Sunday, August 23, 2015

The End Of The World

Given the subject of my most recent novel, I've been giving a great deal of thought to the end of the world.  In Fight Or Flight, the world has essentially ended - aliens have invaded, they've destroyed every bit of support structure we've ever built, and they're on the verge of wiping us out.  The few survivors remaining are huddled amongst the ruins and trying to find a way to escape.

It got me to thinking - what is it about the end of the world that attracts us so?  My novel is far from the only one about the end of the world,  The current zombie craze is predicated on people sifting through the ashes of the apocalypse.  Falling Skies is all about what happens after the world goes to shit.  Novels from The Stand to World War Z to the classic Earth Abides all feature life after the end.We have a morbid fascination with the ruination of society.

When we read a novel, most of us tend to put ourselves in the story.  Ergo, when we read an end times story, most of us are imagining ourselves in the lead role.  Who hasn't seen himself as Stu from The Stand as he tries taking on Randall Flagg?  Haven't we read stories like Rise and seen ourselves taking on the zombies as we lead others to safety?

There's certainly a heroic aspect to it.  All of us want to be the hero, and these types of tales provide opportunity for that in spades.  Rarely are there marauding armies where a person's identity can get lost, but rather it's that lone hero against the world.  We see such things and want to be that.

Of course, it's easy to imagine being that lone hero from the safety of our bed or couch.  We all seem to think that, of course, we'd be one of those few survivors, rather than one of the hordes of dead people snuffed out as Armageddon began.  But think about that - doesn't the world go to shit precisely because nearly everyone dies?  You can't have everyone survive and still call it an apocalyptic novel.  For that matter, you can't have most people survive and still call it an apocalyptic novel.

For those who've never been in a real shitty situation, where you've lived in the mud and eaten crap for weeks or months on end, such a story might sound noble, but it's really not.  It's hard...hard to the point where more than 95% of those reading this wouldn't survive.  In fact, most wouldn't want to.  Most would rather crawl back into bed, confident in the knowledge that solace means only putting down the book and grabbing a cup of tea.

Perhaps that's the appeal - that we can live vicariously through the story yet find safety at the end of the day.  If that's the reasoning, I can live with that.  However, lines get blurred when most really think they could survive the end of the world.  Sorry, but most couldn't.  That's the whole point.


  1. Let's face it ... I'd be one of the first to go. And even if I wasn't, what could I contribute to a post-civilization society? "Hey, I can write your newsletter ..."

    1. Yeah, some of our current skills would be useless in the post-apocalyptic age. Know anyone starving for food who can use my powerpoint expertise? :-P