Monday, April 14, 2014
Ukraine, The End, Global Climate Change, Bombs
First the Crimean crisis, then the Eastern Ukraine crisis, we have to worry about. Beyond that you've heard that there are wars and you've heard the rumors of wars. You've seen images from scientists showing melting icebergs and glaciers and you've been told the earth will become too hot to be the beautiful, nuturing place we once knew. Species extinctions, food shortages and overpopulation all threaten to destroy humanity or the world in which it lives. And then we might see terrorists use nuclear weapons, for whatever insane reason, and all of our perceived normals will go straight to hell. Or have you heard about all the resistant strains of bacteria that we'll be killed by, because we've foolishly use antibiotics for any thing. Birth defects are rising in areas from polluted ground water, and the world has floating patches of garbage upon the surface of our oceans. It is thought by some scientists that numerous ocean going species collapse, combined with global climate change could cause food riots, and since most of the Third World that is, poor, people of the world live in equatorial or at least nearly equatorial regions, the human toll from the catastrophe will be far in excess of anything since the era of the plagues, such as Black Death and the like. And then again, you haven't done your homework yet, you still have that huge pimple...
It might well be true that the world has always had events, crisis, and disasters. It is also true to say, we've never likely known about them nearly as well as we do now. Science fiction, fantasy and all forms of speculative writing have considered every possible disaster, that we know of, and usually long before it was known by the general populace to be possible. There are critiques from outside of speculative fiction who just considered the entire of the genre to be weird or childish fantasy but that is clearly not true. Great minds have for centuries used such writing to produce considerations of the world at present, through the lens of an outsider, or by placing the narrator inside an event that could threaten the world. The imagined disasters in these works can help us understand the present, but showing the reader how the writer of that day would imagine people responding to the disaster, if in the future. But some other ways of understanding the present better is by seeing how the current reader sees all the things they cherish being lost, and what would they do to stop that. Science fiction and fantasy fiction allow the reader to put the question to themselves, "What if this happened to me?".
There are many more Apocalyptical Crisis books than the images included in this piece show. The reader is invited to search for the crisis and then look into the fiction. Raw data does not always speak to the mind, but fiction often does.
The eight books shown are (in no particular order):
On The Beach by Nevil Shute which follows the events of a world that has been poisoned by a nuclear conflict, and radiation that is going to kill that world.
Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin is about a "future" civilization on a world that seems familiar, and we learn more and more that sometimes events can destroy the future, and make it seem more like the past.
The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett is a story about a world destroyed by a massive nuclear conflict. In the former United States the return to normal is slow, and is only in the third generation since the bombs fell. Technology is seen as evil, and religion has found greater adherents.
Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank is another nuclear war story, but with a specific focus upon a small town in Florida, and seeing the recovery in the early days of the events. The title comes from the Bible, "Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come."
The Last Man by Mary Shelley is not about a nuclear disaster. It was written in 1826 about a plague that devastates the earth, and follows a group of people trying to find their way to other humans, in Europe, before the end can destroy them all.
The Postman by David Brin follows a man who discovers a uniform from a long lost era of America, a postal uniform. The story is about how humans would at first break into small groups, tribes, and be led by warlords, but there is hope that in the future a greater idea of nation will be restored.
The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K Le Guin follows a man who can dream reality into a better world, but, the problem for that world then becomes, what worse could happen that the new world does not consider. Much more speculative and more fantastical than the others on the list, there is still scenario after scenario of worlds in crisis, and how remaking the wheel and facing old threats that have modernized or evolved shows that normal might be difficult, but it can always get worse.
Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle show earth society, particularly the US society, after a huge comet strikes the earth. Millions have died, law and order are gone, the world is a disaster area, and people are only now realizing that they have to do something or they will die.