Station Eleven takes us to a future in which civilization as we know it has been destroyed by a flu pandemic. Mandel’s focus on the beauty that remains—and is preserved in plays, music, and other cultural forms—is unusual; but her novel joins scores of fantasies of destruction in television, film, and literary fiction.
Why do we love to imagine the end of times so much?
In “Is Dead the New Alive?,” Brooks Landon considers a range of reasons a sub-genre of apocalyptic story—zombies, of course—remains popular: perhaps, in a world of difficult to understand threats—terrorism, global climate change—zombies give us something reassuringly concrete to imagine “fighting.” Or maybe they’re just escapist fun. Or perhaps the end of of the world as we know it gives us the chance to imagine starting fresh. He writes:
Overwhelmed by the increasingly abstract complexities of contemporary life?… Got some pent up anger and violent tendencies you know are not cool? Imagine the satisfaction of that ‘thwack’ when your baseball bat/machete/shovel/hockey stick connects with a zombie head. And then there’s that old lure of the ‘cozy catastrophe,’ the really unfortunate apocalypse which—on the bright side—lets us start over with a clean slate. (8)
In an article about the rise of apocalyptic and dystopian Young Adult fiction, Forbes‘ magazine Debra Donston-Miller interviewed YA authors and media critics who claim that teens are highly aware of inheriting a planet “trashed” by their elders and beset by inequalities: it’s no wonder imagining teen heroes overthrowing a terrible status quo is so satisfying for young adult readers, they claim.
Why do you think stories of civilization’s collapse are so enduring, so popular? Tell us in a comment to this post.
Don’t forget to vote for an apocalyptic film to show during Week of Welcome. So far, Zombieland and Interstellar are running neck and neck.