Mortimer Gray’s History of Death
by Brian Stableford;
1995 / 67 pages
Rating: A+ (sci-fi/novella)
Mortimer Gray is an earth historian in the early 29th century who is concerned primarily with death – specifically, he thinks that the great progress of humankind developed because of a fear of death.
He has first hand experience with near death when a seismic event happens and he and a small girl are trapped in ship at sea. They escape but few others do. And he goes on to start writing his multi-volume “History of Death.”
The chapters in this novella alternate between Mortimer in the 1st person describing his life, and a 3rd person describing the volumes of History of Death as they are published. The styles are somewhat different but the tone of each is lovely, calm and reflective or simple reportage.
At first, Mortimer can expect to live in the neighborhood of 300 years but as he lives his life, within marriages but usually alone, in Europe or the South Pacific or Antarctica – wherever, he considers this issue of death and how mankind has fought it through the centuries in all sorts of ways from religion and technology and sanitation and war. This goes against any need for natural selection because the point of that is longevity and domination. Death is not really eliminated because accidents still happen and people still choose it.
There does exist an opposing group called the Thanatics which support a natural death and that support grows to public executions. Mortimer considers himself a “neo-epicurian” a “moderate hedonist,” and opposed this kind of exhibitionism, although does accept the idea that people can decide for themselves. .
Over the course of his long, long life he meets people and becomes famous and when that dims becomes a hermit. He meets others, moves, and writes his books.
There is a very satisfying conclusion.