So the nukes have fallen...
Then come the plagues...
...Soon after, the entire world slides into barbarism...
Imagine, nuclear winters, radiation fallout, the decay of technology, and small, surviving bands of humans forced to make a life for themselves on a fearsome new earth.
The man in me--the crazy, bare chested, mountain loving, sunset craving, animal hunting man--basks in this insane desire to be stripped of all civilized comfort, and to survive in the wild. What would cause me, and many like me, to have this desire in any quantity?
I think there are many reasons, several of which I haven't yet fathomed, but I've come up with a few.
1) Apocalyptic fiction restores a sense of discovery to the world.
It is human nature (arguably more so the male side of human nature) to discover. To see new sights. Experience breathtaking vistas. Basically, we don't want to have our deep sense of wonder hit a barrier. But for many of us, we've done just that. We live in a city or town. There are roads everywhere...paved roads. There are police officers, fences, and gas stations. Signs, signs, everywhere a sign. So what do we do?
Enter the nuclear devastation, and voila, we're back to square one.
2) Apocalyptic fiction strips civilization of its muckiness.
No more schedules or routines. No more bureaucracy. No more Internet, TV, video games. Humans are left to deal with each other, and do it in person. When these things, rituals of our culture, are removed in apocalyptic fiction, often it forces humans in to real, true communities. The kind where everyone knows everyone, and people have each others' backs. This, I admit, is a romantic element of apocalyptic fiction, but it is why we read it. Because at our hearts, we want real relationships with community, and our present culture is much too individualistic for this.
Thus we send in a nuke to return us to our need for others.
3) Apocalyptic fiction drives main characters into REAL thinking...the philosophical BIG question kind of thinking.
Pettiness and gossipy drivel of the the television brand need not rear its worthless little head. Apocalyptic fiction stirs characters to take stock of their lives. It is easy to live in our culture of individualism and materialism when were so comfy cozy in our tiny little lives, but send in a nuke, or a plague...bring us to our knees...heal our self-deception.
When the Twin Towers fell, America united. Remember the American flags on every car? It shook us up as a country, and as individuals. It reminded us of our own mortality. Apocalyptic fiction does this in the same way.
Instead of fighting traffic, life is a fight for survival. Instead of taking life for granted chasing after petty goals, we begin to ask, "What is life's purpose? Why do I exist?"
4) Apocalyptic fiction takes away needless dissatisfaction.
We are creatures that live and die. How often we forget this in our fast-paced lives. We're easily unsatisfied, but quick to want. We live like kings but want like beggars. Strip that way. Off, off and away. What is really important? Relationships and the love that binds them together. It's kind of hard to put relationships in their proper place when we want something that can't love us...like a car, a new flat screen TV, or a whatever shiny commercialized object that blinds us and makes us unhappy.
Nuke it away.
AND SO...in conclusion: I'm definitely not saying we should all go away with the attitude, "By golly, someone aught to nuke the frazzoolee out us so we can put things in order." All I want to share is that apocalyptic fiction, like all good fiction, should make us evaluate our lives. It doesn't take a nuke to tear away all the rot and pettiness mentioned above, all it takes is serious thought, and the will power to apply the answers we come away with.
Why not ask the big questions now, before the bombs fall.
After all, maybe YOU won't be one of the lucky ones to survive...