Halloween Cheer for Trufen

A traditional American ending place is under a headstone in a grassy plot – how mundane! Remember, when you’re a fan, you’re a fan all the way. Why shouldn’t you go out like Spock or Captain Future? Which high-tech ending will you choose?

In the special of the day, Space Services, Inc. offers to orbit a gram of your ashes for $995. But perhaps a fiery ending is not for you. Then the cost is a little higher. Alcor Life Extension will deep-freeze your body for $120,000, or do a simple “neuropreservation ” for $50,000. Either way, you’ll be in distinguished company.

Well-known sf and space exploration figures were among the 25 people whose ashes were rocketed into orbit in 1997, including Gene Roddenberry, physicist Gerard O’Neill, rocket scientist Krafft Ehricke, and Timothy Leary. A lipstick-sized capsule of each person’s cremated remains circled the earth for six years, after which they fell back into the atmosphere and burned up. In 1999, a different, one-shot space burial delivered the ashes of astronomer Eugene Shoemaker all the way to the Moon aboard the Lunar Prospector.

The famous names of Alcor’s frozen “patients” are harder to come by, though it’s reported that pro baseball’s “Splendid Splinter,” Ted Williams, had his head and body preserved in separate tanks at the Foundation. You probably won’t find Walt Disney there. Rumors that he was frozen away someplace in hopes of future revival have been discredited.

Honestly, both alternatives – orbital burial and cryonic preservation — lack the solemnity people associate with Spock’s burial in space while Scotty mournfully pipes “Amazing Grace,” or the romance of Ed Harris’ farewell to Mary Ann Mastroantonio in The Abyss.

High-tech endings also suffer from comparison with the traditional burial in that no one from the community can come and pay their respects afterwards. One fan, Forrest J Ackerman, reportedly isn’t willing to miss out on posthumous egoboo. He has selected a grave marker that not only shows his photo, it plays his recorded greeting!

Forry always makes clear he has no expectations about the afterlife. For those who do, well-known theologian Charles Platt encourages a kind of “Pascal’s Wager” attitude toward cryonics:

“When you are frozen, you are no longer alive. Therefore, if there is an afterlife, you should experience it. You can think of cryonics as hedging your bets just in case an afterlife turns out not to exist.”

Be that as it may, being stored head-down in frozen nitrogen still sounds too much like being deposited in the deepest circle of Dante’s hell.

Fans ultimately may be less interested in a fancy sendoff. What they really value is words and stories. Whitman wrote “the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse,” and many can rest assured they did that literally.

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