REINCARNATION
   The idea of reincarnation exerts a considerable fascination; its fashionability has recently been renewed by hypnotists who claim to facilitate a "regression" of their subjects which allows access to memories of "former lives". Serial reincarnation is one of the standard varieties of IMMORTALITY. In FANTASY the notion is an axiom of the curious subgenre of "transcendental romance" - stories in which love becomes a quasisupernatural force transcending time or death so that lovers may meet in different ages to make repeated attempts to find true happiness. This is the pattern of H. Rider HAGGARD's She (1887) and its sequels, Edwin Lester ARNOLD's Phra the Phoenician (1890) and George GRIFFITH's Valdarthe Oft-Born (1895). Arnold's Lepidus the Centurion (1901) shows one of the more subtle and intelligent uses of the notion. Many romances of reincarnation have also been inspired by the ancient Egyptian methods of preserving the dead, including Haggard's "Smith and the Pharaohs" (1912; as title story of Smith and the Pharaohs and Other Tales coll 1920). PSEUDO-SCIENTIFIC rationalizations of the notion often invoke the conceptof "race memory"; Haggard bolstered his belief with this idea, deploying it in The Ancient Allan (1920) and Allan and the Ice Gods (1927), and Jack LONDON used it in Before Adam (1906) and The Star Rover (1915; vt TheJacket). The most impressive sf story built on the race-memory premise is John GLOAG's 99% (1944).Camille FLAMMARION, the first writer to develop the notion of ALIEN beings adapted to LIFE ON OTHER WORLDS, did so mainly in order to support his theory of the immortality of the soul with speculations about possible reincarnations on other worlds. First presented in Lumen (1864; exp 1887; trans 1897), the idea was used also in Urania (1890) and was copied by Louis Pope GRATACAP in the didactic TheCertainty of a Future Life on Mars (1903).Hugh KINGSMILL reincarnated Shakespeare in The Return of William Shakespeare (1929) so that a critical commentary on the works could be put into the Bard's own mouth and bracketed by a satirical comedy. When GENRE SF began to deploy technological methods of reincarnation, the resurrection of great men of the past was a theme used in many stories, including Manly Wade WELLMAN's Giants from Eternity (1939), Ray BRADBURY's "Forever and the Earth"(1950), James BLISH's "A Work of Art" (1956), R.A. L AFFERTY's Past Master (1968), Philip K. DICK's We Can Build You (1972), Barry N. MALZBERG's THE REMAKING OF SIGMUND FREUD (1985) and Dan SIMMONS's The Fall of Hyperion (1990). Henry J. SLATER's The Smashed World (1952) features a remarkable version of the Eternal Triangle involving Archimedes, Napoleon and Cleopatra 3000 years in the future. In Anne Rice's The Mummy, or Ramsesthe Damned (1989) an immortal Ramses forces the reincarnation of the spirit of Cleopatra into the mummy of that queen, with disastrous results - not just for Ramses but also for the novel, since the explanation of the"mechanism" of reincarnation is hopelessly fudged.Reincarnation in sf usually involves the "recording" of personalities for later re-embodiment, sometimes in an ANDROID body. TIME TRAVEL also comes in handy as a means of duplicating individuals. The idea that CLONES might be seen as reincarnations is propounded in such stories as "When You Care, When You Love" (1962) by Theodore STURGEON, and in several of the works of JohnVARLEY clones are used such that in effect individuals can cheat death by living in "serial bodies". MATTER TRANSMISSION is employed as a reincarnating device in such stories as Algis BUDRYS's ROGUE MOON (1960). The natural extravagance of genre sf has occasionally encouraged a blithedisregard for the inconvenience of death; two writers who have sometimes been very casual about incorporating metaphysical or frankly mysterious methods of reincarnation into their scenarios are A.E. VAN VOGT, in such works as The Book of Ptath (1943; 1947; vt Two Hundred Million A.D.), The World of A (1945; 1948; vt The World of Null-A) and "The Monster" (1948;vt "Resurrection"), and Philip Jose FARMER, most notably in the Riverworld series-which stars many notable figures plucked from various eras of Earthly history, and helped to inspire Janet E. MORRIS's Hell series ofshared-world adventures - but also in Inside Outside (1964) and Traitor to the Living (1973).The particular ideas of reincarnation contained in extant RELIGIONS are sciencefictionalized in various works by Roger ZELAZNY, notably LORD OF LIGHT (1967), whose framework is taken from HinduMYTHOLOGY, and Creatures of Light and Darkness (1969), which uses Egyptian mythology. Syd LOGSDON's A Fond Farewell to Dying (1981) thoughtfully confronts a technology of reincarnation with Hindu beliefs which view it as a blasphemy. An aesthetically satisfying quasireligious "mechanism" for reincarnation is presented in the parapsychological thriller Death Knell (1977) by C. Terry CLINE. Alien biologies permitting reincarnation,perhaps adaptable to use by humans, are sometimes presented within an explicitly religious framework; Robert SILVERBERG's Downward to the Earth (1970) is a notable example.Future societies dramatically transformed bytechnologies of reincarnation are featured in Robert SHECKLEY's Immortality, Inc (1959), in which disembodied minds must compete forbodies made redundant by their occupiers for one reason or another, Silverberg's To Live Again (1969), in which similarly disembodied mindsmust share living hosts, Robert THURSTON's Alicia II (1978), which examines the predicament of the "rejects" whose bodies are used to house the reincarnated, Stephen GOLDIN's The Eternity Brigade (1980), in which the tapes recording trained soldiers for serial reincarnation are bootlegged, with predictable consequences, and Michael BERLYN's Crystal Phoenix (1980), in which attitudes to death are dramatically andrepulsively transformed. In Gray Matters (1971) by William HJORTSBERG and Friends Come in Boxes (1973) by Michael G. CONEY minds awaitingre-embodiment are mechanically-and not very happily - stored. Silverberg's "Born with the Dead" (1974), Lucius SHEPARD's Green Eyes (1984) and KevinJ. ANDERSON's Resurrection, Inc (1988) all draw some inspiration from the idea of zombies, but develop their hypotheses in strikingly different ways.
   BS

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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