Recently Tor.com premiered The Last Mortician, a comic written by my friend Tim Hall (author of Half Empty; see my review here) and illustrated by Dean Haspiel. You can learn more about its creation in this video, but I wanted to ask Tim some specific things about the story, which will involve spoilers. So we’ll wait while you go read the comic and watch the video. Then come back here for the Q&A.
Me: On page 5, the figure speaking against immortality is identified as a religious leader (and bears more than a passing physical resemblance to Billy Graham). He also comes out against immortality after he’s achieved it himself. Is he sincere?
Tim: I think he’s about as sincere as any of these Elmer Gantry-type religious grifters can be: i.e., “morality for thee but not for me.” Hypocrisy is an essential feature of such men, not a bug. You also have to realize that almost all such preachers really and truly believe that women are chattel, just reproductive slaves who are the property of their husbands because that’s what the bible tells them. So it’s perfectly keeping with his personality that he would believe he needs to stick around to “lead the flock,” while making sure enough mortal women are around to keep pumping out children…perhaps only men will be allowed the treatment eventually.
When I first read it, page 10 really jumped out at me. Conventional wisdom says that old people–politicians, dictators, war profiteers–start wars, yet here you have a character say, “It was always the younger generation starting wars.” Was that a deliberate inversion, and if so, what does it mean in context?
It was deliberate. And I love that Dean drew a somewhat Rachel Maddow-esque newscritter giving the reply, spreading the hypocrisy around equally, as it deserves to be.
But really, that’s the kind of thing we’re always hearing, every day, from every major news network: when trillions are transferred to the wealthy through bailouts and tax cuts, it’s called “injecting liquidity”; when they take a tiny fraction of that money and save hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs, it’s called “socialism.” When financial crimes are paid for with draconian, monstrous assaults against the lower classes, it’s calmly called “austerity”. When those same lower classes get fed up and protest, like they are now, it’s “class warfare.” The Great Wise Men And Women always find some Other to blame; I suspect absolutely no difference would occur, were the situation of The Last Mortician to come true.
Why doesn’t the mortician kill himself–fear or courage?
I remember a great scene in a Charles Bukowski story. He and another man are talking about a mutual friend, who put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger but the gun jammed. Bukowski asks something like, “Why didn’t he try a second time?” and the other man says, “It takes guts just to try it once.” On page 11 the mortician thinks, “I said I never would…one more mistake won’t matter.” He’s referring to his decision to kill himself, which goes against all his principles and an implied promise he made to his wife to carry on the best he could. I personally believe that life is always the right choice, so I’m going to say it’s courage.
Thanks to Tim for taking time to answer my questions. Again, check out The Last Mortician on Tor.com.