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Immortality in fiction

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– Oldest fictional account of immortality: Epic of Gilgamesh from c. 2100 BCE
– Greek myths depict mortals granted everlasting life by gods
– Chinese fiction features immortality since at least the 1500s
– Historical figures like Nicolas Flamel and Count of St. Germain portrayed as immortals
– Sir Galahad attains immortality through the Holy Grail in Arthurian literature

Immortality explored in Gothic stories in the 1800s
– Science fiction stories about immortality emerged in late 1800s and early 1900s
– Divergent views on immortality emerged in the 1930s
– Authors like Neil R. Jones and Laurence Manning presented immortality as opportunities
– Authors like D. D. Sharp and Damon Knight depicted immortality negatively

– Themes of eternal life explored in various cultures and eras
Immortality portrayed as both a blessing and a curse in literature
– Exploration of immortality’s impact on individuals in different contexts
Immortality as a central theme in religious and mythological texts
– Different perspectives on immortality reflected in fiction

Immortality as a subject of fascination and contemplation in fiction
– Influence of philosophical and religious beliefs on depictions of immortality
Immortality as a vehicle for exploring human desires and fears
– Reflection of societal views on life, death, and the afterlife through immortality themes
Immortality as a tool for examining existential questions and moral dilemmas

– Evolution of immortality themes from ancient myths to modern science fiction
– Shifting attitudes towards immortality in literature over different time periods
– Incorporation of immortality into diverse genres of fiction
– Development of nuanced portrayals of immortality in contemporary literature
– Exploration of ethical implications of immortality in recent fiction

Immortality is a common theme in fiction. The concept has been depicted since the Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest known work of fiction. Originally appearing in the domain of mythology, it has later become a recurring element in the genres of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. For most of literary history, the dominant perspective has been that the desire for immortality is misguided, albeit strong; among the posited drawbacks are ennui, loneliness, and social stagnation. This view was challenged in the 20th century by writers such as George Bernard Shaw and Roger Zelazny. Immortality is commonly obtained either from supernatural entities or objects such as the Fountain of Youth or through biological or technological means such as brain transplants.

A photograph of a clay tablet with cuneiform writing
The Epic of Gilgamesh is the earliest known appearance of the concept of immortality in fiction.
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