about Last Testament

One day in the summer of 1975, I sat out on my front porch making up a story. A boy rode past on a bicycle, and I named him Bill. Looking back at the porch, the boy saw not me but another fellow— whose name was also Bill.

Of all my assignments for my summer course in the modes of Classical Rhetoric, this one was my favorite: “Narrative.” My narrative was a whimsical one in which the second Bill goes on to meet a third character named Bill. At least I thought it was whimsy at the time. But as life went on and I graduated from college and became a part-time writer and full-time wanderer, more stories kept coming to me about the three Bills.

Gradually the stories, scenes, odd paragraphs and stray phrases grew, multiplied, and connected with one another. Though the three Bills were very different people of different ages, who lived totally separate lives and only met by accident, their stories— and worlds— turned out to be a tightly woven whole.

The story, known alternately as Last Testament and "The Billogy," grew too long for a novel and began to look like a trilogy. I worked on it off and on for the next 30 years as I wandered and eventually married, settling in Atlanta.

But while I worked, meticulously polishing every detail of my fantasy, on the evening news the story was slowly coming true. Not the foreground with its crazy convergence of the three Bills, but the background— a world of the near future, drastically different from ours today, which had grown up around the characters as their stories unfolded.

The world of Last Testament came to me the same way the characters and their stories did— mysteriously whole and complete, though I only glimpsed and captured it a fragment at a time. Over the years I had regarded it as something of a satirical takeoff on what I saw around me. But little by little, the world outside my 100-year-old house and my down-home neighborhood was increasingly coming to resemble a futuristic parody of itself.

Still, no one but a few conspiracy nuts could possibly take seriously the idea that our fair democracy might be ripe for a totalitarian takeover, as Last Testament suggests. The intertwined stories of the three Bills grew too long to publish, even as a trilogy, and I turned to other projects.

Then came the election of George W. Bush and the "neo-cons." If it wasn't for their perfectly sober plans to rule the world by military force in the name of Jesus, I might never have gotten back to work on The Billogy.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were not exactly predicted in my original story. But something far worse has left the entire East Coast an uninhabitable wasteland: a coordinated terrorist attack on several nuclear power plants at once, something which Mr. Bush has taken no steps to prevent since Sept. 11. Even more eerie is the repeated invocation of Sept. 11 to maintain a climate of fear around the buzzword "terrorist." In Last Testament, only the nationality of the "terroristas" has been changed.

As far as I know, I'm not psychic. But the current danger that our Constitutional republic will fall prey to an alliance of right-wing Christians and global corporations — under cover of a 1984-like "war on terrorism"— is too familiar for comfort. It's a vision I've been living with for almost 30 years as the country I love has slipped gradually into a fog of nationalistic rhetoric and media disinformation. Perhaps I should have done more to finish and publish my story, but I felt my time and energy better spent working as an activist to help turn this disastrous course around.

With Mr. Bush in the White House for the second time without ever winning an election, it may be too late. But if Last Testament were to prove prophetic, I would feel pretty sick had I not done all I could to share my nightmare— all the way through to the light on the other side.

So here it is, available nowhere else, original and uncut: The Billogy, coming to you on the installment plan. I'll be uploading a new episode every so often, serial-style, like the Victorians who published lengthy masterpieces chapter by chapter in the penny magazines of England.

How long will you have to wait for the next installment? That depends. I have provided a PayPal link at the end of the first installment, for two purposes. Each time you click on it, I will earn exactly one dollar for my efforts. And when 25 such donations have accumulated, I will consider them 25 votes for a new episode. This way I won't waste my time filling a nonexistent demand.

Note that I have no budget for publicity; if you enjoy the reading, please pass the word (and the link). The more readers I have, the faster the story will move along. I promise the ending is worth it. And beyond that, I have notes for sequels. If the Creator Spirit is willing, and their readers haven't abandoned them, the three Bills will continue their travels, exploring other possible futures in the Post-Petroleum age.

why a web site?

Between my sporadic stints of work on Last Testament, I became active in the movement to defend the natural world from the assault of so-called "civilization." I became aware of the many ways we depend on nature for life and breath, and alert to the many ways we are stealing that birthright from our descendants on this planet.

Among other things, I learned that the paper industry is one of the dirtiest on the planet. That the forests of my homeland, the Southeast, produce most of the world's paper pulp, and are rapidly being replaced by heavily sprayed tree plantations. That our civilization's addiction to paper is repeating a tragedy that ruined many a past civilization when they cut down the last of their forests.

Since I settled in Atlanta, I've been working for a wholesale book distributor, keeping bookstores informed of the incredible monthly outpouring of new titles and watching the incredible volume of transformed tree-pulp we ship and receive every day. This has forced me to consider whether publishing any of my work was worth the cost in paper. Not the paper I was printing my drafts on— I have collected a lifetime supply of paper already used on one side. But is a long story like Last Testament worth grinding up entire forest ecosystems to print and bind into books?

The question is moot, of course, because no publishing house is going to take a chance on such an voluminous work by an unknown writer, even if by some miracle it caught their attention. While I was asking for a miracle, I might as well request a publisher that uses only recycled or, better yet, tree-free paper.

I did in fact use recycled paper to publish a book of poems, Crossing the Expressway (see Poetry link below). Rationalizing that most periodicals fill up a set number of pages per issue anyway, I sent out my essays and many have been printed (see Prose link below). But Last Testament just keeps unfolding, with no end in sight.

A web site is clearly the way to go. Feel free to read, to print, to download and enjoy. Links will be provided for those who want to follow each of the three Bills in a more chronological fashion. And please, feel free to make a donation via my PayPal link to keep it going, so we can all find out what happens in the end. I appreciate your support. Feedback is also welcome, especially any inconsistencies or oversights you can point out. If you happen to be a publisher, feel free to get in touch. But keep your hands off my friends the trees.

Thanks for reading, whoever you are!

Stephen Wing

 

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