Take heed, Tor.com readers, this the final year on Earth! Possibly of Earth!
2012 has always been a popular target date for those who do and do not joke of the end of the world. (Although why would you ever actually think the world is ending? Have you seen this world? It is huge.) The end of the Mayan calendar in 2012 is commonly cited as our collective stage bow, but that’s not the only thing gunning for us.
In fact, if the human race is really bad at anything besides skeeball, it is predicting when the world will end. To make that abundantly clear, Loren Madsen has assembled Pick a Year, a table of years that collects all of the various cries of doom that have piled up over the centuries.
The range covers thousands of years, past, present, and future, and while religious prophecy and cultural mythology make up a significant portion of it — at least one religious figurehead alive today was convinced the world would end in 1952 — scientific predictions are also included. A particular rib-tickler is the entry for 2026, when the world’s population was predicted to reach INFINITY by a poorly-written article in a 1960s science periodical.
Click a year to see how the world was supposed to end. Or just go straight to 2012. The language is cheeky and 2035 is NSFW, but it’s a pretty enjoyable romp through a flurry of averted apocalypses. (How does one pluralize apocalypse? Didn’t Buffy settle this a while back?) The predictions read as a fairly transparent rundown of societal anxieties and fads throughout the centuries. Nuclear destruction crops up after World War 2, new age prophecies begin to appear in the 1960s, and 2000 is chock-a-block with predictions.
If anything, we hope it strikes a note of optimism within you. After all, if the world is always ending, then it’s never really ending, is it? Especially not this year....
This article originally appeared in an altered form on Tor.com in April 2011.
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