End of the World Stories We Hate to Love, Part II (“Oryx and Crake” through Zombie stories)

What’s news?

– I have released an extended version of my two part serial featured here on my blog, The Golden Parachute for .99 on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.  I added about 3000 more words of new material and a short afterward explaining where I got the idea which I believe will enhance the story.

– Also, don’t forget the The Imaginings is on sale for only .99 for the month of February.

What does the future hold?

Next Friday, I’ll be posting a story I think I promised to put up a couple months ago.  Waiting for the Train.  Previous to discovering flash fiction, this was the shortest piece I’d ever written.  It’s also the most literary (as opposed to my normal horror genre).

But without further ado…

Does everybody remember last year when the world was supposed to end on May 22nd?  I do, even though I can’t remember the reason.  I think just some fanatic’s mathematical interpretation of the Bible.  Whatever it was, it was all over the place… or at least Facebook.

Our local Fox meteorologist put this out last May. Pretty funny.

Now I may have mentioned this before (again, I think in my post Why do I like to write horror stories?), but I’m the type of guy who is never completely comfortable until these doomsday moments have passed.  The logical side of me wants to be confident that our race will carry on, but the horror writer in me is just too paranoid.

This will have special significance to me this year, seeing as I live just outside of a town of roughly 350 people, a town which also happens to be the best location on earth for viewing the solar eclipse this May 20th.  Sunday, May 20th.  2012.  Best location on earth.  Seriously?  What are the chances?

And if you buy into the movie version of 2012 (which I’ll discuss shortly), the apocalypse doesn’t wait until December like we thought it would.  In fact, it starts somewhere in the summer.  Maybe in Kanarraville, Utah.  We don’t even have a gas station, but this where the end of the world may start.

Either way, I feel like I’ll have an even better story to tell in June.

But until then…

End of the World Stories We Hate to Love, Part II

ORYX AND CRAKE (2003)-  Honestly, I’m not sure why this novel by Margaret Atwood came to mind.  It isn’t necessarily entirely about the end of the civilization, although the story starts the reader in that setting, continuing on to explain how we got to that point.  I think it would probably count as the first genre-style novel I’d read that was written by someone known as more of a literary author (Atwood referred to both this one and The Handmaid’s Tale as “social science fiction).  And the story reflects that, complete with genetic engineering, multinational corporations and televised executions (just to name a few).  But perhaps what’s scary is that the world as we know it is brought to its knees by one person who believes they are doing the right thing.

THE ROAD (2006)- I discussed this novel by Cormac McCarthy at greater length in my post My Own Works Cited List: 10 books that have inspired me (see also, Why you should be reading Cormac McCarthy).  What’s worth mentioning again here, though, is the fact that sometimes the story goes so much deeper than the setting.  The story is rather how the characters deal with the setting in which they find themselves.  The Road never definitely tells the reader exactly how the end of the world came about (which is probably somewhat true to life… when the end comes we may not get any warnings or explanations).  This is a story about a father and son trying to survive.  And it’s bleak.  This is the biggest complaint I’ve heard about it.  But c’mon, it’s about the end of the world.

“THE HAPPENING” (2008)- M. Night Shyamalan’s first “R” rated movie.  And he took a beating over it.  But I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was essentially the story of the Earth making the decision that we weren’t going to make it, not God or anybody else.  And not in violent volcanic eruptions or earthquakes, but silently (“This is the way the world ends.  Not with a bang, but a whimper.”).  And as far as a horror story was concerned, it had some pretty disturbing scenes.  Another criticism was that it was trying too hard to make a statement, but while I do count myself in the moderate environmentalist camp, I didn’t find this to be the case.  Just stating some facts.  Although, admittedly, one fact is that most of us aren’t fast enough to outrun wind 🙂

“2012” (2009)- I have a few gripes about this movie, but first, how screwed up is that?  Put out a movie in 2009 about 2012 so people like me can be irrationally (but still undeniably) stressed about it for three years.  Sheesh.  Anyway [SPOILER ALERT], here’s my overview of “2012”: When the end of the world comes, you’re pretty much guaranteed to die unless you happen to be a rich asshole… or John Cusack.  Really?  Did I just pay $8 to come to that conclusion while sitting next to my pregnant wife and unborn child?  That sucks.  At least in “The Day After Tomorrow” (written and directed by the same guy), we all get to go to Mexico.  With the exception of some amazing effects, I actually just hated “2012,” but I know some people loved it, so I’ll include it here.

ZOMBIE MOVIES/ “THE WALKING DEAD” (2010)- This one goes way back, and rather than expounding on the zombie movie phenomenon here, I’ll just talk about why I like The Walking Dead (but a worthy excerpt on this topic can be found in my guest post by Dr. Kyle Bishop, al-Qaeda and Zombies: Is there a connection?).  One thing I will say is that I think one draw of zombie movies is a question common to many of these end of the world stories: Would I be able to survive?

[SEASON ONE SPOILER ALERT]  If you are a believer in the ideology behind Darabont’s “The Walking Dead,” the answer is “No.”  Although there were amazing moments that caught my attention about Season 1 (I only have Netflix, so I have to wait for Season 2, so just zip it with any details), moments of humanity–like the desperation when the main character first goes home after escaping the hospital, or the monologue just before the famous entrails-draping scene–it was ultimately the CDC scientist’s one comment that sold me on this series.  “There is no hope.  There never was– this is our extinction event.”  Whoa.  I had never looked at a zombie story like that.  We wouldn’t just disappear like the dinosaurs.  Oh no.

And did I have nightmares during the few weeks that I watched that first season?  Oh yes.

(In regards to this post, while stumbling around the internet, I found some great Best Buy deals.  Being a frugal dad myself, I thought I’d pass them along to you. Maybe you can get a deal on an HDTV for watching the rest of Season 2 of The Walking Dead :))

Honorable Mention:

FAHRENHEIT 451 (1953)- Also on my list of 10 books that have inspired me, I debated putting this one by Ray Bradbury into the list.  However, without giving away any spoilers, I’ll just say that it’s not necessarily an end of the world story.  But it doesn’t take long into the book to realize it’s a start-of-the-end-of-the-world story.  A cautionary tale, perhaps.

What do I want from you?

Okay, that’s the end of my list.  I got some great suggestions last week and would love any more you have for me this week.  Or just any comments on my Part II choices.

And don’t forget to check back next week for Waiting for the Train.

Finally, thanks to those of you who have already helped me spread the word about the .99 February sale for The Imaginings.

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17 thoughts on “End of the World Stories We Hate to Love, Part II (“Oryx and Crake” through Zombie stories)

  1. Wind the reel back to 1964 when the cold war has reached a point where the USA and USSR both have enough nuclear fire power to annihilate all living things on the planet. Bomb shelters are erected in backyards. School kids practice taking cover under their desks not thinking for an instant that a nearby blast would melt steel, incinerate wood and turn concrete structures into a dusty rubble about the consistency of Grape Nuts cereal. Even those a distance from the blasts would soon succumb to the horrible effects of intense nuclear fallout. The reality of that time was the simple unrestrained push of “the button” would launch a cascade of events that would indeed usher in the end of the world. Along comes the film Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Screenplay by the late Stanley Kubrick (A Clockwork Orange, Eyes Wide Shut, Full Metal Jacket, etc) and starring Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, et al. This irreverent spoof about the very real spectre of nuclear holocaust looming over us in 1964 was the first time I heard the term “black comedy” or “dark comedy.”

    Also, kudos to Ken who last week mentioned On the Beach. Whenever I hear the Australian folk song Waltzing Matilda, that movie comes to mind. “This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.”
    (T.S. Eliot).

    1. Yikes. At least they didn’t tell us that stuff as a kid when we were having the drills. A false sense of security, I guess (even though we were still scared).

      I almost included Dr. Strangelove on my list. Great movie. Great director.

    2. Thanks, Papa, for your kudos! I first read On the Beach about 20 years ago.I related the story to my girlfriend (now my wife) who, bearing in mind that this is a novel about the end of the world, said, “Is it a true story?” !!!! She is actually an intelligent person, she was just having a senior moment!
      The book was then made into a film starring Gregory Peck, and remade recently with Armande Assante. Never seen either version. Not sure, really, how well it would translate from page to screen, but neither version, I understand, skimps on the ending.
      Paul, another good list (apart from 2012 of course!) Margaret Attwood wrote a sequel of sorts to Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood. It’s on my to read list.
      The Walking Dead, superb! The Road, another fantastic novel. I retold this one to my wife, too, and we both cried and cried as I told it to her.
      It seems we’ve always needed end of the world stories (you mentioned the Bible last week) but I do wonder if, in these dangerous times we live in, we now need them more than ever.
      Paul, I share your anxieties.about he future, and outr childrens’ future. It is in part through fiction that I believe we learn to live with those fears, and not let them overcome us.
      Thanks for reading my ramblings!!

      1. Hey Ken, thanks for submitting your ramblings 🙂

        And a sequel to “Oryx and Crake,” eh? Interesting. I’ll put it on my list as well.

        And I dunno’ about your last point. On one hand, I agree that fiction can help us through fearful times, but I also wonder if the abundances of these stories don’t help to propagate those fears. Of course, then people get critical of stories purely of fluff, saying that we are trying to brush reality under the rug. Who knows? I just know I didn’t like 2012 🙂

        Thanks again for stopping by.

  2. Orxy and Crake, oh yes! I love Atwood. The snobbish beginnings of my writing career were tempered by the fact that Atwood could both be classified as literary and still write a good story. Too much of what is categorized as literary is overly self-assured or just plain old lacking in a gripping story. That’s never the case with Atwood.

    I wouldn’t worry about the world ending in 2012. If it doesn’t end, the worry is needlessly sapping energy from life. If it does end, it’s unlikely you can do anything to stop it and therefore shouldn’t spend the last bit of life worrying.

    I’m going book shopping with an Amazon gift certificate – adding The Golden Parachute to my list!

    1. Hey Aniko, I like that you had a good influence early on. For me, it was a professor who co-wrote with Frank Herbert. It was nice to have someone in academia who didn’t look down their nose at genre writing.

      And yes, I’ll try not to worry too much. I think I’ll just be irritated.

      Thanks for stopping by. Hope you have a good weekend.

      1. A healthy dose of irritation is not misplaced! 🙂 It is irritating to think that we don’t get to have any say in the really big things, like, oh the end of the world. I feel we should get votes for ourselves and for every character we’ve ever written.

  3. Great list. Got a couple for ya! I just finished reading The Passage by Justin Cronin (sp?). Excellent post-apocalypse book. Then there’s Swan Song by Robert McCammon. My all time favorite.

    1. Hey Hunter, good to see you. I think someone mentioned The Passage last week. And Swan Song was awesome. It’s been about a hundred years since I read it, but I may have to pick it up again.

      Thanks for stopping by. Hope all is going well for you.

  4. The Road has been on my list for a while, but I’ve hesitated at the aching bleakness of the thing. Thanks for adding a few more to the list. 😉

    1. Hey Eva, yes it is definitely bleak, and probably something I will only read once, but I would still recommend it purely for the craft of the story. Thanks for stopping by. Hope all is going well for you.

  5. I agree – with the 2012 bit – I think I had nightmares a week and living in Cali I felt like I was seeing things shake all over the place! End of the world movies fall under to “Do not Anna, under any circumstances I don’t care if the cute varsity guy asked you out, do not see!” category for me.
    Good review I think you might like both, of either one of my blogs, I’d love to get any honest opinion I can.

    Book Review Blog:

    Personal/ Poetry Blog:

    Fond Regards,

    1. Anna, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Yes, I imagine it will get a little shaky (hopefully just figuratively speaking) this year in California. And I appreciate you leaving a link. I’m kind of a dunce when it comes to poetry, but I like to read it. I’ll be stopping by in the next couple of days.

      Thanks again.

  6. Oryx & Crake is my favorite Atwood novel. I’d heard of rrnoedicg of one of her lectures where she discusses the ideas behind the book and it was mind-blowing. She pointed out that there was nothing in the book that is impossible, as all the science type stuff mentioned has been accomplished in some way already.It was also strange to read about Crake and Jimmy as young men, playing on the internet they could find some pretty sick crap online but in their society it was acceptable. All the things they did online can surely be found nowadays also so it made me wonder how long until we (as a society) become desensitized to the point that it isn’t taboo? For example the website Rotten.com features graphic death/injury photos it apparently gets 15 million hits each day and is more popular than the NYTimes website. WTF?!

    1. Auth, your comment was put into my spam folder for some reason, so I just saw this. Thanks for stopping by. It is crazy to think about how much of what she discussed is possible (and already happening for that matter). It is shocking about rotten.com. Maybe more disturbed people need a fix than people needing to read the news? Yikes.

      thanks again.

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