Saturday, November 27, 2010

What happens after you die?

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume that after a person dies, that’s it. Their mind and personality cease to exist in any form and what remains is a corpse - ruling out regeneration, reincarnation and so on. I’m also going to assume that said corpse isn’t going to be reanimated, so no zombies.

But there are a lot of other things that can happen to corpses. In Margaret Weis’s and Tracy Hickman’s DragonLance novels, I always enjoyed reading about the draconians, because they gave rise to such interesting effects when they died. Bronze draconians explode, brass ones turn to stone (trapping any weapons that might be impaling them) and copper ones turn to pools of acid.

Such things could happen to humans or humanoid creatures as well. It’s an advantage for your corpse to cause damage to whoever kills you. Bodies could turn to clouds of poisonous gases, become white-hot or metamorphose into swarms of stinging insects.

Corpses might also turn into something neutral – ashes, salt, ice, metal, etc (reminds me of the story of Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt). I like the idea of a cadaver turning to beautiful crystal. And it would be interesting to see their society’s attitude to the use of materials obtained from such post-mortem events.

Or they might give rise to new organisms, depending on how they died. Drowning turns them into fish or merfolk, while being burned alive makes them into salamanders.

What if bodies didn’t decompose? They don’t have to, in a fantasy world. They might still be vulnerable to fire and acid and so on; they just wouldn’t decompose of their own accord. And they might then be stored away safely as-is if the person’s family can afford it.

If they can’t, on the other hand, the corpses are going to be used for other purposes. For instance, they might make good habitats for other organisms, like the humanoid versions of seashells.

I’d be fine with any of the above except for something else living in my body, especially if it tried to pass itself off as me. Or worse, if it succeeded.


Maria Zannini said...

And then there are the Zoroastrians who leave the body exposed so the crows can eat it.

I never thought about 'after death'. The idea of a body turning to crystal or gas is very appealing as a precept of a fantasy culture.

Good topic!

gypsyscarlett said...

I also really like your idea of one's body to turning to crystal. Your question about how society would deal with the concept of using it for decorative art is definitely an intriguing one.

DRC said...

Hmmm...Interesting. Food for thought (in a society where the human cadaver supplies other citizens with the nutrients they need...)

Marian Perera said...

Maria - As well as the Biblical reference, that was inspired by those companies which say they'll make a diamond out of your loved one's creamted remains.

Tasha - Thanks! We take it for granted that dead bodies need to be cleaned and tidied before they're viewed or laid to rest, and it's always fun to flip that kind of expectation on its head.

DRC - And if you are what you eat... humanity wouldn't have changed at all.