Standing on the edge of the world

In my fiction, I’ve been fascinated by the liminality of ports. They are where the everyday intersects with the extraordinary, the start and end point for thousands of journeys, and portals connecting this place with every other place.

Being a SF writer, I have a particular fondness for space ports. The idea that you can run away from life as a colonist, get to the port, and then have the whole universe open up before you…

In this sense, as in Star Wars, the space port is a bridge between the main character’s old life and the adventure awaiting them. Between who they were and who they are going to be.

Perhaps it’s because I grew up in the port city of Bristol, which historically served as a jumping-off point for merchants, pirates, explorers and (despicably) slavers. Standing on the quay in the late afternoon, you can imagine the ships slipping their moorings and heading for the gorge, and beyond it the Severn Estuary and the Atlantic Ocean, and it feels as if you’re standing on the edge of the world.

The same applies to beaches. They are an ever-changing no-man’s land between the eroding coastline and furious sea. A place where we can stand and contemplate our relationship to the vast elemental forces of the Earth, and maybe yearn for a way to touch that distant horizon.

Author: Gareth L Powell


4 thoughts on “Standing on the edge of the world”

  1. A great read, thank you. Traveling has given me many ports to visit and muse on. Pearl Harbor, a military port that is now revered as a national cemetery. The port of San Francisco, passing through the Golden Gate and the port of New York, where millions have passed to seek a better life and grasp opportunity that eluded them elsewhere. The port of Hong Kong, home of my late husband’s ancestors and where some folks live their entire lives on their junks, their feet never touching land. Port Canaveral, where rockets launch satellites and private craft to see the curvature of our Empedocles earth. Your words have evoked all these wonderful thoughts and all these warm memories of times past, and give me renewed wishes for travel again once pandemic woes are gone. Again, gratitude Gareth

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