Anyway, I went ahead and bought all the remaining Sandman books in the series. Started reading The Season Of Mists.
Introduction by Harlan Ellison: did I mention I like his style of writing?
anyway, as I started reading, I was struck by a certain resonance in the character of Destiny: a character, carrying his book, which records everything that has happened, and possibly everything that has ever happened.
Examining his book, he finds the encounter with the three women outlined there in every detail. Reading on, he knows what he must do.
Once, I read a short story by Ted Chiang, "Story of Your Life". In it, an interpreter learns the language of an alien species. Their language has a different structure from human language, and reflects a difference in how they view life/time -- they do not seem to see a cause/effect structure in time, but rather that cause and effect are bound up together in time. Kind of like, if the effect did not happen, then there would not be a cause.
The analogy drawn in Ted Chiang's story is of a person who finds a book that writes out exactly how the future will happen. Having found out the future, there are normally two storylines that play out from there in classical fiction: (1) that the person changes her future, or (2) that the person's efforts to change the future result in the predicted future happening. Ted's protagonist posits a different possibility: that the person will be unable to choose otherwise than how the book has written.
(The linked Wiki has a much better explanation of this)
Anyway, it seems to me that Destiny is like that. He sees the book's contents and has no choice but to do exactly as it says, no?
Anyway, Ted's story is a good read. If you want to read it, I have it in one of my Dozois' annual collections. :> The Sandman is also good, and now I have the set!