It’s been a bit since we did a Science Fiction Today post… so here’s a fun one. How about the end of the world?
Armageddon, the Apocalypse, Ragnarok, the Eschaton… these names and more could be thrown at it. I feel like I have grown up in an era when we’ve half expected the end – at the year 2000, in 2012, any number of times around and between. When we’re not expecting it for real, we seem to be thinking about it in fiction – in science fiction, in horror.
Maybe it’s the EMP Museum that got me thinking about it. They talked about how the current problems of the world tend to bleed into what happens in our horror stories – like the original Godzilla in the advent of the Atomic Age. So what are some of the things we’re worried about right now? Here’s my list of 5 ways the world could end!
As much as this comes up in scientific discussion, I actually don’t feel like there’s good science fiction on this yet. Maybe there’s just not a widespread classic yet that I know of. Surprising, given the conversation around it in scientific and political arenas.
Are we left with something like The Day After Tomorrow? A sudden cold snap, trouble for a couple of days? Then we just learn to deal with it. I think that we may not be seeing the end of the world in this way in science fiction much because this is a problem to be solved: something science fiction is good at.
However, thinking about all the things that could go wrong with a problem – this is something science fiction does well also. There should be more explorations of the questions of climate change – because in the news the focus is just a conversation about the cause. Science fiction can consider the effects, and how we might deal with them.
I suppose climate change comes up a bit in The Windup Girl, but I was saving it to talk about food. There’s a lot of focus, internationally, about genetically modified foods or GMOs. In the US, this has taken a particular turn in terms of the growing focus and interest in organic foods.
In The Windup Girl, companies created seeds with an expiration – ones that can’t grow more than a few seasons. Things get out of hand, and all of the natural seeds die off – followed by a lot of people.
It makes me wonder – can we produce enough organic food to feed the world’s growing population? Or do we need non-organic foods, pesticides, and such to feed the world? Will our population lead to famine? Already there are people in the world who go hungry – keeping up with the demands for food will not be easy into the future. And so much can go wrong.
You know, these days by pestilence I think we mean Zombies. When you think about it, Zombies are the physical embodiment of a virus. And their day in the movies is not done yet. They are a horror film classic for our current day and age.
A downside of globalization, of the ease of travel, of the ease of going through borders, is that germs can spread more easily. Think of SARS, or Bird Flu or Swine Flu, in recent years. Quite a bit of spread – and even more fear.
A virus could take a number of forms, and indeed there are many that plague us still. But an epidemic? That’s a scary thing. Want to see how hard one would be to fight? Try the game Pandemic and see how often you win…
But there’s always the possibility that before any of our domestic problems get us here at home on Earth, something is going to come and find us, and take us apart. I caught a few minutes of the movie Armageddon the other day, and while it was entertaining, is it a real plan for dealing with an asteroid?
Is there a real plan for dealing with an asteroid? I don’t think we have the technology yet to be able to do much about it. Meaning unfortunately, I think that things would turn out more like the book Lucifer’s Hammer than Armageddon – the asteroid hits, and civilization ends.
I think it’d end up about the same with anything else from space – like, say, aggressive aliens. A movie like Independence Day might make us feel like we could get lucky – but it’d be nice to think there might be more than luck to it.
World War 3
I can’t help but feel like the Cold War is back – or perhaps that World War 3 is on the verge. The happenings in the Ukraine, in Crimea, remind me of the start of World War 2. If so, then we’re in the Appeasement phase right now – will it lead to war?
Except if the war happens, in a world with atomic weapons? A great powers war? A world war? We have yet to see how something like this would go. To see whether there are people truly willing to ever use those weapons again.
Of all of these things, this is the one that is most frightening. The most imminent. The most real. It’s maybe a really good time for a movie like Godzilla to be coming out – to remind us of our fear of nuclear power, of radiation and change. Maybe a great time for stories of mutants, for an X-Men movie.