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.


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.




3 responses

19 11 2009

I definitely feel no glee over real-life disasters and genocides, etc. But “glee” is not my primary motivation for consuming so much apocalyptic fare, either. (Though “glee” is certainly the only reason I want to see 2012.)

19 11 2009

Yeah, “glee” is definitely not the word one would use. I will admit that I find real-life tales much more fascinating than the fictional ones though…

19 11 2009

I’m not saying we have the same standards—clearly, we do not (cf. my willingness to include at least some dystopias amongst the apocalyptae)—and I have no problem with the idiosyncrasy of my standards, even as I recognize there are likely ‘objectively’ better standards. The list is for my own purposes, full stop.

And while ‘glee’ may be too limited a term to describe my response to apocalyptae—I doubt I will be ‘gleeful’ after seeing The Road, for example—there is nonetheless a kind of thrill (for me) in the prospect of the end. It may be an awful, as opposed to merely giddy, kind of thrill, but I am charged up by collapse.

Which is why I’m unwilling to include those books/movies based on actually events on my list. I read & watch them, and recognize intellectually that these are mere fictions based in horrific actualities, but emotionally it feels too real to me. The prospects for the characters are only awful, and I am sickened, rather than, yes, thrilled, by what will happen to them.

Perhaps one difference is that in the wholly fictional doom scenario, I can place myself within them, identify myself with or at least among the characters. But in historical doom scenarios, it feels, . . . I don’t know, wrong? presumptuous? to imagine myself among them. There were actual people who lived—or died—in genocides or disasters, and I can’t get past that.

It’s one thing to thrill to my own doom; quite another to do so for someone else’s.

Is that a failure of imagination? Perhaps. I certainly claim no higher moral ground—see my ‘thrill’ reaction to fictional mass-death—but simply recognize a line within me.

As for reading nonfictional accounts of disaster, I have done and still do a lot of that. No thrill, there.

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