SHELDON LEE COMPTON: You have died and need to decide the place you want to haunt and the form you want to take as a spirit. Tell me what you decide.
BERIT ELLINGSEN: I’d find a really old and run down cemetery of the type you’d expect or even want to be haunted. A cemetery full of ancient headstones and crumbling mausolea and tall grass and trees. Then I’d start haunting, moving things and making sounds and creating cold spots and such. I’d try to have the word about it spread to attract some fun and bumbling ghost hunters and scientists so they could actually get some measurements and pictures. I’d probably be a Lady in White type of ghost, or a tiny will o’ the wisp.
When the ghost hunters and scientists had gotten the recordings they wanted, I’d probably go to Venice and haunt an old palazzo there and scare some tourists. Unless ghosts are tied to one place, I’d go to Chernobyl since as a ghost radiation won’t be an issue. If possible, I’d travel the world as a ghost and see places I didn’t see while alive.
Maybe that’s what ghosts do when they’re not angry or bound to a certain place; they travel the world still. This makes me wonder if Facebook memorial pages can be haunted. I don’t think I would have bothered haunting a Facebook page. That would have been a terrible afterlife.
SLC: Full facial tattoo or painlessly losing your lips. One has to happen. What’s it going to be?
BE: I once wrote a story about a man whose lips had rotted off so it looked he was always smiling, but he was dead so there was a reason for the lack of lips.
For someone living, I think that having no lips might make it harder to eat and drink, which would not be a good thing. It would also be so scary for others it would be hard to have neutral interactions with just about everyone. Sad to think that that is the reality for burn patients and victims of acid attacks. The surface of our bodies has been given way too much importance in our culture, beyond skin’s basic function.
Full facial tattoos are also problematic. I don’t have any tattoos because I know I’d get tired of them after a certain while. I’ve seen pictures of some bad full facial tattoos and some that looked scary but were very detailed and well made. My issue with them though is that they do look as if the person is wearing a mask, and I keep thinking that it is not their true face, even though the tattoos are supposed to express what they look on the inside
The best facial tattoos I’ve seen have been mostly Maori, so I’d have to go with that. Although I don’t think Maori tattoos are given to non-Maori, so it would have to be a Maori-inspired tattoo instead.
SLC: You’ve somehow recovered the innocence of your childhood while still retaining your general adult knowledge. How will you best take advantage of this, if at all?
BE: I think some of that innocence, at least the capacity for wonder and surprise, if not naivete, must be present in order to write fiction. If one has no sense of innocence or wonder, how can one then write about the world, even if the world has many sides that are not innocent or wondrous.
The ability to wonder and have a childlike curiosity is probably also quite important to keep learning throughout life. When I graduated from university I thought my time of learning was over and that I’d never again be learning as much as I did then. But that’s been completely wrong and I’m still learning something new every day, whether it’s in writing or reading, or about science or current affairs. I think this continual learning is a good thing.
SLC: You can be shown every secret the Catholic Church may have to offer or every secret the Freemasons might have to offer. Which do you choose?
BE: Definitely the secrets of the Catholic Church hands.
I don’t think the Freemasons have that many interesting secrets beyond some intricate rituals and perhaps some intriguing books. Maybe the most interesting thing about the Freemasons is who is and has been members throughout history, and what advantages or not that has given the members.
The Catholic Church on the other hand, has existed for many centuries, amassed an enormous amount of wealth and store of ancient tomes, relics, artifacts, letters, and other pieces of information. I’m sure the Catholic Church’s objects of historical and cultural significance would take life times to catalog and analyze, even if you had no interest in the purely religious side of those objects.
I’m also sure some of their secrets would change the way we look at certain historical figures or events if they were made public, so I wish there would be more transparency. It would also have been interesting to see more information about the few female popes the church has had.