After You've Stood on the Log at the Center of the

Universe, What Is There Left to Do?

by Grant Carrington

    To my great surprise, this story, which first appeared in the April 1974 issue of AMAZING, has made me more money than any other story I've ever written, perhaps even more than Time's Fool, although when I wrote it, I thought the only way it would ever be reprinted would be if I got so famous that I could sell my laundry list.
    But Isaac Asimov, Martin Greenberg, and Joseph D. Olander picked it up for their anthology, 100 Great Science Fiction Short Short Stories (Doubleday, 1978; Avon Books, 1980) and from there it went to Germany and Japan. Japan used it to teach their kids English in the mid80s, when Japan was threatening to become an economic superpower, and I figure that it's "The Log at the Center of the Universe" that finally brought them down.
    Unfortunately it's now being used by McGraw Hill to test American students so it may now be America's turn. If only they knew . . .

    It's fitting that it should be destroying our world's youth because the inspiration for the story was an acid trip! Around 1973 or so, Al Gaither and I went out to visit Gail and Shippy and Margo and John out at Big Otter Sink north of Gainesville, Florida, where they were building a couple of A-frames out in the woods. Al and I dropped a dot and went swimming in the pond nearby where there was a tree sunk in the middle. Al and I tried to balance on the branch near the surface and kept falling off. I finally got my balance but decided to fall off because I had decided the tree was the log at the center of the universe, and . . . After you've stood on the log at the center of the universe, what is there left to do?
    (This incident also inspired a song, "Big Otter Sink," which some day may find its way onto my songs page. It was a pretty good trip.)

    There used to be a log in the center of the pond on my father's farm. It wasn't really a log; it was a thick branch coming off the main trunk of a submerged tree. . . . it wasn't strong enough to hold even a ten-year-old boy without giving a little. So naturally we all had to try to stand on it. I was the only one who ever succeeded.