Apocalypse again?

Katniss returns to District 12 in Lionsgate Films' Mockingjay, Part 1
Katniss returns to District 12 in Lionsgate Films’ Mockingjay, Part 1

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.

4 comments on “Apocalypse again?

  1. About 50 pages in, and I think this might be one to bring up in conversation. Something lyrical about her writing.

    Zombieland, maybe, but Interstellar? How about Idiocracy, to start with. Or WALL-E even. Brazil or 12 Monkeys or Dr Strangelove or Frankenstein?

    Meh, go with Shaun of the Dead and call it a day….

    No, actually, the film you should be promoting is Where The Wind Blows. That film would fit best here.

  2. If you are in Eugene this week (and hoping it plays a little longer) and want to see an interesting looking throwback, homage to 1980s “cult” films the Bijou is playing Turbo Kid!

    Hoping I can see it before it goes, looks a bit funny, bit bittersweet, very post-apocalyptic, and gory.

  3. I think society is so fascinated by this gory, seemingly plausible idea that we all find ourselves day dreaming about how we would survive and champion the catastrophe. These day-dreams make us feel strong, better, and almost imortal, unlike the rest of humanity.
    Apocalypse characters always survive. We want to survive. In our age, where germs are spread across the world in mere hours, and corrupt governments have access to nuclear and biohazard materials, the threat of an apocalypse feels real.

  4. Stories of the end of civilization as we know it are endlessly satisfying to people because of our [sub]conscious need of reassurance. Reading apocalyptic novels are one of my favorite activities because I know that in the end, no matter who dies along the way, everything will be okay. Books like these are constant reminders that yes, we will face tragedies in our lives, but no matter how devastating their blows are, we will stand up and prevail. These stories give us hope; a reason to carry on.

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