- Bangsian fantasy
Bangsian fantasy is the school of fantasy writing that sets the plot wholly or partially in the afterlife. Frequently used are
Hades(benign; no torture or pleasure), Heaven(a good place, although religious sects differ on what a newly arrived soul gets when he/she dies) and Hell(a bad place, but again, exactly what souls face varies from religion to religion).
Bangsian fantasy is named for
John Kendrick Bangs, [languageicon|en|EnglishFantasticFiction > Authors B > John Kendrick Bangs cite web
url = http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/b/john-kendrick-bangs/
title = John Kendrick Bangs
publisher = Fasntasticfiction.co.uk
accessdate = 2006-09-06] whose
Associated Shadesseries of novels, from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, deals with the afterlives of various famous dead people.
Bangs was not the first to write afterlife fantasy; he was merely the modern face put on an old idea. One of the world's earliest pieces of literature, the "
Epic of Gilgamesh", contains a description of Hell and a voyage across the river of Death in search of eternal life.
Greek mythsdeal with Hades. The Greco-Roman mythological understanding of Hadesis "not" the same as the Hell(which is also referred to as Hades) of Christianity. Hades (known as Erebusamong the Romans) is a universal collecting-place for all dead souls; the kind of life led by the owner of the soul makes no difference; though it bears noting that Hades was and still is oft envisioned as having a reservoir for damned souls, known as the pit of Tartarus, as well as a paradisiacal haven for the righteous, known as the Elysian fields, these locales nonetheless belong to the same Underworld. In Christianity, Hell is a place to which those who live sinful and unrepentant lives go when they die. Most forms of Christian belief hold that there is no escape from Hell, whereas characters in Greek or Roman myth sometimes escape from Hades.
Greek epics such as the
Odysseyand Roman epics such as the Aeneidhave the main character meet people they have known or heroes (such as Achilles) in the underworld, one of the "stops" in their travels.
The Bible does not describe Hell in great detail, and some interpretations of the Bible claim it doesn't exist at all [languageicon|en|English
Allan Kardec, "Heaven and Hell", 1865.] . However, with the publication in the 14th century of Dante's " Divine Comedy", particularly the first Book ("Inferno"), Hell gained imagery still used in fiction today. Hell, as Dante described it, was a cone shape drilled into the Earth by the impact of Satan's fall from heaven (drawings of Dante's Hell resemble an open-pit mine). The cone was divided into nine concentric rings, with each lower ring offering more-terrible punishments. The worse a person had been in life, the lower on the cone that person would end up in death.
Dante took quite a few liberties with the Christian mythology of Hell. He placed persons alive at the time of the book's publication in Hell (thus taking a firm stance on a somewhat controversial issue amongst Christians: whether or not all persons arrive in Hell or Heaven at the same instant, regardless of when said persons departed the mortal world), and he also meshed Greco-Roman myths into Christian Hell. Various Greek and Roman personages also turn up in the mix, such as
Virgil, the Latinpoet who serves as Dante's guide. Dante's works use not just the dead but famous fictional personae as well.
In addition to being set in Hades, Heaven, or Hell, another characteristic of Bangsian fantasy is that it often has few, if any, fictitious characters in it. The people in it are much more likely to be either historical or mythical in nature.
Works of Bangsian fantasy
A House-Boat on the Styx" (1895), by John Kendrick Bangs
Pursuit of the House-Boat" (1897), by John Kendrick Bangs
The Enchanted Type-Writer" (1899), by John Kendrick Bangs
Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven" (1909), a short story by Mark Twain
* "" (1901), by John Kendrick Bangs
* "A Matter of Life and Death" (1946), by Michael Powell &
Les jeux sont faits" ("The Chips Are Down") (1952), by Jean-Paul Sartre: Two persons destined for each other are sent back to life, from a bureaucratic afterlife, to consummate their love.
* The "
Riverworld" science fictionseries (started in 1971), by Philip José Farmer.
Earthsea fantasyseries by Ursula Leguin, in particular " The Farthest Shore" (1972).
* "Inferno" (1976), by
Larry Nivenand Jerry Pournelle
What Dreams May Come" (1978), by Richard Matheson
* "On a Pale Horse" (1983), by
Piers Anthony: A man about to commit suicide instead shoots the Incarnation of Death and must assume the office, reaping the souls of others.
* "" (1984) by
Robert A. Heinlein.
Beetlejuice" (1988) directed by Tim Burton
That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French" (1998) by Stephen King.
The Lovely Bones" (2002), by Alice Sebold
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