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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Not with a bang but a whimper

I'm sick. Not hacking my lungs up sick, but rubbing my nose raw sick. And I've promised myself I can go to bed just as soon as I finish this.
I've been thinking a lot about the apocalypse lately. I've got this mini side-job now working for the awesome publication Dark Moon Digest, a horror fiction quarterly, a job I got through a particularly awesome friend. I get to read all manner of horror story and play critic. I've got to say, I'm letting the power get to my head a little. At first I was all "I'm going to be open-minded and not hyper-critical, giving everything the fair shake I'd like my work to get."
About two rounds of short stories later, I became this guy:

(I'm kidding, actually. Everybody gets a fair shake and I read every word of every story before I pass judgement. But, you know, a little power's a dangerous thing).
I've noticed the apocalypse is a popular subject. Enough that I've had to learn to spell apocalypse. I'm not sure if it's just a current trend or whether horror stories naturally trend that way, but tonight I learned I'm not the only one noticing it.
In an interview with professional sycophant Terry Gross (okay, maybe that's a harsh assessment, but damn, sycophant is a good word), film critic David Edelstein says that if there's on thing the film industry says about American preoccupations right now, it's that  "Apocalypse is in the air... there's just a vibe in the culture that our way of life is ending." He mentions global climate change in Take Shelter, dramatic squinting in Planet of the Apes, and plague in Contagion. "I'm not saying movies haven't always been fascinated with the idea of apocalypse, I'm just saying that not in so many different bloody ways."
I remember reading or hearing somewhere that apocalypse movies go in spurts. The early sixties saw the doomsday scenarios aplenty in some of the my favorite episodes of The Twilight Zone like The Midnight Sun, The Shelter, and One More Pallbearer.   In 1964 alone you've got Dr. Strangelove, Fail Safe, The Last Man on Earth (based on the novel I am Legend, which also served as the basis for the 2007 film with Will Smith), all influenced, most of them directly, by nuclear anxiety. 
There's another spate in the mid-90s with Independence Day, The Stand, Twelve Monkeys, and Outbreak. I'm not sure what influenced this one, aside from maybe a big flurry of celebrities announcing they've got/dying from HIV/AIDS. That's a little bit of a reach, though considering the epidemic was hardly news by then. 
Now it's climate change, economic collapse, the Arab Spring perhaps driving up the popularity of the end times once again. 
It's funny, even though I know how doomsday predictions and obsessions come and go, I'm never quite convinced that Armageddon (named for Har Megiddo the mountain on which the Final Battle, according to the book of Revelation, will take place)  isn't just around the corner. I predict global pandemic a la Stephen King's The Stand, which has haunted my nightmares for going on three decades now.




Fire and Ice
Robert Frost


Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.



One of many apocalyptic poems written in the late teens and early 20s of the last century probably influenced by the horrors of WWI.

4 comments:

Bonnie Jacobs said...

This week, people are starting the countdown to December 21, 2012, when the Mayan calendar ends its long cycle. That's 12-21-12, one year from yesterday. It ought to be an interesting year, huh?

Brigid Daull Brockway said...

I saw a "Countdown to Armageddon" calendar at the store the other day. Should have bought it, actually, it looks hilarious.

Brigid Daull Brockway said...

I think there's a quote from Kurt Vonnegut out there, something about how the fact that the world didn't end in 2000 proves god isn't heavy into numerology. Something like that.

Brigid Daull Brockway said...

The year is 2001 now.
If all had gone the way a lot of people thought it would, Jesus Christ would have been among us again, and the American flag would have been planted on Venus and Mars.
No such luck!
At least the World will end, an event anticipated with great joy by many. It will end very soon, but not in the year 2000, which has come and gone. From that I conclude that God Almighty is not heavily into Numerology.

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