Introduction

There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be…

I’ve always thought John Lennon was being profoundly fatalistic when he sang that line 52 years ago, and I’ve always been fascinated by songs, poems and stories about fate and free will. 

Maybe it stems from reading the ‘Appointment in Samarra’ fable at Junior School. You know the one: a wealthy merchant visits the marketplace in Baghdad; he spots Death apparently beckoning him and flees to Samarra on his fastest horse. Later that night, Death calls at his house in Samarra and explains he had not beckoned the merchant, merely expressed astonishment at seeing him in Baghdad: ‘For I knew tonight we had an appointment in Samarra.’

Here are my twelve favourite stories about fate, free will and predestination. Several are mystery tours to destinations which, when ultimately revealed, prove shocking and yet inevitable. Some concern people crushed by a sense of impending doom; others celebrate characters who struggle to escape a tragic and apparently inevitable destiny. 

I hope you’re fated to read and enjoy them.

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