2745: Obituary Editor

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Obituary Editor
As the editor has reportedly defeated Death in a series of games of skill, no further obituaries are expected.
Title text: As the editor has reportedly defeated Death in a series of games of skill, no further obituaries are expected.


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, and they have pre-written their own obituary. This is often done for famous people, to speed the process of writing and fact-checking, but it is unusual for a not-so-famous person like this editor. In their obituary, they somewhat vainly describe themselves as cool, attractive, and universally beloved.

The following sentence reveals that the editor had set up a system, perhaps based on a Dead man's switch, to automatically post ("auto-post") their own obituary.

Obituaries often note that the deceased is survived by some close family, such as parents, a spouse, and children. This editor notes that they have been survived by 8 billion people, or the current population of the entire Earth, which is true because almost all of them are still alive and the editor isn't. However, the editor combines the two senses of what it means to survive another person, imagining that each of those 8 billion people would suffer the same heartbreak as close family generally do.

The title text references a common trope in culture, in which a person challenge Death, often personified as the Grim Reaper, to a game of skill such as chess. The obituary editor claims that they have challenged Death to a series of games of skill and defeated Death in all of them. This victory has been so absolute that no person will ever die again, and therefore no more obituaries will ever be required. As a result, this editor's obituary will be the last one ever published, making it even more noteworthy.

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. -- 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! 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. 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. 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. -- 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. 17:10, 4 March 2023 (UTC)

Is this not a reference to Bill and Ted who challenged Death to a long set of games? 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). -- 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)

Somehow I doubt that humanity would think positively about the editor's role in ending all human deaths, if indeed that's what was meant. Whoop whoop pull up (talk) 09:26, 10 November 2023 (UTC)