I have an unhealthy addiction to the end of the world, and it seems I’m not alone (see posts 18/01 Post-Apocalyptic: The Past and the Future and 26/01 Geek Survival Guide: tips you may never need). I write about it (you can read extracts from my latest version of Armageddon–Hater–here on Tor.com from today), and if I’m not writing then I’m usually reading books or watching films about the apocalypse. Hell, the last Facebook group I joined was called The hardest part of a zombie apocalypse will be pretending I’m not excited.
I thought there might be something wrong with me and I’ve been reassured by the recent posts and comments here that I’m not alone in my addiction. I think our constant fascination with the end of the world will always be with us; from HG Wells’ War of the Worlds in the late 1890s through to the literally hundreds of books, films and games available today, our appetite for destruction seems undiminished. There’s no doubting though, that world events will always have an impact on the amount and type of stories which are released. As has already been mentioned in a previous post, the Cold War caused an undeniable spike in the popularity of the genre and, judging how things are panning out around the world right now, look for the mother of all surges in PA fiction over the next couple of years!
But, selfishly forgetting about the rest of the world for a few moments, I want to know why I’m fascinated with thinking about the end of everything.
I used to think it was because I was stuck in the daily grind of the 9–5, doing a job I didn’t want to do for people I didn’t want to be with. It wasn’t. I got out of the rat race and I’m still addicted.
I used to think it was because I’m the only male in a house full of women, but it isn’t. Believe me though, the end of the world has nothing on the atmosphere in my house some weeks!
Seriously though, thinking about my family makes me realize just how much I don’t want the end of the world to arrive. I don’t want to have to destroy the reanimated corpse of my neighbor with a shovel. I don’t want to have to forage for the basic necessities, eating cold baked beans out of a tin and drinking stagnant water from a muddy puddle and so on. I don’t want my kids to grow up in fear, uneducated and having to fight to survive… (Actually, as I type this, it occurs to me that I’m damn lucky because there are plenty of people in the world today who already have to deal with these thing. Okay, maybe not the zombie neighbor scenario…)
Let’s face it, the idea of surviving the apocalypse would be infinitely preferable to the reality.
When you were younger, did you ever dream of being invisible and being able to do whatever you wanted? Or did you fantasize about waking up one day and being the only person left, everyone else having disappeared into the ether? Imagine that… you could go where you wanted, eat whatever you fancied, take anything from anywhere… it’s the ultimate children’s fantasy; a world without any rules, barriers or restrictions.
And that, I think, is why PA fiction has such a hold over us. It’s our world—everything we know, all that we love and hate, all we regularly experience—but viewed from a different (skewed) perspective. How many times have you watched a PA movie and thought “if that was me I would…” or “if that happened here, first I’d do this…”
But again, what if you were that kid who woke up alone with everyone else gone? My guess is that the novelty would wear off pretty quick. By the end of the first day when you’d gorged yourself with unhealthy food, probably hurt yourself doing things you shouldn’t, and got scared alone in the dark in unfamiliar surroundings, you’d be praying to wake up and find everything back to how it used to be.
So, at the risk of sounding overly sentimental and contrite, I have to conclude that the reason I’m addicted to Post Apocalyptic fiction is just that—because it’s fiction. You finish a book or the movie ends and you’re back in reality. It’s like that feeling of cool relief you get when you wake from a nightmare and realize it was just a dream and you haven’t just killed your neighbor with a shovel or the bomb hasn’t just gone off… you get the picture.
For me, each PA story is a therapeutic escape from reality which almost always gives me a kick up the backside and whispers in my ear “be thankful for what you’ve got, ’cause you could lose it all in a heartbeat.”
So, I’ll keep writing my Hater sequels and working on the re-releases of my PA-zombie series Autumn, and I’ll work my way through the library of PA novels I have sitting next to my desk ready to be read, and I’ll watch as many visions of the apocalypse as I can get hold of.
Here’s to the end of everything!
Check out the web serial of David Moody’s Hater, Chapters I-IV, starting today on Tor.com!