I'm almost finished writing an historical novel that takes place roughly in the year 1000 AD. During my research, I turned up stories of people (okay, most were superstitious, un-read, unwashed, and unsophisticated, even by our neo-superstitious standards) selling all they had, rending their clothes, and piling into churches for mass on the last eve of 999. What the stories fail to tell me is how these people felt and reacted when, after another day or two, the sun still came up in the east, the birds still sang, and hungry stomachs still growled. Probably a collective "Whew!" and back to the wheat fields and sheep-tending.
Today, street preachers rave about Judgment Day, New Agers stubbornly cling to ideas of an apocalypse (the world as we know it ends in 2012, or haven't you heard? Just ask any Mayan you know about their calendar), even after Y2K failed to produce a computer armageddon and a 2008 world-wide economic meltdown, courtesy of greedy bankers (well, greed all around) and two bankrupting wars that have gone absolutely nowhere, we're still here.
As I peruse books and book reviews I keep coming across a new sub-genre (I'm not sure if it should be called fantasy or not) referred to as post-armageddon. Boy, this is stubbornness in spades.
Writers follow trends – some beginning in the real world – but most are following the trends of writers like Cormac McCarthy (read his The Road?) and Stephen King (check out his The Stand). There are others, perhaps less well known, that you can scroll through here.
The sensibility of those novels – at least the ones I've read – is that we were born to screw up, that the earth is a problematic place, anyway. But marbled into these fatalistic tropes is another view of humanity – its persevering spirit, that something good within us prevails at the end of the day. This is our paradox, the paradox of our stories, over and over again, throughout centuries. One inescapable fact looms, since life imitates art, and vice versa: if we're going to have an apocalype, it'll be because we choose to.
Earth is really a pretty cool place. Did I mention the birds tweeting? Rain on the roof? A fun day at the beach? That delectable toast and coffee for breakfast?
I want this manic-depressive sensibility of ours to go away. Really. I do. But then, what would there be to write about?
See Bob's web site here.