Raymond F. Jones was born on November 17, 1915 and died on January 24, 1994.
Jones was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1967 for “Rat Race,” and in 1996 his short story “Correspondence Course” was nominated for a Retro-Hugo. Jones published some poetry under the name David Anderson. Jones is best known for the novel This Island Earth, which was adapted into a film directed by Joseph M. Newman. His 1950 story “Tools of the Trade” may have been the first description of 3D printing.
“Death Eternal” was published in the October 1978 issue of Fantastic, edited by Ted White. The story has never been reprinted and was his final published story.
The lengthy conversation which opens “Eternal Death” is an interesting reversal. Jones has his scientist, Jim Nearing, going into a church to seek proof of the existence of a soul and the possibility to continue his life’s work after his impending death from cancer. Reverend Aaron Marton absolutely refuses to allow for any belief in the afterlife, offering him solace, but noting that the answer Nearing is seeking has been sought for the entire span of mankind’s existence and nobody has come close to uncovering a solution.
Unable to get reassurance from Marton, Nearing attempts to find the soul of a woman who is dying in surgery. His ability to measure the moment the soul leaves her body pushes him to attempt to capture the soul of a condemned prisoner.
When his experiment proves to be a failure, Nearing goes back to Marton’s church, mostly due to a promise he made to Marston’s daughter, Sheila, whom he was attracted to. The two quickly fall in love, but Nearing is too consumed with his own imminent death and the failure of his experiment to be willing to try to make a life with her for the little time he has left, instead deciding that he must continue his experiment using himself as a guinea pig.