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October 27 2010

10 Great Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories That Deal With Death. A list of the greatest tales that help people deal with Death. Features "The Body", calling it the greatest television episode to deal with death.

Was about to post this too. Got teary just reading about the episode.
This is the hardest episode for me to watch. It calls up, with scary precision, memories of my dad's death and how it felt to wait it out in the ER waiting rooms. Not putting any music in the background adds to the surreality of the situation. Very well done episode, but not one I can watch as often as the rest of the series.
On the episode: Yeah, the feelings are spot on. The situation itself... not so much for me. All my intimate experiences with death have been of the long, drawn out, "watching the one you love gradually disappear into someplace where you can't engage or follow" kind. That concept of "gone" is one that my being has never really managed to understand. It just remains weird, the "someone not being there when they should." No other piece ever fits the place they left behind.

In other stories: The concept of a Speaker for the Dead in the novel of the same name by Orson Scott Card has always resonated with me. I hated the novel (due to the weird religious stuff) and I was greatly disappointed to read it after loving "Ender's Game" so much. But... that concept of someone getting to the true heart of a person's life after they died, and then speaking their truth out loud, in front of everyone left behind? That was great. I wish it was a real cultural practice.
I admire many of the books on this list, but perhaps only "the Body" can rival "The Wee Free Men." Pratchett's Discworld books are a monumental work of insight and inspiration masquerading as something silly.

...a lot like Buffy, actually.
Yes, I think Buffy and Tiffany Aching (well, and Susan Sto Helit, for that matter) have a good bit in common.
It is, and for me personally it is. I lost my father when I was seven years old. Watching "the body" decades later left feeling understood about my loss for the first time.
'The Body's painful because it's true (even though most of my own experiences with the death of loved ones have also been more long drawn-out "dissolutions" rather than sudden losses). That's also what makes it kind of beautiful BTW, in the same sense that any truth about being human - no matter how ugly - is beautiful.

Pratchett's Discworld books are a monumental work of insight and inspiration masquerading as something silly.

Word. What I love about the Tiffany Aching books in particular (apart from the send-up of the Scots ;) is the way Pratchett takes the southern downs and puts them (back) into a mythical context. Nowadays they're seen as gentle, rolling areas, almost the epitome of Blake's "green and pleasant land" and fictionally at least, a poor relation to the more dramatic high country of the north but Pratchett gives them back their teeth (even putting Morris dancers back in their - less silly - pagan rooted place). And death features throughout all the books (though more directly in "The Wee Free Men") since it's stressed time and again that the chalklands where Tiffany lives are basically formed from billions of ancient corpses. Powerful idea that, with a bit of imagination.

Also, sidenote: "and Fantasy". Huzzah ! See how easy that is every other list compiler ? ;)
Great list! Lots of fav's of mine and it reminds me to finally check out Ted Chiang. Will try to get my hand on "Stories of your life and others" shortly.

Also, sidenote: "and Fantasy". Huzzah ! See how easy that is every other list compiler ? ;)
That's how it's done! Though they might want to add 'and horror' too, if they want to be entirely save.
Chiang's great, well worth a read (he just doesn't write enough IMO. He's like the also excellent Eileen Gunn in that respect). And if you try him and like him the Groosalugg then you may also like the aforementioned Gunn and/or Greg Egan's short stories (some of his novels are also good but more hit and miss than his shorts).
Good to hear you think Chiang is great, Saje. I'm a bit swamped now anyway, so 'excellent but not enough' sounds perfect for now. And thanks for the other recommendations.

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