Commentary on the plot of an ongoing work of speculative fiction:

In 2026, … on Earth, people stopped dying or being born, meaning that the future world is populated by eight billion or so adults who have been left to confront the blessings and curses of immortality. To pass all that time, many Americans have turned to football, contorting it in a variety of strange ways to suit their new reality. People play thousands of simultaneous games, most of which take place over many years and cover extreme long distances — say, from Washington State to the Mexican border. In one of the story’s funniest sequences, two teams are stuck against the walls of a narrow canyon, both unable to move the ball but neither willing to stop playing. The great joke of the story, at once darkly comic and hopeful, is that men and women, faced with eternity and all its possibilities, have decided simply to fall back on the familiar comforts of the country’s favorite sport. Like the space probes processing the information sent out from the people back on Earth, they have nothing left to do but, as Pioneer 9 puts it, “perpetually hang out.” And so, everywhere and for all time, it’s football night in America.

… [For] the doomed people of this American future, “Boredom is their only enemy. And they get up in the morning and fight it every day of their eternal lives. Recreation and play sustains them. Football sustains them.” In what might be the most striking chapter so far, called “An answered prayer,” a video pans over the curvature of the Earth while playing audio of the announcer Verne Lundquist calling the famous final sequence of a game between the Universities of Alabama and Auburn in 2013. This glimmer of a moment has been transmitted out into the universe, to float on forever.

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Reminds UD of Nevil Shute’s On the Beach, only there the sports obsession (car racing, not football) was about time rapidly running out — nuclear fallout has destroyed the entire world north of Australia and is rapidly reaching Australia itself. But there’s the same underlying motivation: boredom, anxiety, despair.

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3 Responses to “Auburn, Alabama, Athanasia”

  1. David Foster Says:

    There’s an old science fiction book (The Star Seekers, Milton Lesser) in which the inhabitants of a multigenerational starship have lost the knowledge that they are aboard a moving space vessel and believe that their internal world is the whole universe. A boy on an initiation journey through the four spheres of the ship (which have become isolated from one another over time) realizes the truth about their larger journey, and that the ship is nearing its destination and will crash unless immediate action is taken. He encounters great difficulty in getting people to take the situation seriously. The people who are least interested in taking action are those who live in the Place of the Revelers. These people were apparently (generations ago) actors and entertainers, but now they only watch old videos and go to “empathy sessions.”

    “The end of the world,” said Rolf. “And the Revelers don’t even play games. They do worse. They watch old pictures of people playing games, they sit in their overstuffed chairs and experience empathy.”

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    David: Wonderful. We’re getting into Decameron territory.

  3. Jack/OH Says:

    On the Beach linked to Decameron. Dang, hooked again.

    DF: “What color are the suns on the planet you live on?” Reply to a comment under a political article.

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