(In a different universe, "The Principles" would have won the Sidewise Award, and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro would have delivered this thank you note on my behalf. In this universe, however, my story didn't win, and there was never going to be any little ceremony at the Libertarian Worldcon. And as I should point out, there is a third universe where people don't care so much about the verdict of a jury or press releases to Locus.)
History might be simple. One narrative, one cast of characters. A tidy collection of incidents and accidents, wars and mass migrations, leading to this inevitable moment where a decent enough fellow stands before you, accepting an award on my grateful behalf.
But I rather suspect that vision of history is bullshit.
For me, history is a chaotic muddle. An intriguing chaos, sure. But the past refuses to leave simple records behind. Remarkably little data survives from one moment to the next, and almost nothing survives across the centuries. Worse still, the wisest, most introspective person is hard pressed to explain why she did what she did last week. That’s why I refuse to believe in any one account of a war or a cabinet meeting or the ins and outs of two friends discussing last week’s weather.
And worse still is the nature of this effortless universe of ours.
Quantum mechanics. Cosmology. These twin children of science have quite a lot to say about reality, and according to both of them, we live inside is an unabashedly infinite creation. There have to be Earths besides our Earth. Indeed, there can’t be any end to the churning histories. Every one of these narratives follows its own inspired course. There’s no counting the vivid characters trying to live their vast little lives. And that’s why this moment is inevitable: A tie-wearing fellow accepting this award on my behalf.
At this point, one has to ask: Why bother feeling grateful? Seriously, if every sweet moment is inevitable, why bother with a rush of adrenaline and the genuinely surprised smile?
Because the infinite is usually predictable and too often drab.
Because inside the infinite, there are rarities that deserve to be celebrated.
This award, for example. And in that spirit, I accept the Sidewise and I thank all of you for this honor.
But there’s a greater rarity at work here.
I’m talking about the nominated stories and the authors who wrote them. An amazing churn of events has given birth to each of us, and it’s hard to believe that any creatures but us could spin these tales exactly as we have done.
The Infinite doesn’t end, no.
But this tiny portion of the Everything has been made Ours.