1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Immortality

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Scribe Lord, Sep 25, 2015.

  1. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

    266
    128
    43
  2. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

    1,741
    612
    113
    Hi,

    For me immortality comes in two forms. One are those who not only live forever, but can't be kille. The others may live forever - if no one kills them.

    This makes a big difference. Those who cannot be killed at all I see as ultimately heading towards the path of complete self absorbtion. Why should they be interested in the outside world when it's ephemeral? People die - so that's an issue with making friends, taking lovers and having kids. At some point you'd want to stop doing it because you don't want to have to live knowing that they'd die. And in fact the meaning of life - ie other people's lives - would become less to you. I mean what does it matter if someone kills someone else - they were going to die anyway. There may even be the formation of a God complex. As in I can do whatever I want because no one else matters.

    The second group I see as heading towards a different path - fear. They hide. The longer you live the less you want to die and the more you fear discovery and death. Death becomes their bogeyman.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  3. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

    1,072
    242
    63
    My MC is immortal in the sense that he doesn't grow old, but he can be killed if wounded bad enough.
     
  4. caters

    caters Sage

    253
    12
    18
    I handle mine by giving them semi-immortality, that is no dying from old age but still just as likely to die of disease and other natural and unnatural causes.
     
  5. Nagash

    Nagash Sage

    258
    81
    28
    I can't help but imagine immortality as an eternal fall in the abyss of depression - an endless fall in a bottomless pit... I've toyed with the concept in my WIP, and the few immortal characters are systematically cynics with a shattered heart, exhausted by the everlasting nature of their stay in the mortal world. One of my MC's is an immortal who comes to regret and despise what he once thought to be a gift, resenting his existence and questioning his faith. He is ultimately offered a glorious death by his god who realizes how much this one has sacrificed in his name, and is truly affected upon seeing how miserable eternity makes him. Upon seeing him being delivered from his "benediction", the few other immortal characters start to question the nature of their immortality, and start to dwell on the same depressed path upon realizing immortality is a curse that no living should wish to endure.
     
  6. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

    1,077
    241
    63
    I, for one, am against the immortality being a curse trope.
     
  7. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

    1,072
    242
    63
    Yes, no more brooding, melancholy vampires please.
     
  8. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

    1,072
    242
    63
    I think it depends on the person and the times they live in. If you are an immortal that has to isolate yourself from society then depression or a desperate search for a purpose and reason for being could become a problem.

    On the other hand you might have someone thirsty for power, wealth, etc., and being able to live forever gives them plenty of time to work towards achieving their goals. They aren't racing against time so that lends itself to being patient and opportunistic when convenient. It's like playing a really long chess game with no clock to dictate how long you have to make your move, and you are playing against opponents that don't have that luxury.

    My MC is sort of like the second type but not interested in actually ruling nations. Sitting on a throne is something he avoids at all costs. However, he does do some manipulating behind the scenes because he believes it's establishing some degree of order that in his mind wouldn't exist otherwise. The one thing that a prolonged life has done to him is his emotions have been tempered, so he can come across as callous and indifferent at times. He's seen the cycles that have taken place in human history so there are fewer things that surprise him. His emotions are far less likely to play a part in his decisions. He's experienced love, loss, triumph, and failure enough times to be able to weather the storm with little difficulty.

    To alter his personality and how he views the world is the character development challenge I have to figure out.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2016
  9. Nagash

    Nagash Sage

    258
    81
    28
    Of course, many ways of seeing immortality exist and your examples are perfectly fine Miskatonic. Obviously, immortality and they way it affects the mood/behavior of a character depends on a myriad of other factors - social and otherwise. I only favor the immortality as a curse trope because a fair amount of my characters endure a tough and miserable life, and the very thought of enduring this earthly journey eternally, should bring them on the brink of insanity.
     
  10. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    2,680
    1,786
    163
    I agree. However I keep imagining a true immortal, who can never die, facing the prospect of the sun in his solar system dying someday. Or having to live on a planet devastated by some massive asteroid hit. When I consider what I'd do, were some mystical being to offer me the ability to live forever, these things pop into my head. I'd probably begin to help in research and development, so I could system-hop to avoid living in such an environment. Now, all the stars in the universe will one day wink out; but that's so incredibly long a time frame I'd try not to think about it much.
     
  11. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

    1,741
    612
    113
    Hi,

    To me people are complex. I can see many immortals going through phases where they are depressed and believe their immortality is a curse - among those who cannot die. After you watched your children die of old age perhaps. You've been rejected as a freak by your village. The world has changed to the point where you can't keep up with it. You've survived a catastrophe eg a disease like the black plague, that's wiped everyone else you knew out. When you've walked the entire world nad found no one else like you.

    I just can't see this being a permanent state of affairs. You move past the pain and you learn from it. Unfortunately what you learn may not be good. In the unkillable immortals they would learn that life is fleeting for others and therefore perhaps theirs is not as important as his. Ultimately this is I think the lesson all unkillable immortals would learn. That others aren't like them. And that they can't throw themselves into life - raising families, loving etc, because it always ends the same way - death and pain.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  12. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

    1,072
    242
    63
    Just look at how the protagonist of Highlander was treated when the village thought he was in league with the devil for not dying in battle from his horrific wounds.
     
  13. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    2,680
    1,786
    163
    Death is not always a bad thing. There may be a paradox in a) believing an immortal would wish for the ability to die while also b) believing that an immortal would see the deaths of his loved ones as being a horrible thing. It's not so much a paradox if death/dying is not the issue, but rather loneliness. I.e., the old adage that it's the survivors who suffer most from death. (And the all-too-human penchant for believing that extended solitude is a horrible thing; or, the penchant for not being able to be happy unless surrounded by friends, family, loved ones.) But death can be seen as a natural thing, and an immortal could come to accept the natural course of natural life without always being beset by the deaths of those around him.

    I'm not sure this is true. Maybe it is my own age and the fact that I've already experienced the deaths of loved elderly family members who have lived full, joyous lives. With those still living, it's not as if I can't throw myself into living with them, loving them, simply because I know they may have only a few years left. And besides which, an immortal who simply can't die is going to be an extraordinary boon for family members whenever danger presents itself. It's like having your own personal Iron Man or Hulk on standby. An immortal might well throw himself into that role as protector—even if, as it turns out, he's eventually protecting his great-grandchildren, his great-great-nephews and nieces, etc.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2016
  14. vaiyt

    vaiyt Scribe

    47
    8
    8
    Immortals are likely to see things normal people take for granted as fleeting and temporary. Nations, ideologies, prejudices, morals, social order etc. are to them as transient as a rainbow for the rest of us.
     
  15. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    5,497
    3,496
    313
    >Immortals are likely to see things normal people take for granted as fleeting and temporary.

    I wonder about this. Seems to me, one still has to drag one's sorry butt through all twenty-four hours of a day. A thousand years of Rome still comes out to a thousand years. That's not fleeting, it's grinding. I think it would be more like sitting through a badly-edited four hour movie. By the second hour, I'd be looking for the exit. Only there's no exit and there's an infinity of movies cued up behind this one.

    My problem with immortals is this: time is a key ingredient of being alive in general and being human in particular. Being immortal means, in a quite fundamental way, being inhuman. That tends to make nonsense of most human motivations, which in turn renders trivial most storytelling techniques. That, in turn, is why most immortals/gods/angels etc. aren't really superbeings at all, but are just humans in costume or, more commonly, humans with various human elements arbitrarily removed or exaggerated.

    Honestly, when I see a book is about immortals, I move on. Which is odd and inconsistent because I'm all about elves and dwarves and such (who are, by definition, inhuman, and who likewise tend mostly to be humans in costume). Being odd and inconsistent is also a human trait.
     
  16. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

    9,872
    2,884
    413
    I think the idea that immortals don't age does present some odd issues with a love life. For example, if an immortal married (again, and again, and again), well... first of all, the spouse is obviously not the jealous type. S/he'd know that going into the marriage. But would there be a fear that the love would end when the immortal looks permanently twenty-something and the spouse is over 70?

    It might even make an interesting immortal character, especially with a male immortal. Hollywood leads guys to believe that an eighty-year-old man with a twenty-year-old woman is normal/awesome/not gross, as long as the man is rich and the wife is a trophy. How cool would it be to have an immortal man with his aging wife, seen on the streets holding hands? The general public may see them as grandmother and grandson, but the immortal still treats her as his wife–even if he's more of a caretaker when she's elderly.
     
  17. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    11,094
    1,468
    313
    I think I saw a Twilight spoof that referenced this idea... the idea of leaving Bella human didn't take. :/ Alice and Carlisle said it was "so lame." "Not to mention... really gross."

    I don't have many mortal/immortal couples where both stay the same throughout their relationship. Inevitably one changes, whether voluntarily or not. I have a Fae prince who chooses a human bride, knowing that Faerie will slowly transform her into a Fae herself if she stays with him. (Canon [i.e. what I plan to publish as a novel] says that the bride is unwilling to stay and become immortal, but I've written spinoff things where the same Fae has his life go in a totally different direction, ultimately turning away from his jerkass personality, and he falls in love with a different human woman who reciprocates his feelings [as opposed to simply lusting after the first girl he meets who believes in his kind].)

    Another couple in a different story are both vampires at the start, but one inadvertently becomes human again. It doesn't change the way the guys feel about each other, but how their relationship goes forward. And in the backstory of that one, a vampire guy falls in love with a human woman, and accidentally bites her in their wedding bed. The moment she wakes up, she leaves him.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2016
  18. vaiyt

    vaiyt Scribe

    47
    8
    8
    Yeah, but after you've been through a thousand years of Rome, five hundred more of Byzantium, a couple centuries of Spain, another couple of the British, etc. etc. and you're going to roll your eyes when those newfangled Americans start thinking they're so exceptional.
     
  19. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

    1,741
    612
    113
    Hi Fifth,

    I'm not sure myself. But I think that the fact that people can move on from deaths of loved ones is in part due to their own understanding of death - ie they understand that they are on the same path. And ultimately many have the belief - and not wanting to make this a religious post in any way - that ultimately they will be with them again. That's not a possibility for someone who will live forever. They just have to live with the reality that the loss is eternal.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  20. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    1,943
    938
    113
    I think there's one important fundamental question that has to be asked first when designing an immortal:

    Are they a type of being to whom immortality is part of their inherent nature? Or are they a type of being who is naturally mortal, but on whom immortality has been thrust for whatever reason?

    If it is someone on whom immortality has been unnaturally thrust, then it is fine to measure them by human standards. But if immortality is natural, then they are a totally different kind of being than we humans, and cannot be measured like us. They would likely not experience time in the same way we do to begin with.
     
Loading...

Share This Page