The Fountains of Youth

The Fountains of Youth

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by Brian Stableford

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This is a science fiction novel of enormous scope and ambition, filled with wonders that expands Brian Stableford's on-going future history series. Hundreds of years in the future, further ahead than the settings of Inherit the Earth and Architects of Emortality, Mortimer Gray is born into a world where he can potentially live forever.

But after a traumatic

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This is a science fiction novel of enormous scope and ambition, filled with wonders that expands Brian Stableford's on-going future history series. Hundreds of years in the future, further ahead than the settings of Inherit the Earth and Architects of Emortality, Mortimer Gray is born into a world where he can potentially live forever.

But after a traumatic natural disaster that kills millions, Gray devotes the next five hundred years of his life to the study of death and its effects on human civilization, viewed from a post-death perspective. Through it all we see the broad, large-scale accumulation of change and the growth of humanity on Earth and out to the stars as Gray experiences his boundless lifetime.

Editorial Reviews

Science Fiction Weekly
The Fountains of Youth is by far the best novel in a series that already has been quite good. It's very much worth reading.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Credibly written but lacking in emotional range, this third installment in Stableford's Living in the Future series imagines a time when most humans--nearly immortal--aren't much preoccupied with the subject of death. Born more than five centuries ago, in 2520, Mortimer Gray is an emortal, a sturdy genetic composite who was raised in the Himalayas by the standard group of eight adults. These days, unlike most of his contemporaries, Gray--who long ago discovered his potential mortality when he barely survived a massive underwater volcanic eruption--is obsessed with death, and in fact has undertaken a massive study of how human's ideas about it have affected history. Well before completing the work, several centuries and nine volumes later, he became both famous as a popular scholar and notorious as an influence on the Thanaticists, militant believers in keeping death a part of the human condition to the point of organizing ritual suicides and creating "recreational diseases." (Meanwhile, Gray's world has remained in flux--experiments are turning humans into cyborgs or genetically altered beings with four hands; interstellar probes have encountered intelligent aliens.) Gray is in some ways a fine narrator, able to reflect on the events circling around him with a historian's critical eye--but because he's rather detached, it's hard to get involved in his story. Moreover, Stableford has written much of this book as if he was composing a literary essay (complete with excessive foreshadowing)--which makes reading it a bit of a chore. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
When Mortimer Gray, one of the first "emortals"--humans transformed into a state of near immortality--narrowly escapes a planetary disaster that kills millions of people, he decides to undertake a massive study of the history of death--a process that carries him through 500 years of his own life. This latest novel by the author of Inherit the Earth is less a plot-driven story than a grand meditation on the state of human mortality. Thoughtful without being grim, this leisurely tale of one man's lifelong quest belongs in most sf collections. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\

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Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Emortality , #3
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The Fountains of Youth

By Brian Stableford, David G. Hartwell

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2000 Brian Stableford
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-8106-4


I was born in 2520, an unexceptional child of the twenty-sixth century. Like my contemporaries, I was the beneficiary of a version of the Zaman transformation, which differs hardly at all from the one most commonly used today. By comparison with the children of previous centuries, however — excepting a minority of those born in the latter decades of the twenty-fifth century — I and all my kind were new. We were the first true emortals, immune to all disease and further aging.

This does not mean, of course, that I shall never die. There are a thousand ways in which the life of an emortal might be ended by accident or misadventure. In any case, future generations may well regard it as a major discourtesy for any earthbound person to postpone voluntary extinction too long — and those who choose not to remain earthbound multiply the risk of eventual death by accident or misadventure at least a hundredfold.

Given that all my readers are in exactly the same condition as myself, it may seem unnecessary even to record these facts and rather ridiculous to make so much of commonplace circumstance. If I am exceptional in any way at all, however — and why, otherwise, should I take the trouble actually to write my autobiography? — then I am exceptional because I have tried as hard as I can during these last five hundred years to make my fellow human beings conscious of the privileges and responsibilities of the emortal condition.

My own transformation was carried out at Naburn Hatchery in the county of York in the Defederated States of Europe, but as soon as I was decanted my foster parents removed me to a remote valley in the Nepalese Himalayas, where they planned to raise me to early adulthood. In those days, every team of mortal co-parents had to formulate its own theory as to the best way to bring up an authentically emortal child. Such decisions seemed uniquely problematic, because my co-parents and others like them knew that their children would be the last to see their parents die and that theirs was the duty of supervising humankind's last great evolutionary leap. Previous generations of parents had, of course, had some cause to hope that they were mere mortals entrusted with the care of emortal children, but my foster parents had every reason to believe that I was a member of a different species: the one that would inherit Earth as their own species surrendered to extinction. Such longevity as my parents had was contrived by nanotechnological repair, requiring periodic "deep tissue rejuvenations" that were hazardous in themselves and left their recipients horribly vulnerable to the kind of mental erasure that had been known for six centuries as "the Miller Effect." None of my fosterers was a ZT, but they all understood well enough how different ZTs were from their own fate-betrayed kind.

Although the first, still-imperfect, ZTs had been born seventy-five years earlier it was still rare in 2520 for any company of parents to include a ZT. People in their seventies were generally considered too young to be contemplating parenthood even though few beneficiaries of nanotech repair lived significantly longer than two hundred years. It was not until 2560, at the earliest, that ZT children were likely to have even a minority of ZT parents; even then it was considered a matter of course as well as courtesy that mortals — or "false emortals," as they were still commonly called — were given priority when applications for parenthood were submitted to the Population Agency. They were the ones under pressure of time, the ones whose needs and desires were urgent.

I take the trouble to recall all this not merely to stress that mine was the common lot of my unique generation but also to justify the seeming eccentricity of my foster parents' approach to child rearing. They took their chosen task so seriously that they could not simply accept commonplace assumptions about the best way to bring up a child; they felt that they had to approach every decision anew, to reexamine all assumptions and reevaluate all conclusions.

There was a time when I thought my parents slightly mad, especially when I was still able to eavesdrop on their interminable arguments and recriminations, but I do not think it now, even though no modern newborn spends his childhood as I spent mine. My parents took me to the remotest part of Nepal as soon as I was born because they thought that it would be good for me. Papa Domenico thought that it would be good for me because it would prove to me that there was no place on Earth so bare of resources that its doors did not open directly into his beloved Universe Without Limits, while Mama Siorane thought that it would be good for me because it would put me much more closely in touch with "brute reality," but it does not matter which of these apparently contradictory theses was closer to the truth. Although I never became what Papa Domenico would have called a "dedicated virtualist" I have been an assiduous explorer of the Universe Without Limits, and I have certainly had my share of bruising contacts with brute reality, so I suppose they were both right in their different ways.

This autobiography will have little or nothing to say about virtualist Utopianism and a great deal about realist Utopianism, but that does not mean that Mama Siorane was any more of a mother to me than Papa Domenico was a father. I had eight parents, and that — in association with the efficiency of VE education — is generally conceded to be perfectly sufficient to make every modern child the son or daughter of the entire human race. That is what I am, as are we all. That is why my personal history is, in a sense, the personal history of everyone who is potentially able to live in the future.


The ages of my fosterers varied from 102 to 165. They were humble enough not to think of themselves as all-wise but vain enough to think of themselves as competent in the art of parenting as well as brave. They were confident that they were fully qualified to swim against the tide of convention. I suppose that they were able to agree that I should be raised in one of the remotest areas of the world, in spite of their very different notions of why it was a good idea, because they had all lived through the heyday of the Decivilization Movement. Even those among them who had not been sympathetic to its nebulous ideals had strong feelings about the unsuitability of cities as environments for the very young.

Had it not been for the relocation of the UN bureaucracy to Antarctica my parents might well have chosen the Ellsworth Mountains over the Himalayas despite their modest elevation, but the intensive redevelopment of the Continent Without Nations influenced their choice. Their selection of a specific location was heavily influenced by the absurd competition undertaken by the "supporters" of Mount Manaslu, who were then augmenting the peak for the third time in order to claw back the title of "the highest mountain in the world" from the Everestians and Kanchenjungans.

The valley where my co-parents established their hometree was approximately midway between Everest and Kanchenjunga. Its only other inhabitants — or so my fosterers believed when they rented the land and planted the tree — were members of a religious community, some two dozen strong, who lived in a stone-gantzed complex at its southern extremity. There was another stone edifice high on the slope above their own site, but my parents were assured that although it had been the home of another religious community, it was now unoccupied.

Modern readers, who have been taught that all religion had been virtually extinct for three hundred years in 2520, will be more surprised by the proximity to my hometree of a living community of monks than a seemingly dead one, but retreatist sects carrying forward versions of Buddhism and Hinduism had shown far greater resilience than the followers of other traditions, and such communities had their own reasons for preferring locations remote from civilization. My foster parents found no particular cause for astonishment in that they were to become neighbors of one active monastery and one derelict one. Nor did this detract, in their eyes, from the supposed remoteness of the site.

The valley where I was brought up bears little resemblance now to the state it was in when I lived there. It fell victim to one of the less contentious projects of the Continental Engineers. Its climate is almost Mediterranean now, thanks to the dome and all its subsidiary facilities, and it is only an hour from Kathmandu by tube train. The Hindu community at the southern end of the valley is long gone — its stone-gantzed harshness replaced by luxuriant hometrees — but the stone edifice my parents nicknamed Shangri-La is still standing. When the cloud lifts it presents much the same appearance to the valley dwellers as it presented to me in earliest childhood. Because it remains outside the protective shell it must seem to young children, as it once seemed to me, to be shrouded in mystery.

Because I only lived with my foster parents for twenty years — a mere 4 percent of my life to date — and because much of that time was spent in a state of infantile obliviousness, I find it difficult to write about them as a coherent collective. I got to know them much better as disparate individuals once the collective had broken up, and that probably has as much to do with my impression that they were always quarreling as my earliest memories. I now suspect that they were happier together than I was ever able to believe while they were alive, and I am sure that they were better parents than I ever gave them credit for while I still had to listen to their homilies and complaints.

As a dutiful historian — even one who has stooped so low as to resurrect the dubious genre of spiritual autobiography — I suppose that I ought to make a proper record of my origins. My foster parents were Domenico Corato, born 2345; Laurent Holderness, born 2349; Eulalie Neqael, born 2377; Nahum Turkhan, born 2379; Meta Khaled, born 2384; Siorane Wolf, born 2392; Sajda Ajdal, born 2402; and Ezra Derhan, born 2418. The ovum that they withdrew from a North American bank to initiate my development had been deposited there in 2170, having been taken from the womb of one Diana Caisson, born 2168. The sperm used to fertilize it after the Zamaners had done their preliminary work had been deposited in 2365 by Evander Gray (2347-2517).

I have been unable to discover any more about Diana Caisson's history. The sectors of the Labyrinth hosting the relevant data were devastated by the viral shrapnel of an early twenty-third-century logic bomb, and I have never been able to discover any hard-copy reference. Evander Gray was a longtime gantzing engineer who had spent the greater part of his working life on the moon, although he had done three tours of duty in the asteroid belt; he had died in an orbital settlement.

In Mama Siorane's and Mama Meta's eyes, Evander Gray must have qualified as a pioneer, although Papa Domenico would doubtless have pointed out to them that there had been "space pioneers" as long ago as the twentieth century. At any rate, the three years separating notification of Evander Gray's death from the exercise of his right of replacement testifies to the fact that although no one was in a tearing hurry to perpetuate his heritage, he was considered a reasonably good catch. He was reckoned good enough, at any rate, for my parents not to hesitate long over the selection of my surname. If Papa Dom disapproved, he did not think it worth exercising his power of veto.

I do not know why I was given the first name Mortimer, although I did ask several of my foster parents.

"We liked it," was all the answer Papa Domenico offered.

"It sounded serious," was Mama Eulalie's contribution. "We wanted a serious child."

"It seemed to flow well in association with the surname," Mama Meta said. "People who have to wear their names for centuries will need names that flow well. Mine never did. I always envied Laurent his."

"The name originally belonged to a crusader associated with the Dead Sea," Mama Sajda informed me, in the overscrupulous manner that I was often said by her co-parents to have inherited. "It's a corruption of the Latin de mortuo mari — but that had absolutely nothing to do with our decision. So far as I remember, it got the vote because it was the only leading candidate to which no one had any strong objection."

That sounded only too likely at the time; it still does.

Unlike my donor father, none of my foster parents had restricted themselves to a single vocation. Five of them had already served terms as civil servants when they married, and two more were to do so afterward. Four had already worked as research scientists, and one more was subsequently to be added to that number. Three had been structural engineers, and three more were to dabble in that art. Three had done stints as retail managers, two as Labyrinth navigators, and two as VE techs — although the last two figures were doubled by endeavors subsequent to parenthood.

Five of my co-parents had constructed hypertextual mándalas of one kind or another before they had charge of me, although none had worked in the field of history. I cannot single any one of them out as a key influence on the development of my own career. If I am as pedantic as some people say, I suppose I might be reckoned to be more Mama Sajda's son than anyone else's, but she was essentially an organizer whose genius lay in the delicate social art of managing VE conferences. I don't recall feeling closer to her than to any of my other mothers.

At the time of my birth Papa Laurent had probably built the most considerable public reputation, as an Earth-based xenobiologist, but his quantum of fame was subsequently to be exceeded by Mama Siorane and Papa Ezra, both of whom moved to extraterrestrial frontiers, where celebrity could be more cheaply obtained. Mama Siorane contrived an interesting and newsworthy death on Titan in 2650 and Papa Ezra made a significant contribution to the modification of the Zaman transformation for application to fabers.

In spite of the relative bleakness of my early surroundings and the arguments my fosterers always seemed to be having, I received the customary superabundance of love, affection, and admiration from my parents. In claiming their own rations of "personal time" with my infant self my devoted mamas and papas subjected me to a veritable deluge of stimulation and amusement. Their determination to familiarize me with the vicissitudes of a harsh natural environment and the delights of a multitude of virtual ones never extended so far as to leave me exposed to the merciless elements without a supremely competent suitskin, or to place me in danger of addiction to synthetic pleasures. I was not allowed to play unattended in the snow until I was twelve, and I was not allowed to indulge in the most seductive virtual experiences until I was several years older than that.

In sum, with the aid of excellent role models, careful biofeedback training, and thoroughly competent internal technologies, I grew up as reasonable, as charitable, as self-controlled, and as intensely serious of mind as all my city-bound contemporaries.


The majority of the children I met and played with in the homelier kinds of VEs spoke of "real life" in terms of cityscapes: crowds, buildings, and carefully designed parks. The minority who had contact with wilderness mostly thought of it in terms of forests, oceans, and the Antarctic ice cap. Only a couple lived in close proximity with mountain slopes, and even they thought my own situation peculiar, partly because no one was busy sculpting the mountain that loomed over my valley and partly because my only near neighbors were monks.

When I was very young my VE-linked friends had not the slightest idea what a "monk" was. Nor had I. The members of the accessible community at the north end of the valley communicated among themselves in a language that was either archaic or private, and although I did not entirely trust my parents' word that the community high on the mountain slope was extinct, I had no solid grounds for thinking otherwise. The cloud so rarely exposed the buildings to view, despite the winds that kept them continually astir, that such brief periods of clarity as did occur only served to intensify the mystery of their nature.


Excerpted from The Fountains of Youth by Brian Stableford, David G. Hartwell. Copyright © 2000 Brian Stableford. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Brian Stableford lives in Reading, England.

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The Fountains of Youth (Emortality Series #5) 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
The Emortals that the human race has evolved into wonder why Mortimer Gray would write his epic tome, ¿The History of Death¿. It is to answer that question that he has posed to himself that has led Mr. Gray to write this autobiography of his five centuries of life.

Mortimer was born in 2520 with nothing in his background to suggest he would become so famous for the epic work that has shaken humanity. In 2535, Mortimer climbs a Tibetan mountain where he meets world leader Julius Ngomi inside an ancient ruin. Julius explains that the dead past resides side by side with the Emortals. Not too long after that encounter, Mortimer tastes but survives death due to a shipwreck that shows that mankind may have defeated aging and disease, but accidents can still kill. Mortimer becomes obsessed with the way the past coped with death and begins his treatise that leads to many fringe groups claiming him as their guru and chronicler.

THE FOUNTAINS OF YOUTH is a deep, thought-provoking science fiction tale that is not for everyone. Fans who enjoy action at the rate of ¿Stars Wars¿ need to pass on this tale. However, those readers who gain pleasure from a cerebral, philosophic futuristic look at mankind will relish this novel. Written more like an autobiography than a novel, Brian Stableford demonstrates his abilities to paint a distant future that raises questions about the present.

Harriet Klausner

Anonymous More than 1 year ago