A Life Of Fiction CLVII

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine): Recently a friend of mine began running a post-apocalyptic RPG by the name of Mutant Zero. In the game the apocalypse seems to be a combination of a zombie plague and a nuclear holocaust. It got me thinking about just how many different forms of apocalypse there are. Here, below, are just some of them, and my thoughts on them, in relation to my writing and role-playing.

Religious Apocalypse: Or God gets angry. We have the End Of Days. Fire and brimstone and the breaking of the Seventh Seal and whatnot. This is basically the plot for such things as Left Behind. But I have trouble with such ideas. One is suspending my disbelief. I simply don’t believe in any of that stuff. My sympathies to anybody who does.

I haven’t written anything set on such a post-apocalyptic world. Perhaps I should, one day, just to see if I can do it. But I have no burning desire to tell such a tale.

There have been several books along these lines by Christian… well, I’m not going to call them extremists. But you know what I mean. But if you want to write your own version, there is certainly enough source material in the Bible, the apocrypha and in pseudepigraphical writings for the basis of a novel.

Of course you don’t have to make it Christian. You might decide that there really are Norse gods, and decide to have Ragnarok. This has been done (well, up to a point) in the Marvel comic Thor.

You could include occult apocalypses along with the religious one. Occult and religious are sometimes only points of view. I suppose that I should mention my novel The Book of Gana’Ot here. That was an end of the world type thingy – and the cause of it was a mysterious tome – the book of the title.

Nuclear Holocaust: Growing up in the 1970s this seemed to be a real possibility, certainly at the height of the Cold War. when, in 1982-83 you had Ronald Reagan in the white house and Andropov in the Kremlin, there were times when you could really imagine one of them doing something very stupid and the missiles flying. Check out the wonderful German series Deutschland 83 for an example of the sort of tension which existed in those times.

Although the spectre of nuclear extinction has receded somewhat, with more sensible people in the positions of power, those nuclear weapons still exist. All that you need is some mad cowboy in the White House, or somebody even worse than Putin in the Kremlin, and you could, theoretically, have a nuclear war.

There have been a lot of books and a lot of films about nuclear holocausts. I’m not going to list all of them here. It would probably double the size of this post. I have written the odd short story in a place where there has been some massive exchange of nuclear weapons. The hard thing is to get some sort of new line in those scenarios, and not just repeat what other people have written. Only go with this if you have some stonking new idea.

Global Warming: You don’t have to believe it just because it’s the truth, but the world is slowly getting warmer when, in fact, it should be cooling. I say slowly, because a couple of degrees over decades seem slow to us mere mayflies. But in terms of geological time it is very fast.

Even just an increase of two degrees in such a short period can have a devastating effect on the global ecosphere. Biota will simply not bee in the correct place. Animals can slowly move to new locations, in some circumstances. But not id they are some land animal stuck on an island. And if you are a frog in a rain forest and, because of global warming, the rain forest dies, then what are you going to do?

I haven’t written any novels about global warming, or about what comes afterwards. But I have written some short stories set in worlds which might have suffered runaway global warming.

The world would (will) suffer increased desertification. What most people don’t seem to understand is that the Sahara Desert is not that old, in geological terms. It hasn’t been around for millions upon millions of years.

Perhaps the entire world will become one great desert. The sea would rise, swallowing up a lot of agricultural land. The rising sea levels would cause many aquifers to become salinated, getting rid of a lot of the drinking water of the world. More and more species would become extinct, in the most recent mass extinction. You would end up with a world which could not support seven billion people, leading to mass starvation and wars fought over diminishing resources.

This would be a catastrophe, and not one of the cosy catastrophes of the novels of John Wyndham.

A New Ice Age: This is unlikely to happen on Earth in the immediate future. But it could theoretically occur in the distant future. There are factors which could cause the climate to swing back the other way. Maybe a super-volcano throws up so much dust into the sky that a new ice age sets in. a new ice age could have happened after some nuclear war – and a nuclear winter – a long time in the past. It is not impossible.

A new ice age would lock up a lot of water at the extended polar regions. You might have ice covering the northern hemisphere as far south as northern England. But with so much water locked up at the poles there would be other interesting things. A lot of land which is currently under water would become dry land. Such as Dogger, in the North Sea, off the east coast of Britain. You would be able to walk across areas which are currently underwater. The maps of the world would have to be redrawn.

I haven’t written anything like this. But, if my memory serves me right, I did have something about one of the old Ice Ages in one of my stories. But I can no longer recall which one. Maybe I have written too much.

Zombie Apocalypse: This is one which seems to be very popular in films, television and other media at the moment. And you know what? I am really, really bored of zombies. Zombies are dull. There are very few decent zombie movies.

The Dead is one half-decent zombie movie. Maybe because, by moving the setting to Africa, it is a little different. But I actually cared about the human characters in this film.

I haven’t written any zombie apocalypse stories, and I have no intention of doing so. I have a short novella called Z Stands For Zombie. But that is not an apocalyptic tale, but told from the point of view of the zombie.

Technological Apocalypse: Or machines run wild. This is the plot of the Terminator franchise of movies. It is the plot of the Matrix franchise of movies. And of lots of other, lesser movies, lest we forget.

As we slowly approach true artificial intelligence, and something which can pass the Turing test, this has become something to which creators turn time and time again.

In my novel Steam Park there was a computer which was self-aware. But that device was only a fraction of the novel, and I did not go deeply into it. I have dealt with artificial intelligence in a lot of short stories, though. But I don’t think that they were that apocalyptic.

You could easily write a novel about this end of the world as we know it. But with so many movies using this as a theme I think that it would be hard to be truly original.

Ecological Apocalypse: Or nature gets its revenge on us for what we have done to the planet. Perhaps plants have gone haywire. Maybe ecological changes have caused them to mutate.

I suppose that my novel Roots could be considered to be an example of this, in that plants attack our world, although there is more to it than that.

Of course the problem with plants is that they are not intelligent; and they are not really mobile. But John Wyndham solved that problem in Day of the Triffids by having deadly plants which could move around, and which, by that rattling, seemed to be able to communicate between themselves.

It doesn’t have to be plants. Maybe the animals take over. Monkey Planet, anybody?

Alien Invasion: And why not? There have been plenty of books and films in which visiting aliens are less than friendly. Any aliens advanced enough to be able to cross the gulf between the stars are going to be so advanced that we would seem no more intelligent than normal animals to them. But there have been so many examples of this that it would be hard to be truly original. And there is no point in doing something which has been done before. But maybe somebody out there can come up with some new slant on the alien invasion meme.

Anyway, that is enough end of the world scenarios for one week. Next time I will be looking forward to the next NaNoWriMo.

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