Science Fiction Repair Shop: Chicken Little Hits Again Dept.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2014-08-01 14:00:00 No comments

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The more I think about end-of-the-world fiction, the more I'm seeing it as a red herring. Not just because we're surrounded by so damn much of it lately (it started most recently with, I think, The Walking Dead and it's just gone on unabated from there), but because it's predicated on a few assumptions that I'm finding harder to swallow as I go along.

First, the core premise: things fall apart, the center cannot hold, etc. It's hard for me to look at such things and not see them as a gross underestimation of the resilience of human ingenuity. If we're good enough to stick it out that fiercely after things collapse, doesn't that imply we'd be good enough to keep it together from collapsing to begin with?

Second is something I've touched on before, the idea that surviving such a thing amounts to a wish-fulfillment fantasy. People entertain the idea of surviving with a cache of ammo and canned goods, but that implies that whatever happens is survivable by taking such measures. They always like the idea that it's they who survive somehow, because the way things fall apart are always custom-fit to how they themselves can survive them. That makes it, again, a fantasy scenario, a piece of wish-fulfillment.

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Notice, also, how the end of the world typically gets treated as a wipe-the-slate-clean measure, where all the people who deserve to die get theirs. Nobody ever includes themselves on such a list. It's always someone else who's less worthy or less fit, so again, it's a narcissistic power fantasy. A truly honest story about such things would play out more like Grave of the Fireflies than Fill-in-the-blank of the Dead, but nobody wants to hear about such things. They want to be told they can survive.

I'm not naïve enough to believe there's an end-of-the-world scenario in which I survive. That's why it's called the end of the world. I am, however, naïve enough to believe we can keep it from happening in the first place.

Tags: Science Fiction Repair Shop apocalypse fiction