An obituary is an article in a newspaper about a person who has recently passed away, celebrating their life. (It is distinct from a death notice, which is a paragraph, often short, usually paid, describing a person who has recently passed away. They usually offer a few words of praise and a list of surviving relatives, as well as a scheduled time for memorial services.)
Apparently, the editor of this newspaper's obituary section has just died. However, instead of somebody writing their obituary after the fact, as is conventionally done, the editor has seemingly taken matters into their own hands and written their own obituary. They (somewhat vainly) describe themselves as cool, attractive, and universally beloved, a dubious claim at best. The following sentence reveals that the editor had pre-arranged the scheduled release of this obituary, after their death, probably entirely automatically. Obituaries are often pre-written for famous people, ahead of the actual need arising, as this (not-so-famous) person has done for themself. Though this is generally to avoid needing to rush the writing of every biography, including carefully ensuring it is accurately written and sufficiently complete, leaving only minor circumstantial updates and details to be inserted and checked as and when events lead up to its actual publication.
Rather than the names of some close family (usually parents, a spouse, and children), the editor is allegedly survived by 8 billion people, or the current population of the entire Earth, who further are all heartbroken by the loss. All public spaces will now be reserved for a memorial service of the editor every single day (or, at least, the editor hopes they will be). Given that the entire population of earth is unlikely to care about one obituaries editor at a newspaper, the late editor is most likely exaggerating the effect which their death will have.
The title text references a common trope in culture, in which a person who has just died decides to challenge Death, or the Grim Reaper, to a game of skill (usually chess). Apparently, it is (possibly prematurely) claimed by the editor that they have challenged death to a series of games of skill (probably most or all variations of the trope, including chess), and defeated Death in all of them. Rather than gaining themselves a "second chance at life," however, as is usually the reward promised by Death for the dead person's victory, the editor's victory over Death has been so absolute that Death itself has been nullified for all of humanity. Hence no more obituaries will ever be required, as every human currently alive (and presumably future ones) will now live forever. Of course, if this did actually occur, then the entire population of earth would not be unlikely to care about the editor, because even if the editor's work at the newspaper wasn't significant to them, the editor's role in preventing their deaths would be. Randall has referenced this trope in 393: Ultimate Game, as a tribute to Gary Gygax, the inventor of Dungeons and Dragons.
- [Text on the top-left corner of a gray newspaper page. It is slightly skewed counterclockwise:]
- The cool, attractive, universally beloved
- editor of the obituary section has died,
- hopefully of natural causes after a long
- life. They take with them the password to the
- heretofore unrevealed auto-post system.
- They are survived by 8 billion heartbroken
- people. Memorial services will be held
- daily in all public spaces from now on.
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I think it's a shame the editor wasn't playing Twister with Death. --184.108.40.206 15:55, 3 March 2023 (UTC)
I think this comic is similar to 393: Ultimate Game. Anyone else agree? --Purah126 (talk) 16:04, 3 March 2023 (UTC)
Is this the first xkcd character with they/them pronouns? ISaveXKCDpapers (talk) 17:31, 3 March 2023 (UTC)
- Nope! 145: Parody Week: Dinosaur Comics came first! 220.127.116.11 17:48, 3 March 2023 (UTC)
- Au contraire, mon ami. That comic only contains a discussion of the singular they and does not imply the existence of any character with they/them pronouns. In this comic, such a character is explicitly identified, that being the editor. ISaveXKCDpapers (talk) 18:10, 3 March 2023 (UTC)
- I think it's rather the much older use of "they" to avoid specifying gender when you don't know the person--to avoid saying "s/he" or whatever.18.104.22.168 03:41, 4 March 2023 (UTC)
- One knows one's own gender more than anyone else, however. I think the suggestion here is that the this is a deliberate act by a "my pronouns are they/them" person, perhaps notable as being a particularly progressive characterisation by Randall (I don't think he's had trans/gender-fluid characters, before, to any obvious or identifiable degree, BICBW) and so if we presume that they're expressing their identity in such a blatent way then it might be worth a word or two about it).
- Though I'm as happy to believe that this is an "introextrovert", in life happy to work behind the scenes, an otherwise invisible individual (save for regular and unavoidable interactions with work colleagues, who don't have any confusion about who they are dealing with) who just gets enjoyment from getting the job done, just knowing what 'power' (and concomitant responsibility) they have. Yet, once there is no way that the fuss will affect them, this is what their (post-)final act will be. It's relatively benign (in the grand scheme of such things, nothing like a Dead Hand device sparking full nuclear retaliation upon the world, or anything) and highlights the job at least as much as the person.
- Or they're a trans-ally, deliberately making that point. Or this is an option built into the autoposting software, tickbox activated but the (even more unseen/un-selfpublicising) autoposter-author defaulted its output to the non-assuming pronouns. Or any one of a number of other explanations. It could just be Randall determined to not pin down such an irrelevent detail, either way, and never intending to spark a discussion on pronoun-use by accident. 22.214.171.124 13:22, 4 March 2023 (UTC)
- These are very good points. --Purah126 (talk) 18:23, 3 March 2023 (UTC)
- It's kind of odd that the self-aggrandizing obituaries editor would omit their own name from their own self-written obituary. If they wanted to be memorialized by the rest of the human race, they probably should have mentioned their name. --126.96.36.199 16:23, 4 March 2023 (UTC)
- Why I think they're not looking for (direct, meaningful in their lifetime) fame, just putting the cat amongst the pigeons. They're not even laser-burning their name on the Moon, or similar, but (from this point on) anyone who does a degree of legwork (inversely proportional to how much they might already be aware of this individual, and their demise) can work it out, first-hand. And then the knowledge might memetically spread. Which would be a tribute and memorial in and of itself, far beyond the reach of just a single "I've died, will you remember me?" post anywhere.
- Think of Perplex City's "Satoshi", perhaps? But the answer is the question-setter. 188.8.131.52 17:10, 4 March 2023 (UTC)
Is this not a reference to Bill and Ted who challenged Death to a long set of games?
184.108.40.206 01:29, 4 March 2023 (UTC)
- Not specifically, as this concept arguably goes back thousands of years; see https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ChessWithDeath for a list of examples. Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey was specifically parodying the game of chess with Death in Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957). --220.127.116.11 16:23, 4 March 2023 (UTC)
I'm not so sure about the interpretation of "no more obituaries"... I took that to mean the usual victory meaning the victor gets to live, as usual, and as such there will be no more obituaries FOR THE EDITOR, alone. Of course, the idea he won't die again at ALL, and is thus immortal, THAT'S new... NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:50, 5 March 2023 (UTC)
- Looking back on this comic, I agree with this comment. I also believe it only applies to just the editor, who was victorious over death. Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 20:37, 15 March 2023 (UTC)
The obituary itself was posted using a "dead man's switch".--Monetdog (talk) 18:20, 14 March 2023 (UTC)