Human Immortality In Literature

Cranes are the chinese symbol of immortality © CEphoto, Uwe Aranas / CC-BY-SA-3.(via Wikimedia Commons)

Cranes are the chinese symbol of immortality © CEphoto, Uwe Aranas / CC-BY-SA-3.(via Wikimedia Commons)

People have always dreamed about immortality. The Epic of Gilgamesh, 4,000 years old and thought to be the first work of literature in human history, is the tale of a seeker of immortality. Gilgamesh, rattled by the death of a friend, goes on a harrowing journey to find out there is a plant at the bottom of a sea that restores youth. He manages to pluck the plant, but a serpent steals it from him while he takes a bath. As a sci-fi writer who is creating characters who actually are biologically immortal, I face a problem.

Two are two basic ways humans become immortal in literature-

Fountain of Youth Fresco in San Miniato, Pisa.
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Supernatural- Immortality in literature has been known to come from fountains of youth, gifts/curses of the gods, or just plain magic. Sometimes a character’s immortality is unexplained or assumed. Vampires and zombies can be dropped into a story without further explanation.

Technological- Most of the modern science fiction I read about biological immortality requires technology, not plants or magic. Whether it’s nano machines that repair damage to aging, technologies that cure disease, or ways to prevent or treat traumatic injury, it’s actually quite convincing.

My problem is the immortal characters in my novel don’t need technology. They have a rare gene that allows them to go into suspended animation and stem cells repair most of the damage from aging, sickness or trauma.

It also means they were living during recent human history and given what we all know and expect about mortality, readers will have a hard time believing it. If it was set far in the future, few would question such regeneration, especially if it were technological.

Yet I’m enjoying  the research that will help make the genetic condition in my novel more believable. I’m closing in on the fourth draft of the novel and I’m nailing the concepts, so many of my future posts will focus on how the fictional gene might work, and eventually, be shared.

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2 responses to “Human Immortality In Literature

  1. I found plant left on bottom of dried sea.phytoplankton.element complete.restores youth when put in fountain.

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