Friday, 19 February 2016


"From delusion, lead me to truth.
"From darkness, lead me to light.
"From death, lead me to immortality."

I adapt this Upanishadic prayer thus:

"From delusion, lead us to truth.
"From darkness, lead us to truth."

I make it collective, not individual, and I differentiate truth and light from immortality. These are different issues.

How do sf characters live long or approach immortality?

The Howard Families are bred for longevity. Lazarus Long is an early Howard, too early for the breeding program to have caused his longevity so he is a mutant. Poul Anderson's Hanno is another. The Remillard family in Julian May's Galactic Milieu have an immortality gene. Other characters benefit from medical technology:

Hugh Valland, antithanatics;
John Amalfi, antiagathics;
Louis Wu, boosterspice;
Torsten Hebo, frequent rejuvenations;
Dominic Flandry, antisenescence.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Of the list of characters from the works of Anderson, Blish, and Niven whose lives were extended by medical technology, I found Dominic Flandry's case the most convincing. That is, the "antisenescence" we see in the Technic Civilization stories does not give its beneficiaries implausibly extended lifespans. The most I've seen in those stories was how it allowed people to live in good health and vigor up to about age 100, 110, or 120.

Mind you, I don't think it's necessarily impossible advances in medical science may extend human life spans in our real history, I simply don't think it would be for more than 150 at the most. In THE HARVEST OF STARS books genetically unmodified humans could hope to live about 130 years (genetically modified Lunarians about 140-50 years).

And, of course, there's the problem of memory overload driving people mad if they lived a thousand years or more. I admire how Poul Anderson seems to be one of the very SF writers who thought of that (which he did even as early in his writing career as 1951 in his story "Pact").

I'm frankly surprised that even S.M. Stirling does not seem to have thought of the memory overload problem in his four Draka books. THE STONE DOGS and DRAKON shows us how the Draka and their most favored serfs received life extending treatments, which if continued, could give them "indefinite" life spans. But no mention is made of how memory overload could lead to insanity or how it was handled.

Btw, in Jerry Pournelle's Co-Dominium/Empire of Man stories, people in that time line could receive life extending medical treatments. I think they could live up to about age 140. Such treatments are mentioned in THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE and THE GRIPPING HAND.

And, of course, death has theological implications. While the bodies of men are naturally mortal, death was not what God had originally destined for us. God had planned for the first man and woman (whom we might as well call Adam and Eve) and all their descendants to have immortal lifespans on CONDITION of the first parents not failing a test of obedience God gave them. However, as Wisdom 2.24 says: "But, by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are in his possession experience it."

But, our first parents were given a hint or promise of One to come who would overcome the malice of the devil and the consequences of man's sin. Moreover, as John 3.16 explicitly says, God would not forever leave mankind to endless death: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that those who believe in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting."