Is America the Afterlife?

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15695408576_f3e40566af_zJ R R Tolkien seemed to think that we go to America when we die. After all, at the end of The Lord of the Rings Frodo and others sail off into the west to eternal life in a beautiful land. Two of the fundamental underpinnings of Tolkien’s work were his Christian beliefs, including heavenly rewards for good people, and the idea that Middle Earth is a sort of pre-historic Europe, from which our modern myths originate. That ship leaving the Grey Havens, it’s taking people to heaven across the Atlantic.

OK, so I’m crossing the streams of Tolkien’s layers of meaning here. But it’s an idea that Paul Cornell ran with much more literally in ‘Ramesses on the Frontier’, his contribution to the mummy anthology The Book of the Dead. Ramesses I awakes to find himself in a rather unexpected version of the Egyptian afterlife, crossing the United States in search of his eternal reward. It’s a fun idea, and a quirky story.

But would I want the USA as the afterlife? As a Brit, I find that idea troubling. Sure, the scenery’s fantastic, but what would my chances be of getting a decent cup of tea? Not to mention the bread – it’s so sweet. And that’s before we even get into the noise and the lack of proper queueing.

No, if the afterlife lies to the west then I’m hoping it’s Canada. I hear good things about their donuts.

European mythology and sailing away into death also feature in my collection of alternate history and historical fiction stories From a Foreign Shore, which is free today and all this weekend on Amazon. If you enjoy fiction that reinvents the past then please check it out.

Picture by davebloggs007 via Flickr Creative Commons

10 thoughts on “Is America the Afterlife?”

    1. Hot, bleak, lots of spikey things – I reckon you’re onto something!

      Admittedly, all I know about Arizona is that it’s full of cowboys.

      It’s possible that my information is out of date / based on John Wayne films.

      1. These days it’s mostly full of snowbirds (folks who winter here and leave when it warms up). Hot, bleak and spiky still applies though. Also we have palm trees, which are evil.

        1. The only time I see palm trees in the wild is when I visit Cornwall. Down there they look like alien invaders, planted beneath cloudy skies amidst otherwise terribly English gardens.

  1. There’s some quiet there, though – in fact you can get properly lost in the US in a way you simply can’t do here. Properly, dangerously lost, and potentially pursued by bears. I have always been happy to visit there, though I’m not certain I’d want to stay indefinitely and I am far from certain that the Valar would be quite so excited about the right to bear arms.

    1. The bears are pretty daunting. When I was 15 we went camping in Yosemite, and all the food had to be locked up in metal boxes overnight to stop bears attacking tents for it. Disappointingly, I don’t think we actually saw any bears.

      1. I never saw one there either, although coming out in the morning there was a huge bear footprint outside the back door of the chalet when I visited there a few years back. We saw a bear and her cub over in Sequoia park, though, that was an exciting and yet terrifying encounter.

        Also there are a lot of monster trucks there. Possibly that is a thing an afterlife needs?

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