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The minds of immortals

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Svrtnsse, Sep 30, 2013.

  1. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Last night, in the chat, the topic of immortality came up. It was an interesting discussion, but the hour got late and I had to leave.

    Personally I firmly believe that immortality fundamentally changes how you view life. I made the comment that I wouldn't want to write from the POV of a 12,000 year old immortal as such a being would be too alien to me (they'd also be an extremely powerful magic wielder). I'm fine with having such beings i my setting, but I wouldn't put them as main characters or even in minor roles.

    However, mere mortal humans can, through simply wielding magic, prolong their lives indefinitely. Magic isn't all that common though and only about one in a hundred would be able to extend their lifespan in this way. Even then, I believe that the human mind isn't capable of handling such a long life and that most magic wielders would sooner or later expire in some way, either on their own initiative or that of others.

    Is this something you've put any thought into and if so what are your thoughts on it?
    Do you have immortals in your WIP and how do they view themselves and their lives compared to mortals and their lives?
     
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  2. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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  3. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    I've tried to use immortals in some [older] work but I didn't make them invulnerable. They were more the self-healing and restorative type than the magic wielding type [though there was some innate magic]. I gave them a long childhood - 100+ years although they would appear full grown after about 10. As children they would start off acting crazy and wild, taking extreme risks and having adventure, knowing that they would heal and survive. After a while when they had seen friends and lovers die they would begin to realised that they had the possibility for an unending life and they knew they could be killed - if the death was traumatic enough.
    In the end it made them kind of craven or suicidal. Some went crazy taking more and more extreme risks, seeing how far they could push their luck, while others cowered from the possibility of death and began to isolate themselves from any possible risk. Death became the centre of both group's world-view. It was this that eventually they became too chaotic to write. I just couldn't make it a viable society [in my own head]. I remember that I did decide that having children was a very great decision for them to limit their numbers...
     
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  4. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    This is sort of what I meant. The humans get a bit power-mad from their immortality, then they get a bit weird about it when their friends and family and other loved ones start to die around them. On top of that the world around them is continuously changing making them feel detached and apart from the world they knew when they grew up.
    They'd be alone and lonely with perhaps no one at all to talk to who could relate to them.

    I believe the elves would have a different and easier time dealing with their long lives. They're brought up knowing they're immortal and that their friends and family are too. Immortality is a part of their culture in a different way than it is to humans.
     
  5. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    I never saw my immortals as power-mad.. perhaps power-maddened.
    I did work out that more than a few of them did become powerful mainly from financial power [I had them control a lot of the banking and trading - they didn't mind making loans and deals over 25, 50, 100+ years because they WOULD be around to collect...].
    With elves [and I've never written immoral elves so I'm kind of going back to Papa T here], I think I'd see it more like that Elves can't relate to our limited [human] lifespans, just like we can't really comprehend the [year limited] life of a dog let alone the day or two allotted to a mayfly.
    David [and Leigh] Eddings I think did a good job with Belgarath and Polgara in keeping them human [while being earth shatteringly powerful] by having them live for thousands of years for a definite purpose.
    I think that would have to be it... if you were able to live eternally [but most people you knew couldn't] you would have to have or find a reason to keep going... I can see boredom being the real worst-thing-ever...
    I can see this could become an "is Time the same for everyone and everything" philosophical debate...:(
     
  6. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Definitely a philosophical debate. :p

    I've also thought a bit about the financial power of immortals. If nothing else you'll have a very long time to amass your fortune. I also imagine that the elves will play important, but probably hidden, roles in international politics. They'll probably avoid getting directly involved in the affairs of individual nations, but when it comes to things like large scale environmental issues they may be more active.

    With the tension between elves and other races in my setting I believe younger elves are likely to have a hostile/unfriendly disposition towards humans. They'll think that since they're more powerful they're better and that they should be the ones making the rules. With age they'll generally come to realize that they're better off leaving the humans alone and not meddle too much in their affairs. It's still a source of conflict though.
     
  7. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    One of the later Drizzt books (wish I could remember which) had a B-story of Drizzt being befriended by a fellow elf, and learning "the elven attitude" to immortality: flexibility, and an almost childlike joy in how many new things keep coming up if you let go the old ones. Sounded nice to me, especially if you're a species whose brain really is wired for it.
     
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  8. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    David Eddings wrote about several sorcerers who were thousands of years old... I think the oldest was about 7,000. He didn't have their longevity changing their personalities much, just adding the wisdom of lots of experience.

    I think it depends on the sort of person you start with... if you give a corrupt person immortality or near-immortality, you're going to find they become a lot more corrupt. On the other hand, if you give it to a trustworthy person, it's less likely to corrupt their basic nature.
     
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  9. Edankyn

    Edankyn Minstrel

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    That would be The Lone Drow and the elf he is speaking to is Innovindel.

    This is an interesting perspective. I happen to feel exactly the opposite. I love trying to make these sort of alien characters somewhat relatable, and they feature prominently in my WIP. However I don't like the idea of magicians being able to extend their life even relatively easily. For me magic is all about the costs associated with it. To extend one person's life requires the death of another or some similarly large expense. For me that's what makes those characters so intriguing. They are somehow able to justify sacrificing others in order to sustain themselves. One group of characters in my story have lived for around thirteen hundred years and in order to do so have killed upwards of twenty people each just to preserve their own life force. This sort of callousness allows me to expand them as characters and also explore the depths of what magic will allow (being that they place such little value on the life of others). In the end I think that these characters share a remarkable resemblance to some large scale corporations which is an interesting dynamic to have and can really help build tension in the story.
     
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  10. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    I deal with immortal characters a fair bit in my stories, what with writing vampires, elves and Fae. I haven't really gone into how they deal with immortality, except for the Fae -- they get bored easily, and typically pass the time by toying with mortals, with varying levels of cruelty. Some are only mischief-makers, while others torment their human toys and even kill them. Needless to say, they're not very well-liked among humans as a rule, with a few exceptions. A few Fae have befriended mortals rather than tried to harm them.
     
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  11. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    A manga that seems to revolve around various immortals has recently started, it only have a couple chapters out at the moment, but they're really good. It's called UQ Holder! UQ Holder! Manga - Read UQ Holder! Online at MangaHere.com and is a sequel to Negima.

    Furthermore, one of my friends has recently started a role playing site where one of the major character types are particularly good or evil people who getting chosen by one of two god-like beings. They're given immortality and cool supernatural powers: After the Eclipse

    For my immortal character on the role play site I linked, while the site and character are still pretty new at the moment and still developing, I intend to give her a viewpoint that is rather, hm.... is insular the right word? She primarily concerns herself with other immortals or other groups with powers, whether they're the mutants or the guys with the alien power armor. She'll help out regular humans if she comes across one in trouble, but she doesn't go out of her way to deal with threats to regular humans like she would with threats to immortals.
     
  12. Lord Ben

    Lord Ben Minstrel

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    I had a story idea dealing with this actually? Ever watch Sopranos with the Mobster seeking Psychiatric help to deal with issues? Basically that type of story set in the real world where people aren't aware of immortals. The MC is maybe a student who writes a research paper on dealing with immortality in school or something similar and it catches the eye of an underground connection of immortals of the various genres and he gets sucked into their world and politics and explores the different ways different people cope with immortality, learns their stories, etc.

    I don't have much experience with metal healthcare so I doubt I could write with any authority on the subject but it's one of those things I would think would be ripe for an audience. Serialized novellas or something with each immortal patient being it's own story while part of the characters story.

    I think it would cause a lot of issues but eventually you'd get over them because you'd learn to adapt. I also think you'd go through phases where you might become super wealthy but then give it all away and start over because you think it might be an interesting challenge and you're not going anywhere, etc. This is assuming a world of mortals and immortality is unique. People are people though and the differences are going to be as varied as anyone has it. Some people react to struggles in life and overcome them, some are overcome by them.
     
  13. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    One of the things mentioned in this thread, and which I've thought about myself as well is that dealing with immortality would be easier if you had a purpose - a reason to go on.

    There are great purposes and great tasks that would take millennia to complete, but not everyone is suited for that kind of thing. Sometimes you just need a hobby - something to pass the time. I've mused a bit on this as well and thought of a few things an immortal with nothing better to do could occupy themselves with the while away the centuries (other suggestions are welcome).

    - Breeding/genetic engineering.
    Similar to humans breeding race horses or hunting/fighting dogs elves may be interested in breeding creatures. With being immortal the elves will have the time to cultivate animals and plants into whatever their vision desires. Depending on their skill/affinity for healing magic they may be able to magic to assist in this process. (Blog - Art - Odd Lands Wiki - Evolution and Intelligent Design - Odd Lands Wiki - Mossparden - Odd Lands Wiki)

    - Human cultivation
    Similar to breeding but applied to humans. The elf attaches themselves to a human family and guide/assist them in improving their social standing throughout the generations. The higher a family can raise and the longer it can maintain its position there, the more respect the supporting elf would get from their peers. (no article written on this topic yet).
     
  14. Lord Ben

    Lord Ben Minstrel

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    If at any point in your immortality 1000+ years ago or more you bred with mortals you're going to count nearly everyone on earth as a descendant.

    On average, 40 generations from "now" (800-1200 years) you'll have about a trillion descendants. If "now" happened a thousand years ago and you're still around to see it then you'll be related to nearly everyone and through multiple ways for most of them.

    http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_onlin...ended-from-charlemagne-and-other-royalty.html
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2013
  15. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    Earlier I mentioned David Eddings' 7,000 year old sorcerer, and that's what kept him and his nearly immortal fellow sorcerers going... the task that they had to complete. If memory serves, at one point in the story the sorcerer explains to his young protege that everyone lives until all their tasks are done; it's just that his has taken a very long time.
     
  16. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    This is another interesting point: do mortals and immortals interbreed. In my setting they don't mix at all and someone who has a relationship with someone of another race is viewed a bit like someone who'd have a relationship with their dog or cat or pet turtle or whatever - like a complete and raging pervert.

    I went into details about the birthrates of elves as I still want to keep the elven population relatively small. I got a lot of good feeback on that in another thread, but I can't recall its name at the moment. As I dimly recall elven women would be fertile between the age of 200 and 800 years or so. The majority of them would not become pregnant more than once and of those who did, most would only have one child. I also had some thoughts about whether the majority of elven women would opt out of pregnancy completely but I don't remember what I decided on that.
     
  17. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    It's quite common for Fae to interbreed with humans. Some stay with their human lovers in the Earthworld for a while (and very often just up and leave when they find another lover, or when the child grows toward puberty), while some take their lovers back to Faerie with them, with the result that the humans eventually turn part-Fae themselves, making mortality not a problem anymore. Also very common is Fae taking human babies or young children as their own, and often swapping their own frail, sickly children for the human parents to raise.
     
  18. Edankyn

    Edankyn Minstrel

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    Not necessarily. As was mentioned in the link you posted, there is evidence that suggests that there have never been a trillion people on earth, so there is obviously a ton of crossover between the lines when you start going back that many generations. Additionally, the article points out that if you are of European descent you can most likely trace your lineage back to Charlemagne. What about those of Native American, Latino or Asian decent. A sizable portion of the earth's total population today fits into those categories which are divided primarily by geography. In your story you could easily create geographic obstacles that would separate immortal progeny from the rest of the population. Another possibility would be that of the Egyptian Pharaohs. It is fairly well documented that they resorted to inbreeding to keep the blood lines "pure". It's conceivable that an immortal would have a similar desire and could manage his descendants to ensure a similar outcome.

    Now all of this is not to say that you don't bring up a valid point because I really do think it's important to think of long term consequences in world building, but there is a large amount of freedom that author's have to control these outcomes while remaining consistent with examples from the real world--not even to mention the plethora of conceivable explanations that an author could invent to remain consistent within their own fantasy setting.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2013
  19. Lord Ben

    Lord Ben Minstrel

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    Yeah, more avenues to avoid it but if one of your millions of kids heads off to another region of the world within a score of generations there is billion of them in that new region of the world too. It's the basic concept of the Most Common Recent Ancestor. It's basically that either everyone will be a descendent of yours or nobody will. No middle ground with enough time having passed. Julius Caesar had two kids, one was killed early on and the other died in childbirth. So even 80 generations later he doesn't have a trillions and trillions of ancestors.. he has zero (or perhaps trillions again if you count any potential illegitimate children).

    From the perspective of a Roman Legionnaire with kids who finds himself an accidental immortal his progeny might spread over a good chunk of the known world, especially within a couple generations if the empire is alive.. 1300 years later it's a virtual certainty one of his "trillion" ancestors (with each person counting multiple times) is going to be heading over to China with Marco Polo, to the New World with an explorer, moving on south through Africa one village at a time, etc. A couple thousand years is a LONG time for even one person of countless millions to move it's way into a new region, etc.

    Lets say you're telling a story in which some immortal can still fall in love and have children with a mortal. How does he feel about marrying his great*13 granddaughter? How much does a child born between their union matter to him when nearly the entire known world is his grandchild to some small degree or another. Perhaps genealogy is a fun game of his to determine how they're related. In a world of magic it's as simple as "cast determine family tree connection" spell.

    Genealogy and math are fun subjects to me, when I see a story about time travel into the distant future or ancient past it's amusing to think they're probably related to nearly everyone in the story. Obviously no familial resemblance but the connection persists anyway.

    I couldn't recite it, but I know someone who I'm 3rd cousins 4th removed with and he has a chart somewhere showing how the line traces up to Charlemagne. So kneel at my royal feet you unworthy peasants!
     
  20. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Imagine having to come with verses for all the Christmas gifts for that many grandchildren.
     
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