Electric Literature takes a look at a few examples of how the science fiction genre has imagined the afterlife.
What happens after we die remains one of humanity’s big questions. While we may be unlikely ever to find a definitive answer, that hasn’t stopped us from trying: nearly every religion has its own take on an afterlife, and tales of people’s journeys to the underworld or the heavens have existed for millennia. Right now, we’re at a moment in time where questions of the afterlife have suffused pop culture. Charlie McDowell’s new film The Discovery hinges on the discovery of scientific proof-of-life after death. The television series The Good Place offers a skewed view of what the afterlife might be like. The acclaimed Black Mirror episode “San Junipero” and the eighth season of Doctor Who offered very different visions of how a technologically-based afterlife could operate. And George Saunders’s first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, riffs on history, mortality, and the weight of one’s time on earth after it’s drawn to a close. Over the years, fiction has wrestled with these same questions, and come up with a narratively compelling (and disparate) series of answers. Here are ten books and stories that offer distinctive takes on afterlives, resurrections, and metaphysical questions about the nature of humanity.