released in the US. I was hooked from then on. The drama, the games, the reviews and previews—but most of all the feeling of a crisp new issue in my hands every month. Paper is pleasure. I’m sure some of you have seen that webcard / e-card of the naked woman reclining on a sofa with a comforting volume poised on her chest. I won’t post it here, but you get the point. There’s a sort of sensual nature to having wood pulp in your hands. An intimacy. Computer reading is much more monotonous, best suited for quick bursts of news, directions, or instructions. Reference stuff. It’s so not fun laying in bed with your laptop or e-book reader propped on your beer gut as you try to get through a Dean Koontz novel. It’s kind of like staring at photographs of the Grand Canyon but never actually going. Yes, the print outfits listed above have their online counterparts, but it still saddens me that these long-standing institutions have fallen by the wayside along with the likes of Science Fiction Age, Omni, and my personal favorite of the last decade, Incite Magazine:

Incite Magazine, issues 2, 3, and 5

Incite Magazine, issues 2, 3, and 5

I’m not knocking the possibilities of digital media. There’s a lot to be done with the technology. It’s just that the printed word is going extinct before a viable alternative is truly available. E-book readers require batteries, and there’s a software learning curve from device to device—to say nothing of compatibility issues (I don’t think any hardware manufacturers have agreed on a universal e-book format yet). And who’s to say if the formats we have today will still be around thirty years from now? With a printed book or magazine, the only requirement is that you understand the language in which the material was written. E-books require that your device manufacturer keep up-to-date with changing formats, aging or damaged hardware, computer viruses. And maybe that’s the idea: to infuse the publishing industry with tech conventions. Upgrades, planned obsolescence, re-buying compatible copies of your favorite e-books every five years instead of buying a single paperback and hanging onto it for life.

Maybe I’m reading into this too much. I’ll know I’m right if and when the Random House Reader hits the market. ;)


Note: This is a quick, thoughtful piece I did for an anthology a (long) while back. The notions of rebirth and resurrection have always fascinated me. I wonder if heaven’s waiting room might be anything like this.

* * *

I was ready to die. Laying in the hospital bed, a feverish aching clinging to every crevice of my being, I welcomed death’s escape. I closed my eyes, let go, let the pain wash over me like a tidal wave, separating soul from flesh, carrying me out of my diseased body and away from the perils of Earth forever.

I died.

And yet I could still hear myself thinking, still hear myself wondering if I’d truly passed on, or if I wasn’t just living out the madness of another bout of delirium.

I opened my eyes and found myself lying on a rounded, sandy rock a dozen or so yards across. At the center of the rock a single apple tree bore its fruit and provided adequate shade from an omnipotent sun that seemed to shine from all parts of the cloudless sky.

Heaven, I thought. Somehow not what I’d expected. A desert island floating in the center of a vast, motionless ocean. I got to my feet (noting that my body was bare) and walked to the edge of the rock, where I peered down into the water. It was so clear and so still that I could have seen all the way to the bottom had it not been so incredibly deep. Everything here was pristine, but incomplete—like a painting that hadn’t been finished.

Nevertheless, I was content, free of pain, free of worry. I spent many days happily being. I went swimming; I basked in the sun; I sat in the shade of my apple tree and feasted on its fruit; I drifted in solitude alongside my thoughts without a care in the world. For a while it was all I needed, this eternal now. Without the incessant battering of society, my mind became serene; without environmental pollution or overindulgence, my body became lean and wiry, devoid of disease, devoid of excess. I could have continued like this indefinitely had the wish truly been mine.

Boredom, however, found its way into my new world. It crept closer with each passing day, each passing lifetime. At long last I found myself beginning to wonder: Was this all there was? Lying here on my rock, passing days as if they were minutes? Speaking out loud to myself every so often just to be sure I still recognized the sound of my own voice? Masturbating in silence while trying to recall a woman’s touch? There were, of course, no women here. There was no one here but myself.

On one occasion it rained. Torrents of water droplets fell from invisible clouds. Despite the initial thrill of such a change in routine, I soon became wet and cold. There was little to cover myself with, so I merely crouched under the apple tree and waited it out. The storm continued for what seemed like days, drenching me to the bone. Then, just as I got used to the incessant moisture, the rain stopped and all was serene once again.

I was unexpectedly disappointed.

Another lifetime passed, and nothing changed. I eventually became frustrated and so proceeded to pick all the apples from my tree and hurl them into the ocean. Then I sat near the water and watched for days as the apples floated in a stationary fashion. There was no current, no past or future. Only absolute peace. Absolute solitude.

Perhaps the former was not possible without the latter.

The apples eventually rotted, and my hunger became unbearable. I soon began wasting away, laying prone beneath the stripped apple tree and watching as the muscles of my arms diminished, the skin became loose and papery.

Funny, I thought. To die in Heaven.

I should have been upset, apprehensive, afraid—instead I welcomed the transition. It was a change, a moving path…even if the end result was yet another unknown.

At long last, I faded away, succumbing to the proverbial white light, which surrounded me like a blanket as an unseen force lifted me upward, carrying me by my feet through a murky tunnel, up above Heaven, above the deep womb of the universe, out into a frigid, stark room where I was suddenly surrounded by people much larger than I was, much louder.

People! Giants!

As soon as the memory flashed in my mind, it began to fade away. I tried to talk, tried to open my eyes wider to see what was happening, but I’d forgotten how. Suddenly everything I knew was slipping away, fading into the recesses of my memory as a newness rushed in like air into a vacuum. I started crying, frustrated, saddened—elated.

“Congratulations, it’s a boy,” said someone standing above.

Alas, too late, for I could no longer understand the words.