Why do we enjoy the Apocalypse?
The apocalypse is everywhere. From books turned into movies
like The Hunger Games to television shows like AMC’s record-breaking The
Walking Dead , the end of the world is setting pop-culture on fire. The fact is, we enjoy the idea of the apocalypse.
Humans have been entertained and frightened by The End for thousands of years. The biblical flood is a cautionary tale woven into our collective consciousness, a purging of the earth. According to Greek mythology, there were several apocalypses which destroyed mankind. Chronos and Zeus scorched men from the planet, leading to new ages of man. The Mayans and Aztecs believed in the cyclical nature of the end of the world.
Early myths and legends revolved around natural disasters and religion as our ancestors struggled to understand the unpredictable and often angry world they lived in. When volcanoes and floods ravaged entire civilizations, people turned to their Gods and decided retribution had descended from on high. We are not so different. We are still drawn to the apocalypse.
Only recently have humans developed the ability to bring about the end of the world on our own. The vast arsenals of nuclear weapons amassed by the Soviet Union and the United States raised the specter of self-inflicted extinction for the first time. In 2014 there are even more paths which lead to the end. We can unleash a genetically modified virus engineered to kill, a vaccine designed to heal that goes wrong, or simply warm the planet up enough that when weather patterns change, the earth is no longer a welcome place for humanity. The fiction, video games, movies, and television shows are a way of coming to grips with our fragile place in the universe. Also, it’s just plain fun.
Could I Survive?
It’s here. The Emergency Broadcast System is blaring out a warning, and everybody is losing their minds. There is anarchy in the streets, and the roads are choked with dead cars. People are dying already, and it’s going to get worse. Much worse. Will I make it?
This is the engine that drives the best fiction set in the apocalypse. We are immersed in the fictional world, asking ourselves what we would do, imagining ways we would be one of the few to emerge from the initial chaos. Whether the main character is an average Joe or a badass heroine trained by ninjas, we put ourselves into the action. We’ve got a certain set of skills, after all…
From Zero to Hero
When the apocalypse happens, it doesn’t matter who we were. What matters is who we are and what we can become. We’ve got this potential inside that the world has never seen. We could be heroes, given the right set of circumstances. All we need is the chance. It doesn’t matter if we were trapped in boring jobs or loveless marriages. When the bombs fall and the dead walk, we get to break free. We get to reinvent ourselves. It is almost like a time machine, a chance to do things over again.
If we’ve made a mess of things, squandered our potential, the apocalypse gives us a chance to rectify old wrongs. When the shit hits the fan, it’s our time to shine. We can be leaders, legends, survivors.
Rules? What Rules
No more taxes, traffic tickets or petty fights with the Home-Owners Association. No more bills, credit cards or even money. There are no laws beyond the laws of survival. Things that once seemed important don’t matter anymore. The things we took for granted, like food, shelter and clothing, are now vital. If somebody tries to steal our stuff, we don’t run to the police, oh no. We take matters into our own hands. Put those Karate lessons to good use, whip out the .44, or unleash a good ‘ole beat down with a crowbar. Anything goes.
The lack of rules means that injustices can be corrected immediately. No courts, no trial. Justice is meted out with brutal swiftness. There is something very appealing about that.
A Buffet of Free Stuff
In many scenarios, most of the population is dead, but the world is our oyster. There are gun-grabs and walks through shopping malls. Need a brand-new car? No problem. It’s right there for the taking. A place to stay? Well, there are plenty of McMansions lying around just waiting to be occupied.
We can waltz through a Walmart and grab whatever we want. The electronics section is probably useless, but there is still a LOT of cool stuff lying around.
The Good Guys Are Really Good
The roving gangs of cannibals, rapists, and murderers pillage their way through the smashed landscape, taking advantage of the lawlessness, succumbing to their evil nature. Until they run into the hero. The bad guys are evil incarnate. They will stop at nothing, show no mercy. We despise them, can’t wait to see the final showdown.
The bad guys get their asses handed to them because, well, they are bad. They deserve to die in creative and wildly entertaining ways. We revel in their ultimate destruction, the thundering climax, and we grin when the villains fall bleeding, dismembered, and choking on their own nastiness.
From the Ashes
The apocalypse destroys society as we know it. It is the great equalizer, leveling humanity. Governments are gone. There are no more politicians to screw things up. There is no more political debate, no more war on an international scale. There is an equality in the world again, where men are judged by their merits rather than their ancestry, their paycheck, or social status. The world gets the chance to reinvent itself the same way that the individuals inhabiting it do. And maybe, this time, we learn something. We understand the flawed thinking that led to the breakdown in the first place. We get it better the next time. We do it right because most people are decent and kind and evil is now on the run.
So enjoy the apocalypse, and read some Permuted Press books like Shana Festa’s Time of Death: Induction, Thomas Wolfenden’s excellent One Man’s Island, and Deborah Moore’s riveting Cracked Earth. And while you’re at it, check out Objects of Wrath by yours truly, a coming of age tale set in America after the next world war. : http://www.amazon.com/Objects-Wrath-Volume-Sean-Smith/dp/1618682245