The Generic Villain on Immortality

“I shall live forever!” you say, reaching to the heavens or grasping at a new source of power. You’ve found the Fountain of Youth, learned how to tie your life force to an object, gotten a wish and decided you want to be impossible to kill, and everything is absolutely perfect.

Yeah. Right. Come back to my successor’s successor in a couple hundred years and say that again.

It’s logical to want to live forever. Nobody wants to not exist, and certainly nobody wants to stop having an impact on the world. But there are certain logistics to contend with, and those are where the issue’s going to sink its jagged teeth right into you.

First off—I don’t have personal experience with this, but I’ve been told by people who’ve been there—immortality is dead boring. After a while, you’ve been there, done that, invented a couple variations, tried it backwards to see if it works any better, and you’re running out of ideas. And that’s if you get to keep your operating speed. In a lot of cases, perception shifts to match lifespan, so it feels the same length—and that means that people who are living at normal rates are just zipping past you. Not fun, particularly not if you’re one of those people who does the attachment thing.

Second, if you’re an adrenaline junkie, it’s going to screw you up to no end. It’s all very well in the beginning, sure—imagine the things you can try because you know you can’t fail! But if you can’t die, these risky things can’t kill you. (Yeah, I know, being Captain Obvious here. Let me finish.) And if they can’t kill you, then where’s the risk? Sure, you can go jump off the highest mountain in the world just to say you did, but you’re not going to get the same I’m-gonna-die rush out of it. Moreover, if you’ve got a regenerative immortality rather than an invulnerability immortality, that means you’re still pasting yourself on the rock face, you’re just not dying from it. That has got to hurt.

Third, what happens if you lose anyway? Just because you’re immortal doesn’t mean you can’t be defeated, just that you won’t die. The best-case scenario is that they don’t learn you secret, and you make a hobby of engineering “She can’t possibly have survived that!” scenarios by which you can make your escape. Should keep you entertained a few years, at least. The worst is that they figure it out, and they manage to capture you and put you in something you won’t escape from. You know what’s worse than a lifetime trying to keep yourself amused in a world that isn’t adapted to your lifespan? A lifetime trying to keep yourself amused when you’re stuck in an itty bitty cell or an Evil-Sealing Can.

And that presupposes you can even get the variety of immortality you want. For some reason, the semantics on immortality are one of the most quibbled-over parts of the Laws of Dramatics the multiverse has ever known. Ask for eternal life for someone, they end up as a grasshopper, or spend the ages asleep, or if they’re lucky just have an eternity of arthritis, cataracts and constipation ahead of them. Or you get one of those people that thinks “immortal” just means “won’t die of old age”, and you don’t figure out that’s their definition until you’ve got a sword through your ribs and it’s all going black. If you must go for immortality, read the small print, get someone else to double-check it, and run it by your five-year-old just to be sure.

If you want to live forever, think it over first. It’s a lot easier to arrange than it is to undo.

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