November 9, 2013

Pod and Planet: Commentary on Immortality

Taking His Medicine is one of two stories that sprung to mind when brainstorming for the Pod and Planet Fiction Contest.  The other one, tentatively titled Demonslayer is still just a bunch of notes that perhaps can be transformed into a story by the time the next contest comes around.

Both stories revolve around the meaning of capsuleer immortality when put into the context of a universe full of life rather than the narrow strictures of a videogame.  The immortality of a capsuleer has a big hole in it - it only applies when your death comes while plugged into your pod.  Once caught up in the idea of being immortal, always able to jump into a fresh clone body unscarred by whatever you did to the last one, the prospect of losing your life could turn your psychology into something decidedly inhuman.  Why in the name of all that is holy would you want to go about Walking In Stations when some fool baseliner could end your life out of jealous with the stroke of a knife or the twitch of a trigger?  Why would you dare eat food prepared out of your sight?

This isn't even getting into the hatred leveled against our average capsuleer.  Whether a mission-runner or a nullsec warrior, a capsuleer will have been responsible for the destruction of billions of ISK of ships and the termination of hundreds of thousands of lives.  The only capsuleers without this burden are the station-dwelling trading and industry types - perhaps they are the only sane ones.  After all, they grow rich out of the spotlight, with the benefit of being able to spend that ISK while jumping from one perfect clone body to the next.

Also consider that the capsuleer experience is a very recent thing in the broader picture of the society.  Ten years is nothing - not even a generation.  The first volunteers for the pods, probably primarily twenty-something year old military officers, are now thirty-something years old.  The long-term effects of being a capsuleer is only just being seen.

For a video game we want to ignore these things.  It's a good excuse for why we get to restart the game after losing a fight without having to roll up a new character.  As fiction writers there is a big choice here: to stick with the narrower video game vision and handwave these things, allowing our heroes and heroines to be glamorous movers and shakers.  There's a darker choice that I've made here, where the weight of the "reality" of immortality is felt crashing down.

The newer DUST-style Templar implants offer a better option.  With such implants the world does open up for capsuleers.  Our characters could dare to walk around in stations and partake of normal pleasures - though what pleasures are normal for the immortal?

The fantasy genre has long played with the immortal POV character, particularly since Anne Rice brought vampires to a newer and wider audience.  The Eve capsuleer may put a science-fiction wrapping on some of the same themes explorer by many writers of vampire tales and RPGs since then.  As readers and writers we may enjoy that our capsuleers are more able to enjoy their food, drink, and sex - and they are certainly no less blood stained.  The same things that made the vampire genre so rich certainly can make a capsuleer genre compelling.

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