Fly into the sun

18 11 2009

Could you tell my post last night was dashed off?

I was thinking Oh, man, I gotta post something. What? What? Then I did the dishes, which apparently put me in mind of the apocalypse.

As I told C. in the comments (who corrected an author error in the post: Clarke, not Huxley, wrote Childhood’s End), I was so lazy I couldn’t be bothered to tab over and look up various movie titles on IMDB.

Pitiful.

Thus, an elaboration on yesterday’s post, as well as an important qualifier.

The elaboration

C. astutely noted that I included dystopias with my apocalypses. So true. I guess  I tend to think that any dystopia worth its salt was preceded by some kind of apocalypse, but they really ought to be separated.

Had I been engaging anything other than minimal brain power last night, I would have figured this out in my (minor) deliberations over whether to include Brave New World. I did not, because, as I noted in the comments, the shift into Fordism seemed a kind of progression, rather than break, with what came before.

My list was also quite sloppy: I Am Legend popped into my head, then popped right back out. (I saw the Charleton Heston version, and parts of the Will Smith. In either case, definitely apocalyptic.) And I couldn’t remember the name of that damned book with the conch and boys and Piggy, and so left it off. (Golding’s Lord of the Flies. I thought there was mention of an a-bomb at the end, but it’s at the beginning.)

There’s another book, too, listed at the back of the paperback edition of The Gone-Away World: Kevin Brockmeier’s The Brief History of the Dead. It veers between an occasional (and thoroughly enjoyable) nasty humor and genuine pathos. More light than heavy.

I’d count Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, too, if only because of the threat. But I didn’t include Max Barry’s Jennifer Government because, if I remember correctly, that society arose more like Huxley’s Fordist scheme than through anything apocalyptic.

And I missed the whole field of Christian apocalypse, a.k.a. the Rapture. Now, there is a very good movie called The Rapture (David Duchovny, Mimi Rogers), but that’s a Hollywood film, as opposed to a Soon-To-Be-Coming-To-An-Earth-Near-You True Believer flick. I used to be a regular imbiber of TBN and CBN (wacky evangelistic fare), and they’d regularly show rapture films. Don’t know the name of a single one.

I do know, however, The Omega Code (produced by TBN and starring Kirk Cameron), which is  basic Bible-code Armageddon. And, of course, Jenkins & LaHaye’s Left Behind series. I tried to read it, but couldn’t get through even book one. I have a high tolerance for this stuff, so you know it’s bad. (But if they make a movie of it—have they made a movie of it?—I am so there.)

There are likely many, many more of this subgenre that I’m missing.

I also overlooked the Mad Max movies. I liked the second one, Road Warrior, best, but the first and third aren’t bad. And I have the sense that those crazy Danes probably have a bunch of apocalypses hidden in their Danish libraries. (Don’t know why I have this sense; just do.)

Well, I’m counting on C. to come up with a proper doom list.

Now, the qualifier.

None of these books or movies are based on historical events. Some of these may speculate on a future which could become history (got that?), but in no case are these movies or books based on anything which has actually happened.

No Holocaust. No Hiroshima or Nagasaki. No Native American genocide. No historical genocides, period. No plague, flu, smallpox, etc. No Mt. St. Helen’s or Vesuvius or Tambora or any actual natural disaster. No Chernobyl.

No event in which actual human beings experienced their own version of the apocalypse.

I don’t put these events off-limits, not by any means. A good book or movie is a good book or movie, and I think all of the stuff of our lives and deaths is there for the taking.

But I don’t include these in my apocalypse list.

There is a glee in thinking of how the world might end, how humans might respond—wondering how I would respond—to total disaster, precisely because it is so speculative. Look at all the possibilities of our end!

Possibilities. Not certainties.

In historical ends, there is a certainty, the most significant of which is the certainty of actual human suffering and death.

Again, a worthy topic of fiction. But not of glee.

 





Burn baby burn

18 11 2009

I fucking LOVE apocalyptic movies!

Death! Disaster! Mayhem! Whoo hoo!

And if they’re religiously themed? Even better.

Now, I define apocalyptic broadly, to encompass existential ends, partial ends (of countries, cities) as well as the mere possibility of world’s end.

Oo, world’s end—let’s see, Childhood’s End, an Aldous Huxley (Arthur C. Clarke—h/t C.) novel about—yep—the end of the world. Read that one (the, uh, first time) in high school.

So let’s extend the love for all things apocalyptic to novels, as well.

It should go without saying that these movies/novels are often awful. Children of Men was a very good movie (and so-so novel), but that, I think, was an exception.

Terminator 2 was pretty good, but really, really, really long.

Terminator? Okay.

Terminator 3? Okay. (I missed Linda Hamilton.)

Terminator 4? Umm, is that on Hulu? Maybe if I ever sign up for Netflix. . . .

Goofy apocalyptic is good, like Independence Day. Or what was that movie with Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche about the volcano in Los Angeles? Goofy is what it was!

And certainly better than the Pierce Brosnan volcano flick—which, while it had Linda Hamilton, did not have Sarah Connor.

So, too, with Deep Impact Armageddon (Bruce Willis/Ben Affleck comet movie) and the Morgan Freeman/Tea Leoni comet movie (Deep Impact). You’d think the Freeman/Leoni duo would kick Willis & Affleck’s asses, but, no: Deep Impact Armageddon wins by goofiness.

Prophecy, with Virginia Madsen and Christopher Walken—really, you have to ask? Christopher Walken! And bonus with angels and Satan and stuff!

Much better than End of Days, with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Too stodgy.

The Ninth Gate? Not really world-ending, but really fucking weird. And Satan and stuff.

Stigmata? Not really at all, but it had visions and angels and stuff. And Gabriel Byrne.

Waterworld? Nuh. Kevin Costner, not in his lovable-crank personna (Bull Durham, Tin Cup), but just annoying crank. But Dennis Hopper was fun.

Day After Tomorrow? Please. (And while I’m certainly willing to watch bad bad-end movies, I’m not willing to pay 12 bucks to do so: 2012 will have to wait.)

War of the Worlds? I have the Tom Cruise version stamped on my brain. Too muted. And Tom Cruise. . . .

Oh, and On the Beach. Odd, but great. The first half is a bit of a caper flick, with Fred Astair and Ava Gardner (man!) and stiff-and-honorable Gregory Peck, but still (SPOILER), no relief: everybody dies.

The Day After played on t.v. in the 1980s, to much hue and cry. I saw it again a year or two ago, and while it was mighty cheesy, still.

Testament was not cheesy. I still (mis?)remember the scene in which Jane Alexander is sitting in next to sun-filled window, sewing, her face determined. It’s only in the voiceover do we learn that this is a shroud for her daughter.

28 Days Later gave me nightmares for a week—then terrified me out of sleep six months later.

Didn’t see 28 Months Later, however—tho’ if it streams on Netflix (if I ever. . .) then, maybe.

I should catch up with all the old George Romero flixs. While I’m not a big horror fan, zombies work.

World War Z, by Max Brooks. Have you read it? A fine bit of reportage. Sparked an unfinished bit of writing from me, on the ethics of zombie-killing and -experimentation.

Margaret Atwood has written a number of apocalyptic novels, although these tend toward collapse-apocalypse as opposed to war/violence-apocalypse. Oryx & Crake was hilarious and cold—just right; her new book elaborates on the O&C theme and is, according to a number of critics, better than the original. Hmpf.

And then, of course, The Handmaid’s Tale—I’m currently using that in one of my pol sci classes. When I polled the class on when/whether they would try to escape the totalitarian Republic of Gilead, most of them were of the I’d-wait-it-out variety. Really? I all-but-yelped. Only one student was with me: as soon as we lost our jobs or our money, if not sooner, we’d be gone.

Turn me into an Unwoman—no suh!

Gone-Away World, by Nick Harkaway. What? You still haven’t read it? Honestly, what’s your excuse?

There’s more, of course. Fahrenheit 451. Don DeLillo. The Plot Against America. Walker Percy. Peter Hoeg. Jose Saramago. 1984. A couple of Marge Piercy’s. A couple of Mary Doria Russell’s. William Gibson.

Science fiction? Speculative fiction? Whatever. If the earth is in peril/ends, it’s in.

C. was going to start an apocalyptic book club at the bookstore, but a necessary manager bailed. Still, I’d expect that she’d have even more to offer.

And, again, quality is not really the point, here. Even the books or movies I slagged I’d still (re)read or watch (again).

The point is that they are 1) fiction; 2) fun! and/or terrifying!; and 3) the world ends!

Should I mention that a number of us have made plans to see The Road Christmas night?

The director had better not make it ‘inspiring’. . . .








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