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Speaking for the Dead

“Litore knows how to speak for the dead as well as for the living.”

That is one of the kindest comments I have received from a reader (who reviewed Death Has Come Up into Our Windows). It humbles me, too. Many try to speak for the dead, but I wonder if anyone can. The comment makes me think of Ender traveling the universe to tell the story of a dead species, and the haunting loneliness of his task. My own work is far less lonely than Ender’s — to tell the stories of our spiritual ancestors, and to do so in a way that both entertains and (hopefully) enlightens.

But I wonder what it means to “speak for the dead.”

In reading their stories, is it just an arrogance to think that we can connect with people whom Time has severed from us? In the end, do we resuscitate only their shambling corpses, emptied bodies moving and imitating life? Or can those we have forgotten–those who came before, those who, to some degree, made us–can some part of their spirit be called up out of the decaying flesh of the past, to peer out at us through dead eyes? In telling stories, can we borrow Father Polycarp’s Gift for a while?

How different those who came before are! How far away! And yet… And yet…

All of us storytellers, little or big, we are all speakers for those who have ceased to live or those who have never lived. I do not know if any of us succeed in speaking “for” anyone. Maybe all we can hope for in sharing a few stories around the fire is to keep back the cold and the dark for a little while. Yet even that is something. Maybe the best something.

In any case, “knows how to speak for the dead as well as for the living” — that is a truly humbling and beautiful compliment.

I will keep telling stories.

Stant Litore

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