Issue #164: The History of Living Forever

Our new issue, “The History of Living Forever” by Jake Wolff, was pulled from our slush-pile by Sam Katz—one of our eagle-eyed readers here at One Story. As soon as Sam shared this piece with me, I knew that it belonged in our pages. Set in China in 210 BCE, this compelling tale follows Xu Fu, fangshi to the Emperor, as he sets sail in search of the fountain of youth. Based on actual myths from China & Japan, this short story reads like an epic novel. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did. And now here is Sam Katz, issue editor for “History of Living Forever,” who will give a proper introduction to this wonderful historical adventure. -HT

On the surface, “The History of Living Forever,” is a story of epic and ancient scope. There are giant man-eating sharks and a mythical mountain island guarded by gods. There is unrequited love and feats of loyalty and that most primal of quests: the search for immortality. It is a story fit to be read aloud to an audience. But like any great story, it is ultimately carried by the actions of individual characters—in this case, the decisions of two men. A man in the hull of a wayward ship must choose between his friend’s life and his own happiness. Another, at the other end of the world, decides the fate of a thousand virgins. Narrated in concise prose, Jake Wolff mixes myth and fiction in a tale of exploration that takes us on a journey from the docks of Warring States China to the open sea to the white sand beaches of the mythic Mount Penglai. We are thrilled to welcome him into the One Story family. To find out more about “The History of Living Forever”—including what Jake would do with eternal life—please check out our Q&A with the author.

4 thoughts on “Issue #164: The History of Living Forever

  1. I enjoyed this story very much. Some of the phrasing the author used was very revealing. In particular, I liked this sentence: “I watched her go and then returned to my rice, which stuck to my teeth like tree sap.” A fantastic analogy.

  2. Loved this story, it seemed to grow larger as I read. Such an array of ways we can be in relationship to one another. I suspect this has something to do with immortality. When I turned over to the last page, I was astonished that the story was ending. Thanks for a real treat. Keep up the good work.

  3. I just read this story again, eight years after its publication and having it loaned to me by a friend, and was again blown away by its sense of wonder and dread. One of the best ever for One-Story, and the one that compelled me to subscribe.

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