Posted by : Kai | April 1, 2014
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Whether the world is burning in nuclear, trans-nuclear or other weapon created fire, has ended with a bang as the world is overrun, or we’ve just burned out, chances are, things have really changed. There is no hope. Or is there?
For the inaugural set of posts on our new horror blog, what better subject to start with than Apocalypse – and of that, I’m quite the expert.
By that, I don’t mean I’ve planned one…though, actually I have. I’ve designed several apocalypses, from the world-burning, soul-flensing accident in my sci-fi series, Black Monday, to the Cure Causative as mentioned in Footnotes to a Lesson and continued in the Prayer for the Dammed series, I’ve been writing apocalypse tales since giving birth to my first child in 2001. Been reading it longer – from The Stand to The Road, back through The Rats, and on to books like Wool, there’s something about the stories of the end of the world that really attracts me. But my interest doesn’t stop there.
I was into ‘The Walking Dead’ when it was still a graphic novel. I’ve been playing games like ‘Fallout’ and ‘Borderlands’ since they were out there, and I once ran a Cthulhu story set in a bunker at the end of the world. There is fertile ground there for anything.
I guess that it’s important at this point to acknowledge that we’ve hit a real golden age for Apocalypse fiction, but that we’ve been reading and sharing it since….well…the beginning of time. From the Bible (Revelations) to the Babylonians (Look no further than Gilgamesh to see some of the earlier stuff ), Mary Shelly’s ‘Last Man’, right through now to everything from ‘The Hunger Games’ to ‘Divergent’…the Walking Dead (with it’s possible head nods to Breaking Bad too!), there’s a lot of great stuff to read, and even more to devour. From fiction to TV, there’s a great deal that talks about the end of the world, or after the end of the world (Defiance, Resistance etc, Falling Skies, The Walking Dead…and further back, The Terminator series, Threads, The War Game (so terrifying and gritty, it was made in the mid-sixties and wasn’t broadcast in full for close to 20 years), the dystopian setting says a lot about chaos and unpredictability.
It’s also about facing our anxieties. As amazing as it seems, the more we create and the more horror we posit, the easier it is to see how we’d solve it.
And sometimes it’s about acknowledging the futility of it. Threads, especially, always remains with me as the epitome of the losing battle. The final scene chilled me – the idea that the world goes on, but that we, as a society, as a race, are doomed….
But they’re the extremes. Apocalyptic fiction has a massive grip on us right now, and it’s not just about the huge ends of the world. Sometimes it can be our micro-apocalypses. I’ll be talking about that more in the next few posts though.
If post-apocalyptic fiction has taught me anything it contains both the attempted utopia (that normally collapses after), and dystopia. It’s much like our society now – we keep building and refining the things that make us compassionate and human, and yet, in some ways we’re hurtling towards our ‘end times’ if we keep using resources the way we are. Or, we might create a virus in the attempt to cure another disease. Who knows? But it’s the very striving to create utopia that collapses back into dystopia, which is why, I think, the novels and shows and movies are so popular.
One of the few things that dystopic fiction has in common with it’s brethren, bar the fact that society is destroyed, is that *we* survive. It might be a few of us, it might be more, but we become ingenious, self-reliant and strong. We are free during that time and we create the freedom and resources that we can in that time. And that’s WHY I love apocalyptic fiction. I adore seeing what the world becomes and how we shape it to what we need and how we create our new world. And how we use what’s left, even in the scraps.
What do you think? What does our reading of Apocalypse fiction say about us?