Okay, because I missed Thursday, I'm posting twice today to catch up. Up first, Bruce Sterling's "Dinner in Audoghast."
Sterling's excellently written short story uses a literary device near and dear to my heart, prophecy, to explore the impermanence of all things. He sets it in the ancient city of Audoghast during the height of it's power (and, consequently, arrogance), and inserts into it the figure of a lone prophet who has the undesirable and unique ability to render only true prophecies. I say undesirable here because his prophecies all revolve around the idea that nothing lasts forever: that, specifically, Audoghast and it's elite may be powerful now, but that will someday change.
The use of prophecy in fiction and how characters react to prophetic revelation has long been a subject of interest to me, particularly in how it relates to how the reader reads the story. Here, by having the distance that comes with time, a distance that lets the reader know with certainty that what the prophet says will in fact come to pass, helps to reveal to us the arrogance of the characters in the story when they choose to ignore what has been prophesied. In turn, I think that this does an interesting thing to the reader, making them also realize that our own society isn't permanent either, and that some day, things will change dramatically. This may be four hundred years from now, or it may be next week. That really doesn't matter. What is important is the idea that things will change, no matter what we do.