Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Gung-ho armageddon

I was chatting with a buddy of mine about the end of the world today, and the climateschatology debate came up - you know the one, where everybody gets skin cancer, major coastal cities are drowned, and waterborne illness means death. It made me get to thinking about my own thoughts on the End-of-it-all, and how they've changed.

I used to be the guy that was telling people how Doomsday was going down: "Russia, sooner or later, is just going to be too pissed about its post-Communist condition to not start a nuclear showdown;" "climate change is going to aggravate tensions among disparate groups that will end in disaster;" and et cetera. But as I've gotten older, I've realized that, 1) every generation has its doomsday scenario, and, 2) they basically don't happen.

Conversely, I am not opposed to horses.
There's a big to-do among today's youth and youthful-folk that climate change will destroy us, much as nuclear technology was supposed to destroy the last few generations, and the Christ was supposed to make a second coming around 1000 AD. The point of this isn't to say that climate change isn't really, clearly, totally bad; it just seems like the apocalypse is not something that we can simply predict. And even though I used to suspect that the end of the world was inevitable and incredibly close, it more and more seems that I cannot help but be inevitably optimistic about the future.

This so so antithetical to the kind of fiction I write and the kind of desires I shamefully espouse that it's odd - hypocritical in its most hypo-critical fashion - that I can seem to hold these views in my head simultaneously. I have a sort of voyeuristic desire to be there at the end, and yet I am more and more confident every day that, despite the horrific environmental disasters that seem to follow one on another, Science - that religious establishment of Western Modernity - and Open Diplomacy - that... other thing - will manage to solve every single problem we come upon, at least for the foreseeable future (however long that may be).

But the point is, Happiness and Success don't make no good fiction. And for this reason alone, it can be said that I get so little joy out of Positive Futural Scenarios as to make, for myself, science fiction writing nearly impossible in its "classic" sense. I write about eco-terrorism and gritty space-industries, consumer whorery and hostile alien take-overs; but not glorious colonies and fabulous technologies that make life for the better.

And honestly, it's not even like I'd enjoy being bonded to alien overlords or incinerated in a nuclear blast. In other words, my fantasies are completely at odds with what is truly desirable in the world. What's up with that? It's the exact same situation as my jingoistic attitude toward the various battles being waged across the globe. It's really great to imagine terror and horror, but it's certainly not desirable in any empirical sense.

Oh, well. It's back to writing my gung-ho armageddons, where you can rule the land by the butt of your pistol and the lash of your whip/the warp drive of your spaceship. Woo!



  1. The post-apocalypse trend in fiction lately has made me wonder if society in general is just becoming more pessimistic toward the future, but I can see how the sub-genre is effective for storytelling in general. Conflict drives story, and what can bring more conflict than a worldwide apocalypse or dystopia?
    With that said, though, I wonder if there will some day be a return to a more positive outlook of the future in books. There will still need to be problems for people to deal with, but it might be a breath of fresh air to see a world where societies managed to cooperate, work things out peacefully, and solve some of the big problems we keep hearing about.

  2. I like to think that since we're all headed towards our own personal apocalypse (aside from me, who will live forever), we like to imagine scenarios in which everybody will be taken out with us.

    I still say if people and corporations spent as much money on looking for safe, sane geoengineering projects as they do on denying there's a problem (or fund-raising against the deniers), we'd have it figured out within a couple years.

    Then we could start colonizing space like a decent species.

  3. I'm less optimistic that science will solve everything because even when it can, politics gets in the way. BUT... the human race as a whole is pretty resilient. I imagine some people will survive even the worst (well, maybe not the WORST) of catastrophes. Life will go on, and adapt, no matter what we do to the planet. I agree that every generation has to have something to fear. We can play with that in our writing too. What doomsday scenario could a utopic society be fearing 200 years from now?