Hello & welcome back to the Friday Fiction Feature! This week we’ll be diving into some uncharted territory. We’ve explored demons, monsters, holidays, children, & other scary things, but this time, we’re diving into the final frontier. No, not space, the afterlife. Now of course this is an academic forum & Tabatha likes her skin too much to risk losing it by making theological statements online, so the theology will be entirely in the hands of the characters themselves. These charming tour guides will each show you their version life, the afterlife, & those messy transitional bits in between.
Divine Misfortune by A. Lee Martinez
What better way to start off this week’s theme than with a novel that lets you chat up the gods themselves? The idea of a interested & caring god goes to new levels in Divine Misfortune, a world where the gods are not only a regular part of the day, but present enough to be irritating. These gods will help with your insurance premiums, make your grass greener, get you a promotion, throw parties for the other deities in your living room…crash on your couch.
Divine Misfortune is a story of gods and mortals—in worship, in love, and at parties.
Teri and Phil had never needed their own personal god. But when Phil is passed up for a promotion – again-it’s time to take matters into their own hands. And look online.
Choosing a god isn’t as simple as you would think. There are too many choices; and they often have very hefty prices for their eternal devotion: blood, money, sacrifices, and vows of chastity. But then they found Luka, raccoon god of prosperity. All he wants is a small cut of their good fortune.
Oh — and can he crash on their couch for a few days?
Throw in a heartbroken love goddess and an ancient deity bent on revenge and not even the gods can save Teri and Phil.
Necropolis (Matt Richter #1) by Tim Waggoner
Not all deities, devils, & supernatural beings are as welcome in the mortal coil as Divine Misfortune‘s eponymous couch surfers. Most supernatural beasties (of good or bad temperament) are not allowed in the ‘real’ world with all those squeamish humans, and there’s not much of a social life to be had in afterlife’s which only admit of one god at a time, so Necropolis had to be built to house all the homeless all-powerful. Of course a single city filled with all the supernatural powers (un)known to man is subject to its own particular issues. Fortunately they have Matt Richter the zombified private investigator to keep an eye on things & show us around.
A home for all of those creatures that go bump in the night.
Centuries ago, when Earth’s Darkfolk — vampires, werewolves, witches and other creatures — were threatened by humanity, they departed our planet’s dimension and journeyed to a shadowy realm, where they built the great city of Necropolis. Matthew Adrion is an Earth cop who came through a portal to Necropolis on a case, died, and was resurrected as a zombie. Unable to return home, he works as a private investigator on the very mean streets of this shadowy, dark city.
Armageddon: The Musical (Armageddon #1) by Robert Rankin
While the rest of us are busy trying to plan for our afterlives & gussying ourselves up for that first meeting with our chosen almighties, an impatient few have decided to take no part in all of this ‘wait & see’ business & want to hurry the whole process along. Ready to meet those godly incarnations now, even if it means catching them in a TV haze, these folks want to see Armageddon! That said, they’re not so rushed that they can’t appreciate the fine touches; every planet-ending-catastrophe needs some drama, some good dramatic music and…synchronized dancing?
From the point of view of 2050, you’re history
Theological warfare. Elvis on an epic time-travel journey – the Presliad. Buddhavision – a network bigger than God (and more powerful, too). Nasty nuclear leftovers. Naughty sex habits. Dalai Dan (the 153rd reincarnation of the Lama of that ilk) and Barry, the talkative Time Sprout. Even with all this excitement, you wouldn’t think a backwater planet like Earth makes much of a splash in the galatic pond.
But the soap opera called The Earthers is making big video bucks in the intergalactic ratings race. And alien TV execs know exactly what the old earth drama needs to make the off-world audience sit up and stare: a spectacular Armageddon-type finale. With a cast of millions – including you! DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL – IT’S GONNA BE A HELLUVA SHOW!
Brains: A Zombie Memoir by Robin Becker
Of course it wouldn’t be a supernatural Fiction Feature without zombies; what a monstrous mistake that would be (ha! get it monsterous! Hoo hee I crack me up). One very important version of the afterlife is simply the beforelife part 2. Now I don’t know about you, but I have very little interest in a beforelife part 2 where all I do is shuffle around & eat my neighbors. Boring. (Besides, I like my neighbors). Brains: A Zombie Memoir shows us an alternative to the zombie lifestyle. No more shuffling off the mortal coil only to keep on shuffling, these zombies think talk, laugh, pursue goals (no not brains!), and form the typical post-apocalyptic survivor group (minus the ‘survivor’ part). So, if you’re not sure you want one of those in-your-face-on-you-couch-walking-down-the-street deities cluttering up your afterlife, consider joining this ragtag group in their beforelife.
College-professor-cum-zombie Jack Barnes is a different breed of undead—he can think. In fact, he can even write. And the story he has to tell is a truly disturbing—yet strangely heartwarming—one.
Convinced he’ll bring about a peaceful coexistence between zombies and humans if he can demonstrate his unique condition to Howard Stein, the man responsible for the zombie virus, Barnes sets off on a grueling cross-country journey to meet his maker. Along the way he recruits a small army of “super” zombies that will stop at nothing to reach their goal. There’s Guts, the dreadlocked boy who can run like the wind; Joan, the matronly nurse adept at reattaching decaying appendages; Annie, the young girl with a fierce quick-draw; and Ros, who can actually speak. United they embark on an epic quest to attain what all men, women—and, apparently, zombies—yearn for: equality.
Brains is a blood-soaked, darkly humorous story that will have readers rooting for Barnes and his zombie posse to the very end.
Final Exits: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of How We Die by Michael Largo
Finally, I thought we’d wrap up all this theology with some perspective. And statistics! We can discuss theology until we’re blue in the face (or, in the case of a few of this week’s protagonists, grey), but at the end of the day, no matter which ending you are rooting for, no one gets to find out & do their patented I-was-right-about-death victory dance without making a brief stopover at Death’s door first. Since our afterlives as zombies, ghosts, boggiemen & women, or otherworldly horrors must all begin with death, death seems a good place to end. And so without further ado, I will leave you with Final Exits & an interesting look at the more creative ways you can kick off to your own personalized afterlife with a bang. Or a bzzzzz. Or a ‘hhrrk’ Or an ‘aaaaaa!’ Or a…you know what, you’ll just have to read the book.
To die, kick the bucket, to meet your Maker, dead as a doornail, get whacked, smoked, bite the dust, sleep with the fishes, go six feet under—whatever death is called, it’s going to happen. In 1789 Ben Franklin wrote, “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Death remains a certainty. But how do we die? It’s the enormous variety of how that enlivens final exits.
According to death certificates, in 1700 there were less than 100 causes of death. Today there are 3,000. With each advance of technology, people find new ways to become deceased, often causing trends that peak in the first year. People are now killed by everything, from cell phones, washing machines, lawn mowers and toothpicks, to the boundless catalog of man—made medicines.
In Final Exits the causes of death—bizarre or common—are alphabetically arranged and include actual accounts of people, both famous and ordinary, who unfortunately died that way. (Ants, bad words, Bingo, bean bag chairs, flying cows, frozen toilets, hiccups, lipstick, moray eels, road kill, starfish, and toupees are only some of the more unusual causes.)