Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Guest Post: The Death Of Writing

This is translated from something the archaeologists found on the walls when they excavated the Well Of Souls in Tanis, 1936.

By Tepemkau Self

If you happen to be a writer -that greatest of gifts bestowed upon a man by the gods to provide a service to lesser mortals- you will find that your slaves act as great harbingers of doom, much as I imagine other unimportant creatures will in future.

On most occasions this takes on a literal form. We can send them down the mines, with the promise of some alcohol or a stout meal if they make it out alive, or we can command them to move the heaviest of rocks. But on days like this, they perform the service in a more figurative way.

I came upon a group of slaves who were gathered around something and chattering wildly. When they saw my approach, they fell silent. Now a man, if he has any sense, will treat his slaves well. So I joined in conversations with them and showed a polite interest in finding out whatever they had stolen from me. As it turned out, what they have stolen is my very future.

They were gathered around parchment made of papyrus or some similar form. The inscriptions on it where clearly a written language, but one I could only partially read. I recognised it faintly to be the same form of language that the common people have been speaking to each other. The stories they tell each other around camp fires at night in the desert, now given solid form and an affordable way by which to circulate it.

This, my friends, is the end of all things.

I can only assume the gods have chosen to abandon us.

No longer the life I have lived, nor the life of my father before me, and his father before him. The great pride and responsibility of being chosen to be a writer, of being charged with the craft of telling stories and improving our society. No more will people travel from thousands of miles around to see the epic tales I lovingly etch onto the walls.

We've entered an age when it seems anybody can now write and circulate a story. Even women or children, should they have such ambitions.

I can only assume that story-telling as an art form will die with me. Without a chosen one to protect it, who can keep it pure? Without the elevated and mighty scribe to shepherd the tale, who can save it from being twisted and diluted by the common tongue?

There will be nobody to tell the slaves and the poor what questions they should be asking of the world. Nobody to shape their thoughts and to help them better themselves. What will become of society if I can no longer sit and watch the world from this tower, and concentrate my purest thoughts into narratives for all to come and enjoy?

Nothing, my friends. A great nothing is coming. The end of my chosen lifestyle is not just the end of an era, it is the end of all eras.

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