For a long time, I wished I was immortal. Mostly because I was in love with the vampire Lestat and thought it would be incredibly cool to live through centuries of history and watch it unfold rather than just read about it. Or I wished I could travel back in time and live in a medieval castle and wear elaborate ball gowns and eat meat all the time. The actual logistics of living in a different time (like sanitation and hygiene) did not concern me. My imagination glossed over those details—trivial matters in my fantasy land.
I had lots of them. I rode the worms with Paul Atreides on Arrakis. I skulked through the Lonely Mountain in fear of Smaug. I was both Jo and Beth, I was Dagny; I ate rats in WWII and learned philosophy with my father. I travelled in a futuristic airship to a distant land where my ‘special’ powers were unremarkable, and my best friend, Chocky, talked to aliens.
But most of all, I was the mysterious woman who ousted Akasha from Lestat’s side, and I felt the ecstasy of a feeding in living color.
That was before I knew how important endings were. By the time I got to The Tale of the Body Thief, the magic had worn off. I couldn’t finish the book—a first for me. Years later, I found out that the chronicles extended to not four, but seven books. Lestat lost his sheen, his magic. His continued escapades were accompanied by a deconstruction of his character in a way that destroyed the man of my imagination. Lestat wasn’t going to grow old, after all—he was immortal. He wasn’t going to ‘evolve’ with age, at least not in the sense that we understand. Instead, Rice peeled layer after layer away from him until it was all written down. Nothing was hidden, nothing was left for my fantasy land. There was no end to the madness.
Needless to say, I am no longer a fan of Lestat.
The wildly successful TV series ‘Lost’ bored me after the first season. Every last bit of the story was painstakingly laid out before me, and so many twists developed over the course of the show that skipping to the end just left me clueless. While I enjoy full-season story arcs, I want to know that the arc will come to a close at some point (like The Killing, which was phenomenal in its first season). I was a huge fan of ‘Supernatural’ until they got to season six. I suffered through it but just for a while. Every time I hear that the series is still going, I roll my eyes and pray for an end.
Immortality has lost its charm. The thought of it now makes me agoraphobic—the world is a vast cycle of events repeating themselves, perhaps in a particular order, and having to live through it in an endless loop is petrifying. Why would anyone want that?
Endings are normal, endings are essential. They’re a precursor to new beginnings, with an emphasis on new. Without endings, disease and poverty would be unbearable. Without endings, grief and love would have no meaning—if you had something for eternity, what would you value it against? How would you measure its worth if it was always there? Wouldn’t the colors of life eventually wash away into dreadful monotony? A bleak, colorless sameness would infuse everything around you.
No, I definitely do not want to live forever (except through my books!). Nor do I want a favorite book or character to go on forever.
I want to be able to turn that last page and breathe a sigh of disbelief or of contentment, or to rage with passion. I want to be able to close my eyes and dream of the character in new and unique situations that relate to me. I don’t want to pick up the next book, however, and step on the sandcastles I’d built on the previous book. I don’t want to read that the woman who went on to defeat a horde of invading Martians in my mind actually had to be rescued by a new hero in the next book in the series (supposing there was a series about Martians).
I may be in the minority here, I may even be alone in this, but I don’t think sequels work. I read The Bourne Identity and loved it. I didn’t mind Supremacy, but abhorred Ultimatum. By book five in the Harry Potter series, I was struggling to stay involved in the characters and the storyline—though I may just have outgrown them. I didn’t make it to book five in the Dune chronicles.
There are a handful of sequels that I actually admire: The Lord of the Rings and The Vampire Lestat (but only up to the second in the series) in books; The Godfather and Star Wars in movies. I don’t know if there are others you can add to this list, but this is mine.
Achieving immortality in fiction is a given—barring book burnings or nuclear disasters, chances are that your stories and characters and ideas will be around for a long, long time. But I think that common sense and creativity are overridden by market demand—series sell better than stand-alone books, and an audience that loved the first movie will be back for the second (though they may skip the next 5 if the second sucked!). As a result, we’ve forgotten the cycle of life: let your characters and plot die a natural death so that a new book can be born.
Make way for the new. This is the end.