The ghosts of social media. Today is the birthday of an old friend and mentor. Taught me a lot about film, and about freelancing, and about being a writer and knowing your own worth as a writer. He's been gone a few years now. Last time I saw him alive was Christmas Eve, 2012, when I found him disappearing into himself in a hospital bed, in so much pain we talked for ten minutes before he realized who I was.
Facebook, in that weird way it has about it, streamed messages into my feed from his page, people wishing him a happy birthday, but they don't know he's gone. Robert was, maybe not famous, but he was well-connected and had a lot of professional connections, the sort of hangers-on people who know what they're doing in the film business can have, folks who wouldn't think it strange he hasn't posted anything in five years, for whom the autopilot birthday wishes to near strangers are just a way to stay on someone's radar. This happens every year, honestly, and it breaks my heart a bit each time, the shallowness of it, and the way these banal messages remind me: my friend is still gone. And there are people who think they can call him a friend who don't know he's passed away.
Maybe it's because I've been lucky in this life, and I haven't lost many friends at an age you might call "too soon," but this concept--that we'll all become ghosts in the machine some day, that our digital presence will outlive our physical one, and that there will people who can go a half-decade without realizing we've shuffled off this mortal coil--it troubles me every year. It's happened so many times I've come to expect it. Hines would probably think it was funny, honestly. If we go anywhere after this life, he's laughing at it. And I want to wax philosophical about the immortality this gives us, that we'll live on in this weirdly organic way. But it's one in the morning, and I miss my friend. I wonder what he'd think of the world these days, a giant of a man with the face of a barbarian and the kindest heart you'd ever find. I wonder what battles he'd have fought.
Happy birthday, Hines. You are, and will always be, missed so very much.
Pete Chianca over at Pete's Pop Culture and Parenting Blog did double duty this week, reviewing both "The Entropy of Everything" and "Like a Comet" for his blog. I love this review--it picks up on things I haven't thought about since writing Entropy and brought all the feels back to me with the Kate and Titus drama from both books.
Also, as a reviewer, he always seems to pick up some of my favorite quotes from the book as well. This review actually makes me want to go back and reread them.
Actually, let's be honest: this review makes me really psyched to start working on Book 5. Guys, Book 5 has a title already. It's a secret (I'll announce it after the spinoff book, "Echo and the Sea," is back from the wonderful editors who are reviewing it right now).
From Pete's review:
It's that deft plotting and precise character work, combined with knowing winks at his pop culture predecessors and action sequences that continue to dazzle in their detail and scope, that make these YA novels accessible to anybody, from the starry-eyed 11-year-old to the middle-aged former comic book reader who never quite grew out of it. (We know who we are.) Four books in, Phillion has guaranteed that wherever this series goes, he'll have a following of loyal readers who will go with it.
Superhero philosophy time:
Thinking about the "Logan" opening tonight and the concept of the hero who outlives his peers. It's not an unexplored theme--everything from Kingdom Come and Earth X to Old Man Logan and "The End" series has explored it--even the old, pre-Star-Lord Guardians of the Galaxy was really big on it, with guys like Vance Astro or Wonder Man outliving their friends and loved ones by millennia. (I really want to write the story of Simon Williams, who didn't have the benefit of Astro's long nap in space flight. Simon lives those centuries, awake. He sees his friends shuffle off this mortal coil in real time. I don't know who had it worse, him or Vance.)
But it makes for an interesting exploration of the concept of the superhuman, doesn't it? Because we tell these stories about heroes trying to save the present, trying to change the world, whether it's stopping street crime or rescuing a kitten from a tree or preventing World War III. But it's pretty likely that anyone that "special," be they Kryptonian or a mutant with a healing ability or a guy injected with some sort of serum that lets him look like he did during WWII seventy years later or if he's a science experiment gone wrong or the fastest man alive...
It's almost inevitable they're going to outlive every single person they've saved. The existential crisis of that concept amazes me. That's a story I want to tell.
I figure in the Indestructibles universe, we've got one or two characters this could happen to. (One for sure--it's been hinted at in some of the stories that one of the Indestructibles will live three hundred years or more if someone doesn't kill that person intentionally first.) What happens to that sort of hero? Do they just keep going, continuing the good fight? Do they lose their minds after everyone they've ever known is dead? Do they surrender to the ebb and flow of time? Or do they, Gandalf-style, play the long game, because they know they've got all the time in the world?
What does a hero do when they have what feels like forever stretched out in front of them?
Matthew Phillion is the writer of "The Indestructibles," part-time actor, occasional filmmaker. Currently on the lam in Salem with his trusty dog, Watson.