“Our Fathers Find Their Graves in Our Short Memories” in Interzone #281

This is a dark story. I wrote it about my own climate change anxiety, as a kind of exorcism.  I don’t know if it worked to exorcise anything, though, since I am still in turns terrified and exhausted, haunted by low-grade anxiety, and ready to scream. I often wonder if this is what it was like to live through other slow disasters: the fall of Rome, maybe? Or the Black Death?

Slow, until it’s fast, of course. And what “fast” will look like I have no idea.

The title comes from Sir Thomas Browne’s Hydriotaphia. A lot in my life comes from Sir Thomas Browne. I even wrote a novelette (near-novella) about a TB-like character meeting aliens because he struck me as a perfect person to hang out with aliens. Hydriotaphia is about memorialization and failures of memory. It’s about the impossibility of resisting the Opium of time, which temporally considereth all things. There’s something soothing about Hydriotaphia, for me living through this slow disaster, because it is a record of other people’s responses to the end, in whatever form it came to them.

“Our Fathers Find Their Graves in Our Short Memories” is about memorialization, mostly because that’s how I understand disasters best, given my work on war and memory. What does memory look like after the end? My answer was the Ossuary, a virtual urn containing the information we leave behind.

But you would still like to know who started the Ossuary. An elderly woman, contrite after a career in politics spent dismantling the welfare state. A philosopher. A global artist collective. A disappointed coder with a background in conceptual art. A theologian with a lab full of grad students hired to name the dead. Conspiracy theorists liked to present evidence that it was the second website created in September 1991, by an ancient organization that recognized the value of the emergent technology. There is no evidence for this. More recently, people have begun to believe that the Ossuary was generated by the internet itself, sentience emerging from the noise of panic as the anthropogenic end-times pass from theory to reality. There are others who observe earlier memorials—one thinks of the Somme, or Verdun– and reject the suggestion, because the convention is too familiar, its history too long.

You can buy #281 here, or get a subscription here.

3 comments

  1. Peter

    Hi Rebecca,

    I read your story in Interzone #281 and thought it was excellent. It felt as if you were really engaging with the issue, rather than just using it as a decorative world-building fluff. We need more stories like this that deal with the fear and anxiety. I hope to see Interzone publish more stories like this. Brilliant work!

    • whereishereblogger

      Thanks for reading. The story is one of the ways I’ve explored the issue, so I’m glad that came through, though I’m still wondering if there’s a way to write hopefully about the issue. Or at least in a way that doesn’t paralyze me with its hopelessness? If you’ve read any other stories that have explored the issue, I’d love to hear about them.

      • benicek

        I suppose the French film peut-être dealt with it in a comic way; portraying the citizens of a future Paris that has been absorbed by the Sahara desert and reverted to a small-scale agrarian economy, and yet it’s quite a cheerful place.

        I just found #281 in a pile and finally read your story. It was the best of the lot!

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