Posts Tagged With: Death

Death in the Pages

There’s been a death in my family.

Death always comes as a shock, even when the individual sits at his door for a long time. When it’s obvious someone is going to die–whether it be illness, age, or an injury that can only be repaired so much–you try to prepare yourself for what’s coming. You think that knowing it’s coming will make things easier. That you’ll be able to move on sooner. That it will be less difficult.

But the moment of death still always comes as a shock.

Death is more than a theme or inevitability in fiction. Sometimes, Death is a character all together. But I’ve always had a fondness for a specific portrayal of Death. I’ve always liked the kind Death.

I think Terry Pratchett’s Discworld was my first experience with Death being written in such a way. Although I know he didn’t start out that way, Death–despite bearing the classic appearance of a skeleton in black robes, wielding a massive scythe–was a kind and personable being who cared for the souls he collected. His later iterations never showed him cutting someone’s life short, but rather guiding their souls after they had already died.

During his life, Sir Terry received many letters about his portrayal of Death. Some of those letters were from the terminally ill, thanking him for this version and hoping that Death was truly as the author imagined him.

I don’t care for the cruel Death. The Reaper. The Horseman of the Apocalypse. Any iterations where Death harvests souls like a heartless machine.

Give me the kind Death.

Give me the Death who doesn’t seek out souls to reap, but merely comes to collect them, to sever them from their mortal coils and guide them to wherever they need to go. The Death that cares for humanity and wants them to feel secure in what comes next.

Give me the Death that makes you feel there’s justice in the world when it all ends. The Death that doesn’t take from us, but ensures those we love are brought to a place they can be eternally happy…and those who make the world so harsh are punished justly.

Life is hard enough. Life can be cruel.

So, in fiction? I am glad Death has the option not to be.

Categories: musings, On Writing | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Things Research Brings

Can I talk about the Victorians? You bet I can.

Writing a series that takes place in an alternate version of Victorian era London (with some jumps into other locales) means I’ve had to do research. Whenever you write about a time you never lived in or cultures you’re not part of, you need to do extensive research. Yes, research can be boring. Different topics are interesting to different people—I’m not the most attentive person when it comes to wars and rebellion or science—but everyone can find that one topic that is just utterly fascinating and makes them jitter like a caffeinated squirrel.

One of my chapters required research on Victorian era funeral practices. I haven’t been to many modern day funerals, but I expected Victorian ones wouldn’t be much different.

It is absolutely delightful how obsessed with death these people were. The Ancient Egyptians applaud their efforts.

There were burial clubs, many of which persuaded people to reach beyond their means for the most expensive funerals possible. Families took morbid photographs alongside their deceased loved ones, propping the corpse up like a doll and painting eyes on the corpse’s eyelids. You could get jewelry made with a strand of hair from your dead loved one. There was mourning attire, and you were expected to wear it. They had periods of mourning and half-mourning, which varied depending on how you were related to the deceased. There were superstations that revolved around death: seeing yourself in a dream meant you would die soon, not stopping a clock in a death room brought bad luck, if you didn’t hold your breath while passing a graveyard you wouldn’t be buried.

Death in the Victorian era is absolutely fascinating, but all of these fails to excite me as much as something I learned about only a few days ago.

Death. Nightclubs.

In the late Victorian era, especially in Paris, there were places you could go to celebrate death. The Cabaret du Néant (The Cabaret of Nothingness) served drinks named after diseases and customers drank off coffins and caskets.

Cabaret of Nothingness

There were also two of these nightclubs taking cues from Dante, one being the Inferno and the other being Paradiso. The Cabaret de l’Enfer (The Cabaret of the Inferno) was right next to the Cabaret du Ciel (The Cabaret of the Sky). Both these clubs were decorated and had servers and musicians to fit their themes.

Cabaret of the Inferno and Cabaret of the Sky

I’d have loved to see one of these. It’s fiendishly cool what kinds of things you can uncover with research and what those things will inspire.

Read More Here

Categories: Cool stuff, research findings, Victorian Era | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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