If you’re reading this, I’m dead.

If you’re reading this, I’m not yet born.

It’s both. And neither. And in a way.

Such a relief to be writing in freeform again. And to stop counting words: copysqueezing of the manuscript saved room for these intro notes — enough for what little needs to be said.

At first I thought about writing a novel. A life. Timeless, fundamental form. Novels may be popular where you live, and have a reputation — the good ones — for packing a lot of meaning into modest space.

I even started writing. Childhood, love, death.

That didn’t get far. It seemed silly, back then, to waste this incredible chance on “Y loved X and she died.” Who cares? A novel can build a world but only when the writer and the reader already share a world — not my case. I have a very probabilistic idea of where or when or who you, my reader, are. If at all.

Or perhaps I’m just not good at writing novels. In a few summers I retraced the history of literary form which, where I live, has long ago loosened and got rid of direct narrative. Many false starts later, material reluctantly assembled into an alphabetized vocabulary — at least a workable approximation for what I meant to write. It gradually condensed and even more gradually structurized, snaffled by cross-links.

So here it is. A hermetic book by a hermit. I have no time nor stamina left to rewrite it anyway.

What did I mean to write?

This text is a one-way, one-time communication. I first discovered a way to send it, then I had to write the message. That proved much more life-consuming. A “hello world” wouldn’t do: I was going to send it literally into another world. And it could only be done once. A lifetime’s chance.

This is my “hello world,” then.

It’s the best I could do without a clear idea of who I’m addressing. Calculations seem to point to four hundred years into the past as the most probable emergence locus. (I have no one to cross-check the math, though.) So this book may be your world’s future, only not quite: our multiverse loci aren’t causally connected. I am downstream from you, in the arrow-of-time direction, but also sideways. There’s no such thing as worldline-direct past (or at least you can’t send messages into it).

Nature deals in tradeoffs. I can’t write all I want; the size of the message is fixed. Then, even without a causal past/future link, a version of the grandfather paradox still applies: the message is not allowed to be too specific. It’s like interworld censorship: no names, no dates, no detailed (reproducible?) descriptions of anything.