Tag Archives: books about the end of the world

Mary Shelley’s false messiah in The Last Man

The Last Man by Mary Shelley, 1826

The Last Man by Mary Shelley, 1826

I always wonder just what people believed and assumed in years past, most specifically in hundreds of years past.  And these quotes by Mary Shelley from The Last Man, one of the earliest science fiction novels, give me insight that there are always astute individuals in every age.

Centering around a plague that makes its deadly way to England, the few people left are torn between the calm, caring, patient leader who has brought them across the ocean in search of salvation, and the evil power-hungry charlatan who threatens eternal damnation and preaches that sickness is God’s punishment.

“It is a strange fact, but incontestible, that the philanthropist, who ardent in his desire to do good, who patient, reasonable, and gentle, yet disdains to use other argument than truth, has less influence over men’s minds, than he who, grasping and selfish, refuses not to adopt any means, nor awaken any passion, nor diffuse any falsehood, for the advancement of his cause.”

So relevant to our time!  (Donald Trump running for president)  I guess some things never change.

 

Why do I read apocalypse novels?

I have to ask myself, why do I enjoy apocalypse books?  Why do I want to hear about destruction?  Do I have a secret fantasy that people be killed en masse?

2012: The Movie
2012: The Movie

And I have to say that, no, I don’t want any of these things to happen.

I guess you could ask anyone who enjoys action, do you have a secret fantasy of being in a car chase or gunfire fight?  I’m guessing most would say no.

What about 2012 (the quientessential apocalypse movie, though by far not the best out there), a movie in which most people on earth died; there were only a few left to

2012, the movie poster
2012, the movie poster

re-populate the earth at the very end.  Virtually no one wants this to happen, but I guess humans do have a fantasy about starting over, doing things right, not having to fight for resources, having an Eden to call their very own.

The thing is, we are bored with our action-less lives.  Part of our psyches dream of living a more dramatic, important life, one where the actions we take on a daily basis are ones that will actually help us survive.  Like planting our own food, feeling more self-sufficient… some people undoubtedly fantasize about a lower tech way of life where they have a very important daily purpose:  to survive.  It would feel more meaningful.

I hold down a job that certainly needs to be done, and you could call it important, at least to the people around me.  But I sit in an office and the way I survive is make a paycheck in order to live comfortably in a house, buy groceries, etc.  The tasks I accomplish are not directly going to impact my ability to live, and sometimes as I realize how much humans have forgotten about actually surviving on their own, without grocery stores and cars and all the aspects of modern life, it makes me want to re-learn those skills in case I ever need them.

So apocalyptic books kindle this spark of getting down to the nitty gritty of life, seeing what happens when all that high technology is taken away from people.  At least that’s the best explanation I have for why I enjoy apocalyptic novels.