Saturday, 10 September 2011

"To Be or Not to Be" - Immortality

Rest in peace or not?
“I shall not altogether die”, Horace 65-8 BC
In writing about death (yet again), I am aware that many may be a tad concerned at my fascination with the ultimate end game! (But there again, I am a thriller writer…) And as someone once said the two things you can depend on in this life are death and taxes!
In fiction writing, life extension or immortality has been a popular topic. It would seem that it is the ultimate goal of many a villain, one way or another. But immortality is one more step into the realms of fantasy. I guess it’s because none of us actually knows what lies waiting for us at the end and for lots of people it is still a fairly scary (if not taboo) subject. The origins of striving for immortality go right back in the annals of story epics – in fact in the Epic of Gilgamesh which dates back to 22 BC,  there was a quest to become immortal.
Many religions have, as their foundation, a belief in the existence of an ‘Afterlife’ and it is a popular subject in supernatural fiction. Wraiths, Spirits, Ghosts, Vampires and Zombies all use the plot device of actually dying at a particular point and then returning to some kind of life.
The other interesting point with all these supernatural characters is that they all have a (according to their genre’s) a weakness. Otherwise they would have taken over the entire universe by now! So to make decent adversaries for our stories they must have an Achilles heel.
In the case of vampires, for example, they may be killed by sunlight, burning or decapitation. Their bodies have an absence of heart rate, breathing etc but somehow they continue living (although needing to imbibe blood to do this). This requires the reader to suspend belief to step into this vampiric world.
Wraiths and Spirits can pass between this world and the next but their weakness is that they grow weary and long for everlasting peace.
The Undead (Zombies) are similar to Vampires, in that they appear to be alive but are not. They have no soul so cannot experience emotions of any kind. Stakes through the heart seem to be the way to do for many of these – or basic dropping off of body parts!
All of these creations make for fascinating fiction and whilst the whole genre is make-believe there are certain rules that genre writers tend not to break. It is almost as if these beings were real ‘people’ in the first place!!
So , are you a fan of this kind of fiction? Do you expect the characters to conform to rules about immortality?


  1. Interesting post. I don't mind the 'rules' being broken, as long as it's done in style and the rules of that particular story aren't broken.

  2. I enjoy reading the different renditions of vampires, the undead, paranormal aspects to any book. I believe that if it's done well it doesn't matter what rules have been broken. I love originality, and the creativity that goes behind a lot of these books leaves me captivated!

    Wonderful post! It's my first time stopping in but it certainly won't be my last!

  3. I wouldn't say I'm a fan exactly, but I am fascinated by the afterlife and how different cultures deal with it. I don't expect novels to conform to 'the rules'.

  4. I think death and the afterlife are one of life's big unanswered questions. It always peaks my interest especially in the paranormal realm.

    I gave you an award over at my blog.

  5. I love it when a rule is broken in fiction. It makes for interesting reading :)

  6. First, thanks for following me. I'm following you now too. I believe in spirits, though I don't know if they're dead souls, demons, or other created spirits created that we humans just can't see and won't understand until we're in spirit form ourselves. All make for great storytelling.

  7. Thanks everyone for commenting. I so appreciate hearing other people's views on some of my subject areas.

  8. I don't really read this type of fiction much. I like my thrillers and mysteries based in reality. However, I can understand the draw.