Created By: TheWanderer on October 4, 2017 Last Edited By: TheWanderer on January 3, 2018
Troped

Artificial Afterlife

An afterlife created by mortals where they continue to live after their death.

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Main
Page Type:
trope
Uploaded to the cloud? Sounds like heaven.

Most people wonder about what happens after you die. Sometimes in a story, people aren't content with just hoping and wondering, and actually go ahead and build one. Whether through Brain Uploading or some form of advanced magic, someone creates an afterlife where they or others can continue living on even after their deaths.

Naturally most of these afterlives are meant to emulate Heaven, or at least a paradisal setting, and are often made in an attempt to avert The Nothing After Death and Cessation of Existence.

Just watch out in case it's actually a Lotus-Eater Machine that is just keeping you pacified while a bunch of Mad Scientists are running interesting experiments on you. Individuals within this afterlife may overlap with Virtual Ghost, although unlike the Virtual Ghost they usually don't have much of an interaction with the real world or still living people.

There may be some overlap with Personalized Afterlife in that it may be made specifically to appeal to one person, but unlike a natural afterlife the artificial version has no supernatural elements to it, (well, aside from the fact that it might have been made by a wizard) so anything that includes an actual afterlife that happens to be customized for an individual person such as Nostalgia Heaven, Ironic Hell, and Self-Inflicted Hell should not be listed here

Beware: spoilers ahead!


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Wolf's Rain is all about how the wolves are supposed to find a lost Paradise available only to them as an increasingly devastated world comes ever closer to the point where it can no longer sustain life. Many of nobles aren't content with the idea of being barred from Paradise, and have attempted to either find a way to enter it or create a faux one for themselves where they can live forever, as Sorcerous Overlord Lady Jaguara attempts to do.

    Comic Books 
  • One of the later arcs of Hellblazer has a corrupt politician arrange to create one for himself (called a soul cage) filled with unwilling Sex Slaves and other perversions, preventing his soul from reaching its richly-deserved place in Hell. Instead, he gets trapped inside forever, along with the sadistic mage he contacted to build it for him, who was trapped in the cage by Constantine and is not happy about it.

    Fan Works 

    Film 
  • "The Spiritual Switchboard" in Freejack, a computer system that allows the rich to maintain their minds alive after death. The catch is that the system can only support them for a few days at most, so these rich men have increasingly turned to pulling a Grand Theft Me and putting their minds into new bodies.

    Literature 
  • A variant in Immortality, Inc. by Robert Sheckley. The afterlife is natural, but getting your soul there intact is a Million-to-One Chance without an expensive technological procedure.
  • In The Wandering Inn, creating an afterlife for the Antinium becomes the goal of Pawn, former Acolyte, once he realizes that God Is Evil.
  • In Riverworld, souls themselves are the result of a Precursor experiment, allowing intelligent species to develop self-awareness and persist after death, either through Reincarnation or "Moving On". The Riverworld itself is an artificial afterlife created by one Precursor race, the Ethicals, to assess whether humanity could be entrusted with their legacy.
  • Neuromancer has the technology to store Virtual Ghosts on ROM drives, but they can't remember anything new since it's Read-Only. The titular AI was designed to create fully sentient simulations of dead humans and run elaborate virtual realities for them. In contrast to the brief sims other AIs might run for hackers they're willing to let live.
  • Happens recursively in Permutation City:
    • People can make "Copies" of themselves through Brain Uploading, which can survive them in a virtual-reality environment. However, the original person still dies normally, and the quality of the Copy's existence depends on how much processing power their trust fund can buy for them.
    • Paul Durham's unorthodox beliefs about quantum ontology and The Multiverse lead him to believe that a simulation can become real on the basis of its mathematical self-consistency, so he runs an infinitely self-organizing "Garden of Eden" model for a few seconds and then deletes it. Somehow, this actually creates "Permutation City", an alternate reality that creates itself according to the model, wherein the founding Copies are each Reality Warpers in their own, increasingly vast, domains.
    • After a drastically bungled First Contact scenario causes Permutation City to unravel in a Puff of Logic, the Copies of Durham and Maria seed a new universe to escape into, making it a sort of artificial after-after-afterlife.
  • Ubik: In the far-off future of 1992, science has proven that human souls reincarnate after death, in accordance with the Tibetan Book of the Dead. But science can also artificially lengthen how long souls linger after death, by placing the recently deceased in "cold-pac". The experience inside cold-pac is indistinguishable from living reality (at first), so it takes a while for several characters to realize they were Dead All Along.
  • Inverted in His Dark Materials, where the afterlife is a bleak wasteland. The Subtle Knife is eventually used to create a portal that people in the afterlife can step through to Disappear Into Light and "return to the universe". This makes it more like artificial nonexistence as an alternative to a rather unpleasant natural afterlife.

    Live Action TV 
  • Black Mirror episode "San Junipero" is about a simulated afterlife where people can choose to live after their death via Brain Uploading, free to live in various different eras and to do and experience whatever they want. People who are terminally ill can spend limited amounts of time there (the limits exist in an attempt to prevent it from becoming a Lotus-Eater Machine) in order to decide if they would like to be uploaded after their death or not.
  • In Caprica, Clarice Willow intends to use the V-World virtual reality and "virtual ghost" technology to create an artificial heaven for monotheists. It gets overturned thanks to Zoe-A and Tamara-A taking over V-World themselves with their God Mode abilities.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The show has the Gallifreyan Matrix, a device where dead Time Lords can be uploaded to preserve their knowledge and memory.
    • During "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead", the minds of people killed by the Vashta Nerada (or any other means within the library) are uploaded into a virtual world to live in while they cannot be saved in the real world. At the end of Forest of the Dead, 4,023 of them are returned to the real world. It becomes the afterlife for River Song after her death.
    • Season 8 of the revived series revolves around Missy, a female reincarnation of The Master, using a matrix adopted for humans to collect human minds and preserve them, albeit only as a first step to later putting those minds into the bodies of Cybermen.
  • In the Tales from the Darkside episode "A Choice of Dreams", Jake Corelli is a mobster with terminal cancer. A strange scientist comes to him and offers him a way to cheat death by keeping his brain alive after his body dies and experiencing pleasant dreams forever for ten million dollars. Corelli accepts, but the scientist changes the dreams he gives Corelli, and instead he is forced to relive the pain of his victims for all eternity.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Eclipse Phase Brain Uploading and Downloading is ubiquitous, and the Egoes of billions of people killed during The Fall are in "dead storage". But most of them are not conscious, simply saved on a hard drive somewhere until some Hypercorporation comes looking for new indentured servants. However, some activists on Mars who want to abolish indenture have suggested creating a massive Simulspace for the dead.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, the Eldar all carry Waystone Soul Jars to absorb their minds upon death. Those are then integrated into their Craftworld's Infinity Circuit to join the psychic gestalt of their ancestors: the closest thing they have to an afterlife since the Chaos God Slaanesh was born and started eating the soul of every Eldar without a Waystone's protection.
  • Hc Svnt Dracones:
    • To head off any concerns as to whether they had souls, ASR created an afterlife of sorts for the Cogs known as the Core Consciousness. As Cogs reach their pre-programmed "expiration date" they start to offload more cognitive functions into the Core Consciousness, eventually passing the point of no return.
    • Not to be outdone, Pulse operates a space station as a sort of "Valhalla" for retired executives and star athletes. The residents are exempt from the usual restrictions on Bio-Augmentation, such as immortality.

    Video Games 
  • In the Back Story of Final Fantasy X when the city of Zanarkand was facing certain destruction in a war against the far more technologically advanced city-state of Bevelle, Yu Yevon (Zanarkand's greatest summoner) created the monster Sin to fight against the forces of Bevelle and simultaneously turned the remaining people of Zanarkand into the raw material to power a Dream Land/Pocket Dimension version of reality where Zanarkand continued to exist as though it had never been destroyed in the war, with new generations being born, growing old, and dying there.
  • SOMA has the ARK Project, an attempt to create a digital paradise/afterlife where brain scans of people are uploaded and then shot into space in an effort to keep some part of humanity alive after all life on the surface of the Earth is wiped out by an asteroid impact.

    Webcomics 
  • Implied at the end of It's Walky! which shows the afterlife to be a sort of limbo or Gehenna where everyone stands around without much to do (although there might be deeper areas we don't see). Dina surmises from her experience there that it's actually a simulation created by Precursors which detects dying consciousnesses and transfers them there as a backup for resurrection. This is consistent with the fact that a nigh-omnipotent robot also created by Precursors can be hacked into from this afterlife, but no definitive answer to the hypothesis is given.
  • One Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal strip had humanity end when they created Virtual Reality machines that slow down perception, reaching the logical conclusion that it's better to spend (perceived) eternity in paradise rather than an hour in boring reality.
  • minus.: minus creates an Afterlife almost absent-mindedly after someone tells her about it. This becomes a case of Chekhov's Gun at the end when minus accidentally destroys the living world.

    Web Originals 
  • In Orion's Arm, there are a large number of possible technological afterlives available for those citizens of the post-singularity spacefaring civilizations who choose not to take advantage of medical technology to live indefinitely. Mostly, these revolve around the ability to keep "backups" of people's minds and retrieve them should they die.
    • Among other things, these afterlives can involve living as a digital upload in a simulated virtual reality heaven, or having your mind dowloaded in a new physical body with all, none or part of your memory deleted in order to simulate reincarnation.
    • It should be noted, however, that traditional religion still survives in the setting — Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions is very much averted. As such, a far from insignificant number of people choose not to exploit either this trope or physical immortality, as they believe this would prevent them from entering a true, and more spiritually meaningful and desirable, afterlife after shuffling off their mortal coils.
Community Feedback Replies: 37
  • October 4, 2017
    TheWanderer
    Any suggestions for indices this might belong? Definitely Afterlife Tropes, and possibly Death Tropes, but where else might it fit?
  • October 4, 2017
    NubianSatyress
    Oops. Totally missed FFX already being there somehow.
  • October 4, 2017
    Chabal2
    Hellblazer: One of the later arcs has a corrupt politician arrange to create one for himself (called a soul cage) filled with unwilling Sex Slaves and other perversions, preventing his soul from reaching its richly-deserved place in Hell. Instead, he gets trapped inside forever, along with the sadistic mage he contacted to build it for him, who was trapped in the cage by Constantine and is not happy about it.

  • October 4, 2017
    Generality
    • Implied at the end of It's Walky! which shows the afterlife to be a sort of limbo or Gehenna where everyone stands around without much to do (although there might be deeper areas we don't see). Dina surmises from her experience there that it's actually a simulation created by Precursors which detects dying consciousnesses and transfers them there as a backup for resurrection. This is consistent with the fact that a nigh-omnipotent robot also created by Precursors can be hacked into from this afterlife, but no definitive answer to the hypothesis is given.
  • October 4, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    Web Original
    • In Orions Arm, there are a large number of possible technological afterlives available for those citizens of the post-singularity spacefaring civilizations who choose not to take advantage of medical technology to live indefinitely. Mostly, these revolve around the ability to keep "backups" of people's minds and retrieve them should they die.
      • Among other things, these afterlives can involve living as a digital upload in a simulated virtual reality heaven, or having your mind dowloaded in a new physical body with all, none or part of your memory deleted in order to simulate reincarnation.
      • It should be noted, however, that traditional religion still survives in the setting — Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions is very much averted. As such, a far from insignificant number of people choose not to exploit either this trope or physical immortality, as they believe this would prevent them from entering a true, and more spiritually meaningful and desirable, afterlife after shuffling off their mortal coils.
  • October 5, 2017
    LondonKdS
    In Caprica, Clarice Willow intends to use the V-World virtual reality and "virtual ghost" technology to create an artificial heaven for monotheists. It gets overturned thanks to Zoe-A and Tamara-A taking over V-World themselves with their God Mode abilities.
  • October 5, 2017
    Chabal2
    One SMBC strip had humanity end when they created Virtual Reality machines that slow down perception, reaching the logical conclusion that it's better to spend (perceived) eternity in paradise rather than an hour in boring reality.
  • October 5, 2017
    TheWanderer
    Thanks to everyone so far for the examples. In addition to examples, I could use some suggestions for related tropes and possible indices.
  • October 5, 2017
    MetaFour
  • October 5, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    The Futuristic Tech Index and Speculative Fiction Tropes are probably worth considering too.
  • October 5, 2017
    Omeganian
    A variant in Immortality, Inc. by Robert Sheckley. The afterlife is natural, but getting your soul there intact is a Million To One Chance without an expensive technological procedure.
  • October 6, 2017
    TheWanderer
    Thanks for the index recommendations. Are there any key related related tropes or tropes to compare and/or contrast that should be added?
  • October 6, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    Might be worth to mention Heaven for what most of these afterlives seem to pattern themselves after. Maybe The Nothing After Death and Cessation Of Existence, if that's what enough of the examples were intended to avoid to warrant mentioning it in the description.
  • October 6, 2017
    JoeG
    Tales From The Darkside: in the episode "A Choice of Dreams", a dying mobster is offered the chance to experience pleasant dreams after he dies. Instead he is forced to relive the pain of his victims for all eternity.
  • October 7, 2017
    zarpaulus
    Literature
    • Neuromancer has the technology to store Virtual Ghosts on ROM drives, but they can't remember anything new since it's Read-Only. The titular AI was designed to create fully sentient simulations of dead humans and run elaborate virtual realities for them. In contrast to the brief sims other A Is might run for hackers they're willing to let live.
  • October 6, 2017
    intastiel
    A reader might have to correct me on this, but:
  • October 7, 2017
    zarpaulus
    Might help to clarify the difference between this and Virtual Ghost

    Tabletop Games
    • In ‘’Eclipse Phase’’ Brain Uploading and Downloading is ubiquitous, and the Egoes of billions of people killed during The Fall are in “dead storage”. But most of them are not conscious, simply saved on a hard drive somewhere until some Hypercorporation comes looking for new indentured servants. However, some activists on Mars who want to abolish indenture have suggested creating a massive Simulspace to instance the dead in.
  • October 8, 2017
    ScroogeMacDuck
    For "Literature":

    For Fan Works:

  • October 10, 2017
    intastiel
    • Happens recursively in Permutation City:
      • People can make "Copies" of themselves through Brain Uploading, which can survive them in a virtual-reality environment. However, the original person still dies normally, and the quality of the Copy's existence depends on how much processing power their trust fund can buy for them.
      • Paul Durham's unorthodox beliefs about quantum ontology and The Multiverse lead him to believe that a simulation can become real on the basis of its mathematical self-consistency, so he runs an infinitely self-organizing "Garden of Eden" model for a few seconds and then deletes it. Somehow, this actually creates "Permutation City", an alternate reality that creates itself according to the model, wherein the founding Copies are each Reality Warpers in their own, increasingly vast, domains.
      • After a drastically bungled First Contact scenario causes Permutation City to unravel in a Puff Of Logic, the Copies of Durham and Maria seed a new universe to escape into, making it a sort of artificial after-after-afterlife.
  • October 19, 2017
    Arivne
    • Corrected punctuation (added periods at the ends of sentences).
    • Examples section
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples section.
      • Put episode titles in quotes instead of italics as per How To Write An Example - Emphasis For Work Names.
      • Deleted garbage text characters caused by a non-standard text character.
      • De-Pot Holed work names as per How To Write An Example - State the source and Word Cruft - Technologically-aided obfuscation.
      • Italicized work names as per How To Write An Example - Emphasis For Work Names.
  • October 19, 2017
    Kartoonkid95
    • American Dad: In "Rapture's Delight", it's shown that Heaven contains doors that lead to one's "personal heaven" based on their personalities and interests. Steve's heaven contains a hot bimbo riding on a unicorn that poops hamburgers; Stan's heaven his family and world as it was before the rapture, except Klaus is how a trophy on the wall.
  • October 19, 2017
    ScroogeMacDuck
    • Minus: minus creates an Afterlife almost absent-mindedly after someone tells her about it. This becomes a case of Chekhovs Gun at the end when minus accidentally destroys the living world.
  • October 19, 2017
    zarpaulus
    @Kartoonkid 95: That's not a man-made afterlife, just a Personalized Afterlife.
  • October 21, 2017
    DustSnitch
    • Hell in The Great Divorce is made up of selfish mothers, arrogant scholars, and horrible husbands who are so self-absorbed that they refuse eternal happiness and set out to construct the most isolate and small abodes they can find in the universe's outer darkness.
  • October 21, 2017
    intastiel
    • In Warhammer 40000, the Eldar all carry Waystone Soul Jars to absorb their minds upon death. Those are then integrated into their Craftworld's Infinity Circuit to join the psychic gestalt of their ancestors: the closest thing they have to an afterlife since the Chaos God Slaanesh was born and started eating the soul of every Eldar without a Waystone's protection.
  • October 22, 2017
    marcoasalazarm
    "The Spiritual Switchboard" in Freejack, a computer system that allows the rich to maintain their minds alive after death. The catch is that the system can only support them for a few days at most, which means that there is a growing market for getting people for said minds to be transferred into in order to be reborn—and since the future is a Crapsack World that has ruined the bodies of every living person on the planet, well... let's just say that there was some need to improvise with that experimental time-travel tech that was somehow lying around.
  • October 23, 2017
    zarpaulus
    We may need to specify whether this excludes Personalized Afterlifes and Self Inflicted Hells that are supernatural in origin.
  • October 24, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    So if I'm understanding this correctly, the criterium to decide whether an example belongs here, on Personalized Afterlife or both depends on who made the afterlife in question, more than on wether the afterlife is technological or magical in origin — to put it another way, if the afterlife was preexisting and part of it was just personalized for someone, it doesn't count, and this trope is specifically for when mortals construct their own afterlife through whichever means where there wasn't one before. How close am I?
  • October 24, 2017
    TheWanderer
    "An afterlife created by mortals where they continue to live after their death."

    Artificial: made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally, typically as a copy of something natural.

    Yes. If it's created by people, either through technology or magic so that they or others can live there after they die instead of going to a "natural" afterlife, it's this. If they die and go some Personalized Afterlife, it's that or one of its subtropes.
  • November 19, 2017
    TheWanderer
    bump, looking to launch soon
  • December 31, 2017
    lakingsif
    I don't think the page quote is very good, I think it could be replaced with:

    "Uploaded to the cloud? Sounds like heaven."
  • December 31, 2017
    Prime32
  • January 2, 2018
    lakingsif
    bump
  • January 2, 2018
    JoeG
    ^^ Another vote for the new page quote.
  • January 2, 2018
    MetaFour
  • January 2, 2018
    zarpaulus
    Seeing how this hasn't been launched yet...

    Tabletop Games
    • Hc Svnt Dracones:
      • To head off any concerns as to whether they had souls, ASR created an afterlife of sorts for the Cogs known as the Core Consciousness. As Cogs reach their pre-programmed "expiration date" they start to offload more cognitive functions into the Core Consciousness, eventually passing the point of no return.
      • Not to be outdone, Pulse operates a space station as a sort of "Valhalla" for retired executives and star athletes. The residents are exempt from the usual restrictions on Bio Augmentation, such as immortality.
  • January 3, 2018
    TheWanderer
    I'd been too busy to check in on this or to look at launching in the last month and a half. Thanks to everyone for the new examples and page quote in the meantime. Launching.
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