A little while ago I was perusing the aisles at Barnes & Noble when I happened upon a book called Machine of Death. I was intrigued, not only by the premise of the work (which I’ll get to in a moment), but also by how it came into being. In the words of the preface, “This book, unlike most others, started its life as an offhand comment made by a bright green Tyrannosaurus rex.”
Way back in December of 2005 Dinosaur Comics had T-Rex himself present us with an interesting question. What if there were a machine that could tell you how you were going to die? This comic got such a great response that they eventually got around to taking submissions. Writers were encouraged to share the worlds that they created from this curious concept, and the result is pretty amazing.
Machine of Death collects 34 stories selected from the more than 600 submissions that were received. They titles range from things as seemingly innocuous as “Almond” and “Vegetables” (which was my favorite) to the more visceral “Prison Knife Fight” and “Torn Apart and Devoured by Lions”. The stories themselves explore some worlds very similar to our own and some that are a far cry from this place we call home. In some stories it is mandatory that you are tested from birth, in others there are anti machine groups who feel knowing how you die takes away a measure of your free will, in one the government segregates people based on their machine reading to keep those with more peaceful deaths far away from those with violent ends. You might think the stories would get old and start repeating similar themes after a while, but I enjoyed the wide array of characters and worlds I was presented with, and was happily surprised up until the very end.
What would it mean if your print out read “Heat Death of the Universe” and what might it mean if your slip were blank? I guess you’ll just have to read it to find out.