To Become—an Immortal!

This post has nothing to do with the comic in question (which wrote out Thor’s long-time love Jane Foster and replaced her with the Asgardian Sif). It’s about this post from Kung Fu Monkey about immortals (tying in with a new webcomic the author is doing).
His point is that immortality would be a difficult thing for most people. possibly bad for society and frankly scary: “To call out a specific example: no matter who you voted for, wasn’t it a little goddam tiring in the 2000 election to still be refighting the 32-year old Vietnam War records of the two candidates for the US presidency?
Now imagine it was the Civil War.
Imagine it now. A functional lifespan of, say 200 years. Working with people who owned slaves. Trying to negotiate international trade treaties to deal with global warming by reconciling voters who watched their brother’s head get spun into a fine red mist by a Boston infantryman or a Georgian cavalryman. Getting funding for stem cell research from voters who grew up believing not only were black people a genetically inferior race, but other versions of white people were, too. 200 years is what Bruce Sterling posits in Holy Fire, a gerontocracy, and it’s a goddam mess.
Now make it 500 years.
Nothing ever forgotten. Nothing ever truly passing.
The death of history and the birth of the Long, Eternal Now.”
I think that’s a cool concept, and a workable one (in the sense that it opens up lots of possibilities). As someone who’s used immortals in a couple of stories and has more on the shelf, it provoked me to several thoughts:
•The sense of culture shock might have been something they’d only deal with in the past few centuries. DC’s 50,000-year-old Vandal Savage would have spent most of that time not seeing a lot of change, or seeing it very slowly. There’d be new languages, new clothing styles, new philosophies, but so much would be the same (women are property, cities are pitch-black after dark, storms are caused by the gods, if you want to go somewhere fast you ride a fast horse, etc.).
•There might be a kind of learning curve. Sure, the first hundred years or so you remain PO’d about what the British or the Yankees or the Secess or the cossacks did to you and it shapes your thinking. But after 500 years, would you, in fact, still be bearing a grudge? Or would you pass into the point of “it’s all small stuff?” (and I think Vietnam is an exceptional case, besides).
But that’s the beauty of immortality as a topic. None of us know what it’s like, and it’s unlikely any of us will experience it except in the afterlife, if it’s there (I think it is, but I imagine it’s very different from mundane eternity). We’re free to assume it will be glorious, horrifying, tragic, scary, whatever. It’s the same with vampires—someone at Illogicon said they see vamps as completely nonhuman but able to fake it. That works fine but I don’t think it makes more human vampires wrong.
That said, I look forward to reading Arcanum when I have a spare moment.
(Cover art by Jack Kirby, all rights retained by whoever has them)


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One response to “To Become—an Immortal!

  1. Pingback: More on immortals | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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