Nov 28, 2011
Short Story Monday: The Magic Terminus
I love time travel as a theme in fiction and film. I think it's because I love history and I love the idea of different possibilities. I loved the tv show Sliders, remember that? Also, I really relate to stories of people venturing into a new land away from their family and friends and time travel fiction has that.
That's why I was happy to come across The Magic Terminus by Alasdair Gray, which I read for Short Story Monday hosted by John at Bookmineset. I thought this was going to be a short story about time travel, but it wasn't really.
Basically, this is a story about a man who likes books and the world he creates in his mind from those books. Who can't relate to that?
However, he goes a little too far, verging on becoming a Meursault-like character. He doesn't seem to have any friends in real life, nothing beyond a rich fantasy life filled with fictional and historical characters. He continually chooses jobs with the least amount of thinking necessary so that nothing gets in the way of his imagination time, going so far as to move into his school office so as not to waste commuting time.
The story alludes to another story, this by HG Wells, called The Door in the Wall, which he calls "superstitious rot" despite being so similar to his own situation. The character in The Door in the Wall is just as obsessed with an imaginary world as the one in The Magic Terminus, and the consequences may prove to be just as fatal.
The theme of reality vs. imagination is one that definitely plays out in the real world. How many of us lose ourselves in our books? Or nowadays, the internet? When is it crossing the line into unhealthy obsession?