Chicxulub by T. Coraghessan Boyle, 2004
The magic trick:
Alternating sections between meteor crash as scientific fact and meteor crash as metaphor
Happy birthday to me. Here’s a story that ponders the random doom we flirt with everyday!
Typically, I’m leery of any artistic recreation of personal tragedy. If the author hasn’t gone through it, what right do they have to assume they could understand? And if they have gone through it, is it not an insult to the real experience to make art of the agony? I don’t know. What’s the point of art? Why read short stories? Why do we even bother getting out of bed every morning?
See – reading this story is a guaranteed existential crisis! It’s just that good.
So, the portion of “Chicxulub” that does recreate personal tragedy works, in my estimation. A. It considers the event and loss with remarkable credibility. B. The consideration isn’t really even the point of the story.
The “point” lies in the sections of the story about the Chicxulub meteor. We could all die at any moment. Every second is a spin of the roulette wheel. That’s the point.
The way this story alternates between meteoric crash as scientific fact and meteoric crash as personal metaphor brilliantly outlines that terrifyingly uncontrollable fate.
And that’s quite a trick on Boyle’s part.
How fast was it travelling? The nearest estimates put it at fifty-four thousand miles an hour, more than sixty times the speed of a bullet. Astrophysicists call such objects “civilization enders,” and calculate the chances that a disaster of this magnitude will occur during any individual’s lifetime at roughly one in ten thousand, the same odds as dying in an auto accident in the next six months—or, more tellingly, living to be a hundred in the company of your spouse.
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