originally published at Suvudu—April 23, 2010
It’s Earth Week, a great time to consider, well, the Earth. Today’s green culture abounds with initiatives for sustainability, organic foods, reduced carbon footprints, free trade, and even environmental sociology. All week long–in the northern hemisphere, at least–the Internet has teemed with blog posts, articles, diatribes, petitions, and Facebook statuses about how best we can care for what’s ours. Before it’s too late.
And, really–this is fantastic. Be a part of it. Learn something.
But here at Suvudu, today is “The Day After Earth Day,” which is to say, the jig is up. We’re too late. You’re left with Afterearth. Why would we want to destroy it? Well, we don’t–not really, which, when you think about it, is odd. Popular culture loves a good apocalypse. We watch them on television, read about them, play them on our consoles and computers–there are even yearly blog-games wherein everybody pretends that it’s really happening. So, do we want to save the Earth, or do we want to destroy it?
Well, both. See, the two are, in many ways, the same thing. Artistically speaking, anyway (I hardly think industrial polluters care much about saving what’s around them, but that’s neither here nor there). An artistic apocalypse is not the End of the World. In fact, it’s often a celebration—an assertion—of our shared existence. And that existence includes not only the ability to gather virtually by the millions across the Internet to save the planet, it also includes the capability of destruction, and that really fascinates us. There’s nothing to destroy if we don’t save it first.
So, around here, The Day After Earth Day is both. We’re green, or, at least, trying to be, but we know that saving the earth is really about saving its people, and an apocalypse explores humanity in ways few other genres can.
So, let’s have a look. First of all, as I was saying, the apocalypse is not the end of the world. At least, not always, in most formats, cultural differences of definition notwithstanding.
And that is where our headache begins: defining “apocalypse.” Most of us know one when we see one, or read one: When Worlds Collide, War of the Worlds, The Road, Fallout 3 . . . That is, of course, if we allow ourselves the convenience of lumping pre-, apocalypse, and post- into one category.
It gets complicated. Do we define apocalyptic or eschatological religious doctrine (like Christianity, Islam, or Judaism) in the same context as explosions, alien invasions, and mega-disasters? After all, the common cultural meaning for “apocalypse” these days means, simply, “destruction,” but we definitely co-opted it from these religious traditions, where it’s a revelation, made possible by epic, Mordor-esque battles, the sundering of the world, and massive death. When is “apocalypse” How the Universe Works, and when is it A Fun Movie on TV?
For most of us, it doesn’t really matter. Like I said, we know an apocalypse when we see one, but that’s primarily because these narratives are packaged that way. All other things being equal, in a neutral environment, could each of us sit down, not primed to see an apocalypse on the tube or screen, and pinpoint when a show, a book, a movie, or a game goes from uncomfortable to unfortunate to disastrous to apocalyptic? It’d be difficult. There are very few definitional rules here, and, really, what’s the point?
Because. Apocalypse and creation stories are the same things. So why do we like them so much? And who am I anyway, typing away about the end of the world like a random crazy person?
First, I’m Darin Bradley, a newcomer to Suvudu and one of Spectra’s new authors for 2010. I’ve taught college courses on apocalyptic media, and my novel, Noise, is about the end of the world, and the beginning, and the difficult spaces between. Spectra sums it up pretty well:
“In the aftermath of the switch from analog to digital TV, an anarchic movement known as Salvage hijacks the unused airwaves. Mixed in with its random noise are dire warnings of the imminent economic, political, and social collapse of civilization—and cold-blooded lessons for how to survive the fall and prosper in the harsh new order that will inevitably arise from the ashes of the old.
“Hiram and Levi are two young men, former Boy Scouts and veterans of countless D&D campaigns. Now, on the blood-drenched battlefields of university campuses, shopping malls, and gated communities, they will find themselves taking on new identities and new moralities, as they lead a rag-tag band of hackers and misfits to an all-but-mythical place called Amaranth, where a fragile future waits to be born.”
Stories of the End of Days are our human inheritance, our lineage, and they tell us all kinds of things about ourselves. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to offer you a series of posts about some of these things. In the end, I think you’ll see that the apocalypse isn’t about destruction and death (well, it is and it isn’t). It’s about affirmation—confirmation. It’s a celebration of humankind in all its contradictory grace and horror.
Elements of the apocalypse underpin our daily lives. So, coming up In Episode 1: anarchy.
This is the beginning of the end, so keep your eyes peeled.
And go plant a tree. Save the Earth before we blow it up.
Learn more about ESCAPE FROM EARTH DAY and THE DAY AFTER EARTH DAY here