Zombies, death, funerals and YOU

About a week ago I had the pleasure of meeting with the lovely Tor.com staff. At lunch, we fell to talking about The Walking Dead, in particular the difficulty one character had ventilating the skull of his undead wife. This prompted several of us to agree that, if there were a nerd pre-nuptial agreement, it should specify what to do in case of zombification.

So, all this has me thinking, not so much of nerd pre-nups, but of zombies and nerds and death and funerals.

I have made sure that all those close to me know I do not wish to be resuscitated in case of brain-death. (I’m a Buddhist. Just press reset!) My state ID shows that I volunteer to be an organ donor when I die (presumably of non-zombie causes). When it comes to zombies, let me be equally unambiguous. At the first symptoms of my falling to a zombie plague, I’d draw a big red target on my forehead and a dotted line around my neck. You can shoot my dome so full of holes I’d whistle like an ocarina in the wind.

Do you suppose that in cultures that favor cremation, zombie plagues would be less likely? (FYI, I am well aware that zombie plagues are not scientifically plausible. Just play along.) Would cultures favoring quick burial be more at risk? Do preservatives slow zombification, or simply make for more attractive zombies?

(Maybe you’re saying, “Hey, wait. Halloween is over and Thanksgiving is coming up! Why are we talking about the undead?” Well, if you ask me, the time between Halloween and Thanksgiving is the perfect time to talk about zombies, as it involves death and eating.)

Zombie questions aside, what do you want your funeral to be like? There are all kinds of geeky ways to celebrate life. Geek weddings, fannish birthday parties, and probably nerdmitzvas. So why not funerals, too? Everyone dies. Even transhumanists. Might as well personalize the final farewell.

A good friend of mine wants his ashes to be shot from a cannon off of his rooftop deck. I’ve known a few people who favor the idea of a Viking funeral, being sent out on water in a wooden ship, set alight by flaming arrows. To be honest, I’m not sure this is legal, or that Vikings actually did this, and it’s unlikely the corpse would burn before the ship sinks, but, hey, it’s certainly dramatic!

For me, I have a few simple requests. Minus any useful organs, I want to be cremated (but if before cremation I rise from the dead, grab a machete and do me a King Charles the First haircut). After that, I don’t care what happens to my ashes. I’d like a brief Buddhist ceremony (reciting parts of the Lotus Sutra and lighting some incense) and then, I want Zapp and Roger’s “More Bounce to the Ounce” to be played loudly. And maybe a potluck. I like potlucks.

I don’t want a tombstone, obviously, since I don’t want to be buried. But if I had to have one, I think a MadLibs tombstone would be pretty sweet. “Here (verb, third person present tense) Jason Henninger, an (adjective) writer and (gerund) father. Requiescat in (Latin noun, third declension).” That aside, I would be okay with a memorial bench saying, “Jason Henninger never sat here.”

Funerals tend to be very solemn and reflective occasions. Despite my general irreverence about death, I honestly do respect this. My absurd notions are not meant to be disrespectful to those who want serious funerals. To many, the body is a temple. I’d like to think of my body as a bouncy house. In my life I’ve always honored silliness, and I want my funeral to be silly as well.

And you? Plastination? Donated to science? Shot into space? LEGO coffin? Cryogenically frozen and dipped in chocolate? Slowly digested over a thousand years in a sarlacc? Or the standard wooden kimono?


So far, Jason Henninger is immortal.

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