“The Final Charge of Mr. Electrico” by Scott Edelman (5891 words)
No Spoilers: An aging former carnival workers, Mr. Electrico, deals with aging and forgetting even as the past becomes more real to him, more important, than the present. Touching and poignant, it works around themes of age and isolation, loneliness and loss. And, for me at least, inspiration, looking at what kinds of immortality is available for someone who has used their power to inspire others.
Keywords: Carnival, Electricity, Immortality, Aging, CW- Memory Loss
Review: Building up around the former glory of Mr. Electrico, a carnival attraction who would become electrified and then knight children with the call to “Live forever!”, the story deals with some heavy themes (aging, memory loss, grief), while holding to a hope that springs up around inspiration and creativity. The story follows Electrico as he looks back as an old man beginning to forget, trying to hold on to those times when he was a star of sorts, when he was a part of something magical, while dealing with the crush of disappointment that the magic was fake, that the immortality he promised others wasn’t something he could claim for himself. In some ways the story is about the weight of age and the relationship between Electrico and his grandson, who is trying to care for him but has to juggle the realities of Electrico’s capabilities with trying to preserve his dignity. In other ways, though, the story is about what immortality looks like, and how Electrico can still live on, never aging—offered an escape rope by way of someone that he inspired.
[SPOILERS] And okay, I do just like the sort of meta point that the story is making, too, that Electrico gave immortality not by the electricity of his sword but in the wonder he stoked in others. In particular, the story lingers on how he inspires Ray Bradbury to write, and how that act gives Ray the power to live forever, through his writing, through the way that he then passed along the wonder that Electrico showed him. At the same time, as this is a story itself (not by Bradbury but no doubt _inspired_ by him), it too takes part in that tradition, and in a way circles back around to the man who was indirectly responsible for the inspiration of (presumably) the author of the story. It’s a circle looping back on itself, the author of _this story_ attempting to give Mr. Electrico a bit of immortality back, reuniting him with Ray by way of inheritors of the same spark, the same creative energy that might keep them all alive in some way, their works reaching forward into the future by these stories they leave in their wakes. Which is an interesting examination of writing and living forever. [END SPOILERS]
And ultimately the story is about memory. For Electrico, the past is only at risk because he is forgetting it. It’s an assault that he can’t stand, because of what it’s meant to him and to others. It’s about legacy and way and that joy and wonder have a way of paying it forward, giving something rare and beautiful so that it doesn’t fade, so that it can live forever, even as the people themselves fade into characters in a story. It’s touching and just a bit weird and really rather heartwarming. A great read!