The universe was here long before you ever existed. It will be here long after you’re gone. It’s a hard truth, one that seems wrong to most people. We are all at the center of our own reality, with everyone and everything else existing as adjunct elements. It doesn’t mean that other people are objects, but we are all living our lives within ourselves. We are with ourselves all day, every day, and it’s strange to realize that all the things that are so important and vital to our own lives are merely passing through the lives of others. Even our most intimate relationships are just ships passing through the night.
I love my wife and feel we are bound together in a strong and very personal way. But I don’t know much about her work or her coworkers. I don’t read every book she reads. I don’t watch every show she watches. I don’t know her thoughts. We are two people who live with each other, who have built a life together, but we are not the same person. We can never be the same person.
Sorry for the metaphysical musings. I’m going somewhere with this.
I think our human assumption that things begin and end with us is one of the reasons writers love killing off characters and destroying worlds. Probably not the only reason, but certainly, a big one. It’s a creator acting out the ultimate self-centered view of his creations. He / She no longer has any use for them so he / she might as well destroy them because without him / her, they have no reason to exist.
This isn’t always true. Some stories are designed very clearly from the get go to be destructive. Horror stories, dark dystopian fiction, apocalyptic fiction, and so on. Some universes and characters were made to die, and it’s a legitimate and valid thing to do.
But many stories aren’t made for that and were never intended for it. My stories aren’t dark in this way. Most of them could easily have sequels or be part of a series. Just because I choose not to pursue that option doesn’t mean I have to destroy the characters and their worlds. Those characters and worlds are allowed to go on without me. I don’t mind. In fact, I assume they do.
It’s a weird thought, but in my head, even if I never write a sequel to anything, I see the characters carrying on with their lives. I can’t imagine them standing around, waiting for my return. They never seem like my puppets. They’re collaborators, people I met at some point and worked with, but who don’t need me to exist anymore. And I could no more casually kill them off than I could push a button that killed a random real life person.
Maybe that’s odd. Maybe it’s because I feel that, despite my role in their initial creation, I am not their creator. They might be fictional, but they’re no less real, no less mysterious and beautiful, than all the real people I know. They’re still grappling with their own concerns, their triumphs and tragedies. And I’m rooting for them. I want the best for them. I want them to be happy or at least to have that shot at happiness.
One of the reasons I chose to skip Mass Effect 3 is that I have no interest in a conclusion that changes everything about that universe. I realize that this is the “final” game of the series, and that usually means something incredibly dramatic and game changing has to take place. Characters have to die. And everything has to be be altered forever. I don’t know what compels us to do that. I wouldn’t be bothered if in ME3 if the Reapers were destroyed and Shepherd and crew walk into the sunset. Even if they never made another ME game, I wouldn’t mind at all if I could assume that Shepherd was still out there, fighting the good fight, defending the universe. And just because Garrus might be leaving my life, it doesn’t mean he has to die.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I want ME3 to be full of rainbows and puppies, where nothing tragic happens, but if you’re going to kill off characters I’ve grown to love and destroy a universe I’m fond of, you shouldn’t do it just because you can. You shouldn’t crush a world I love simply because it’s not allowed to exist because you’re not telling stories with it.
The universe, even universes we’ve created ourselves, should have more value than that.
I’ve grappled with this dilemma for a while now. It’s a complex issue, I can’t help but feel that part of it comes down to our own self-centered natures. It just makes sense to us for our worlds to vanish once we’re done with them. Just as it makes sense that our apocalypse of choice is just around the corner. Maybe Jesus is coming back. Maybe an asteroid. Maybe the mole people will burst out of the ground and destroy us all. But something will see to it that the world ends when I do. Because without me, what’s the point of it existing at all?
Like I said. It’s complicated. And by no means do I think I’ve even scratched the surface of this topic, but it’s merely some thoughts I had floating around in my head. Make of them what you will.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,