The end of the world has been prophesied since the dawn of time. The Mayans said the world would end on December 21, 2012. The Vikings called it Ragnarök when the world ends and the Norse Gods die, only to be reborn. Of course, the book of Revelation in the New Testament goes into detail about the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus; and with the current climate of financial, political and global upheaval happening today, people are scared that our time has come.
I’m not trying to be the voice of doom and gloom because I don’t see the end of the world, at least not yet. There is still so much to do, from deep space exploration to robotics/cybernetics and other advances in science. The amazing thing today is that all of this has been written about and talked about for hundreds of years, first in books then in movies and television.
Ray Bradbury saw a world where books were the downfall of mankind in Fahrenheit 451. H.G. Wells saw a future where the human race split into two groups—the predators and the prey—in The Time Machine. Stephen King gave us the end of the world through disease and biblical proportions in The Stand. Philip K. Dick imagined a world where genetically engineered humans were hunted down because they wanted more time to explore their humanity in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep or as we like to call it, Blade Runner. George Miller made a living of showing us a crazy wasteland through the eyes of one man, Mad Max.
As writers, the end of the world can come about through endless possibilities and that gives us so many options in the stories we tell: Zombie apocalypse, machines taking control, deadly viruses, nuclear war, climate change, etc. We are fatalistic in our views of the apocalypse and show humanity at its worst to bring about the end of the world. Yet, through all that turmoil and tribulation, we find a glimmer of hope. There is always one guiding light or shining star that wins out in the end and gives everyone, from readers to storytellers alike, that spark of optimism that will inspire.
In series like The Walking Dead, the character of Rick Grimes is the focal point of that hope and inspiration, doing everything and anything to keep his family and friends alive in a world that wants to destroy them all. In the Terminator series, Sarah and John Conner are the only chance for humanity in a world where machines want to wipe out the disease called humanity. Even kid’s movies like Pixar’s Wall-E, we see a world destroyed by human greed where hope for life is found in a little robot looking for love.
In most post-apocalyptic stories, humanity is both the cause and the cure for the end of days. Writers see Armageddon as a tool to show us the faults in humanity and the possibilities we can achieve together. That’s the beauty of literature. For hundreds of years, authors have been talking about the end of the world and, through our writing, we have stayed off the apocalypse. As long as we continue the conversation, show people what can happen if we don’t change our ways, then maybe, just maybe, we can put off the end of the world for another millennium.
H.G. Wells said it best in his novel, The Time Machine. “We should strive to welcome change and challenges because they are what help us grow. Without them, we grow weak like the Eloi in comfort and security. We need to constantly be challenging ourselves in order to strengthen our character and increase our intelligence. ”