The question of what happens after we die is unanswerable outside of Fringe, but the question of where and what will represent our death looms large. Some of our finest genre writers have had themselves cremated: H.G. Wells, L. Ron Hubbard, and Robert Heinlein to name a few. But others have had their memory preserved in stone. We take a look at some of the most intriguing SF memorials.Although Isaac Asimov let his body be cremated after he passed in 1992 from complications from HIV, other giants of the past have wanted themselves memorialized in some way. Here are a few of our favorites.
Who: Philip K. Dick Where, When, Why: After his long struggles with mental illness, Dick had a stroke and doctors pulled the plug on March 2, 1982 in Santa Ana, CA. He was buried next to twin sister Jane who had died shortly after their birth. Best Book: VALIS is as good a choice as any, but there's much to say in favor of 1969's Ubik as well. With tons of Dick projects in the offing, we'll likely have a spirited debate on this at some point. Fitting Tribute?: It's sufficiently modest, considering Dick's reputation has spiked considerably after his death. His children maintain a comprehensive web presence.
Who: Edgar Allen Poe Where, When, Why: He died in Baltimore in 1849, as a plaque commemorating his birth in Boston tells us. There's considerable debate over how exactly he died, but some blame the bizarre practice of cooping. Best Story?: "The Tell-tale Heart" and "The Masque of the Red Death" loom among short stories in the American canon, but the score-settling "The Cask of Amontillado" might be his very best. Fitting Tribute?: He was reburied in 1875 in one of the more famous exhumations. Astonishingly, he was dug up by the man who buried him. His doctor quipped that his "skull was in excellent condition - the shape of the forehead, one of Poe's striking features, was easily discerned. The teeth were perfect and white as pear." He's now buried here.
Who: Stanislaw Lem Where, When, Why: Born Jewish, a converted Catholic, this finally atheist writer wrote in Polish. He died of heart disease in 2006 in Kraków. Best Book?: His most exciting ideas were present in the mystery of Solaris, which A Perfect Vacuum collects reviews of non-existent books, a concept bizarre enough to be compelling. Some of his work remains untranslated, including material written under the watchful eye of Stalinism. Outside of Philip K. Dick, Lem didn't care for American science fiction. Fitting Tribute?: Before his death, Lem appeared somewhat depressed by how far science had come in his lifetime. The latin inscription can be read as, "I did what I could, let those who can do better." Awesome.
Who: Arthur C. Clarke Where, When, Why: He died in March of 2008, having suffered through polio for most of his life. He was buried in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he lived because of his lifelong love of scuba-diving. Best Book?: Arguments can be made for many, but 1979's Fountains of Paradise has Clarke at his goofiest and his best. It nabbed both the Hugo and the Nebula that year. Fitting Tribute?: After a full Sri Lankan funeral he was buried with the inscription: "Here lies Arthur C Clarke. He never grew up and did not stop growing." With ample time to think about what he wanted to say, he decided on something simple and personal.
Who: C.S. Lewis Where, When, Why: The grandfather of Christian SF and fantasy, Lewis spent most of his life at Oxford. After prolonged illnesses related to his failing kidneys, Lewis died on the same day as John F. Kennedy, completely obscuring his own passing. Best Book?: In the non-scifi fantasy world, Mere Christianity is a religious classic. Excluding his Narnia series, his Space Trilogy, led by Out of the Silent Planet, might deserve revisiting. Fitting Tribute?: His brother Warnie curated the inscription, "Men must endure their going hence." It's from King Lear. As Warnie Lewis put it, "There was a Shakespearean calendar hanging on the wall of the room where she [our mother] died, and my father preserved for the rest of his life the leaf for that day, with its quotation: "Men must endure their going hence." He is buried at the Holy Trinity Church at Oxford.
Who: Jules Verne Where, When, Why: He survived his 25-year-old nephew shooting him in the leg, and although he lived 19 years after that, he couldn't beat diabetes. Best Book?: We're partial to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but there's much to admire about this prolific master. Fitting Tribute?: Considering his son made extensive changes to his final works, the inspired vision of him crawling out of the ground is probably the best thing that came out of his family's tribute to him. A Boy's Life, Guided By The Works of Cosmic Wonder [The New York Times]