What do you call a non-fiction essay collection most might consider fiction?
I felt that I had several good titles to choose from among the various essays that make up my new collection Outlier Heart: Essays From My Life as an Immortalist. These included Significant Other, which I think speaks to the strangeness of being an immortalist today; and In the Name of Not Repeating, which expresses a macro motivation of mine for being an immortalist — yes I want to live, but also, I want to exit the the repetitive cycle that is mortality (if you know how the story ends, how different can it really be? Answer: not that different).
In the end, I landed on Outlier Heart, the title of another essay, originally published in Eclectica, that is meaningful to me for a couple reasons. One, I think the role of heart and feeling is often, strangely, left out of the immortality conversation, and I’ve found it to be central. While science and technology is driving the legitimacy of the conversation today, it takes a hell of a lot of heart, by scientists, activists, entrepreneurs, and yes, artists, to take this stand, that aging is a disease to be cured, and furthermore that we will, and are, doing it.
This is a heart that I doubt non-immortalists have experienced, because the passion isn’t rooted in any familiar human relationship, but in the unknown of a future without an end. I’d call that an Outlier Heart.
The title is also significant to me because of what I went through to get it. I remember writing the essay and working to name this thing I was trying to name, in myself, that had swept me past the bounds of my religion, my family, my generation, my gender, and I just didn’t know what to call it. I’d come up against such barriers of blankness in the past, and I had run from them, considering it an impossibility to articulate something so real to me but so foreign to most if not all readers.
But this time I didn’t run. This time I stood in the blankness and I stood in it, requiring of myself to find a way through. It marked a pivot point in my writing. No longer would I back off when the subject matter got too personal and the reading audience seemed too distant. I accepted that this, in fact, was the gig, and started to build the writing muscles I needed to traverse that gap.