A Dismal Night


So I’m too cheesed off about the tree incident to concentrate on writing tonight, even on my post-apocalyptic tale, so I thought we could discuss PA and dystopian tales, and why we like them so much. This was inspired earlier today by a HuffPo article on the same topic (not tree trimming gone wrong – why we love dystopian stories).

The article talks about how dystopian stories are more honest, giving us raw, unvarnished truths about how ruthless we can be, and how damaging these horrific events can be to the people who have to suffer them.

Yes, there is all that. It’s good to see man’s inhumanity to man portrayed in an honest way, and instead of glorifying war. Better to show these atrocities in the way that people truly experience them, instead of making it seem like something desirable.

But for me, I think the biggest draw for dystopian/post-apocalyptic stories is the idea that at some point we’ll get a ‘reset’ button, that we’ll have a ‘do-over’ on the world. ‘Cause frankly, it’s a mess, and short of civilization crashing and having to rebuild from the ground up, nothing is going to change. Now, I have to add that were that situation to occur, I can more readily believe a scenario like David Brin wrote in “The Postman”,
or any of the “Mad Max” movies, “The Book of Eli”, “Waterworld” or something like the new show, “Revolution”

will arise to take our current society’s place. We are a vicious, predator species, and a couple more set-backs isn’t going to change that.

 

Sure, I think some people are kinder than others and anyone with any real smarts will see the value of cooperating with others, banding together to survive. But just as looting becomes the order of the day in any city during a blackout, there will always be those who exist only for themselves and will do anything to anyone to advance themselves, not unlike most politicians.

Even still, part of me would like the chance to reroute humanity’s path, and hope the next time around we’ll get it right. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll make a few better choices.

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24 thoughts on “A Dismal Night

  1. jmgershom says:

    Unfortunately, even a flood didn’t work with the most famous post-apocalyptic tale of all-time. Yet, I still hold out hope in our future. Hopefully, when your novel is made into a movie, it won’t star, Kevin Costner. That would be really devastating, money making wise. 🙂

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  2. Bunny Blumschaefter (@ottermoonski) says:

    There’s a flood in Margaret Atwood’s post-apocalyptic series (the “Oryx & Crake” stories,) too – a response to everybody’s cultural biblical heritage, whether you worship according to the Old Testament or not. The thing that you see in a lot of the lesser p.a. stories, which Atwood avoids and I’m confident DD will, as well, is the reliance on the old biblical “let’s re-set to a heteronormative time when everybody pairs off 2 by 2, one man to one woman, and the man builds the ark and runs things while the woman shows her nobility by supporting and hanging around being fertile when the time comes.” Back in the ’80’s there was a popular p.a. potboiler called “Lucifer’s Hammer” about American survivors pushing the reset button after a big meteor strikes the earth, causing, IIRC, an earthquake and yes – a flood. All the men – everybody from boy scouts to middle-aged, middleclass, middlemanagement business-casual-wearing types step up and find their true natural elemental manhood, while the females all abandon a lifetime of feminist progress and turn to their heteronormative males for guidance and protection. Can you tell it kinda bugged me? It really bothers me that so many of these stories emphasize the importance, at the end of the world, of prizing women for their fertility, as if that all that matters – what was that sci-fi movie where the hero of the film survives the apocalypse and winds up taking on the mission of discovering and protecting the last surviving pregnant woman? No disrespect to pregnant women, mind you – I mean, where would any of us be without one – but why wasn’t SHE the protagonist of the story? In fact, DD, I’m putting in a request right now for your tale – a seriously kickass pregnant character, who understands the big BIG responsibility and destiny she’s carrying and doesn’t wait around for some warrior in Dockers and a leather jacket to save her.

    (The following is a link to a story by Helen Simpson that’s a bit of a downer, but absolutely compelling in terms of the fertile female’s POV. This woman, at least, does what she can to control her own destiny:
    http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/features/2009/12/21/091221fi_fiction_simpson )

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    • D. D. Syrdal says:

      You’re thinking of Children of Men. Even the title wipes women out of the equation. I saw it, and I didn’t see why it was considered so great. I’m laughing as I’m reading your comment about the whole ‘reset life to a 1950s American ideal of man as the breadwinner and the woman staying home and darning socks and getting excited over new vacuum cleaners’ thing. Those things always neglect to say how depressed the women were, and that’s why they were nipping at the cooking sherry and downing Milltown by the handful.

      I have a very strong female protag in the story, and an equally strong male protag, but nobody’s preggers, I’m afraid 😉

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  3. Eric Syrdal says:

    PA stories (at least the ones that I have read/watched) always seem to have 2 elements that I find interesting:

    1) Mankind almost always falls back on our primal instincts and again forms tribes or clans.

    2) No matter how bad the situation seems to be (nuclear winter, zombiepocolypse, sun-scorched wasteland) there is always someone or some group of humans that embody the “good” things about humanity and struggle to bring order back to chaos.

    Why do PA stories appeal to a lot of people? I think it is the simple idea that we get to unplug from everything we are a slave to at the moment. No more computers, cell phones, social networks, 24 hour news coverage. Most of the futuristic machines we have taken for granted suddenly are no longer able to support us. And the basic machines of our history suddenly become valuable again.

    Of course we are usually brought in to these stories after “the worst” is over. We don’t actually have to go through the harrowing experience that brought society to that point in the story.

    Have a good day today, DD. 🙂

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    • D. D. Syrdal says:

      Thanks, Eric. That’s very true, we are brought onto the scene usually just before ‘the event’ and then in the next scene we are thrown into the aftermath. The show, Revolution, did a nice job of showing the event as it unfolded, and frankly it was chilling (pilot episode). I think they don’t tend to linger on the “ohmygodwhatdowedonow?” phase because watching people run around in circles not knowing what to do isn’t terribly interesting. You see some of it in Revolution, but that’s not the point of the show so it’s not dragged out.

      I agree, there is an appeal in the idea of ditching all this that we depend, our frantic lifestyle where nothing is ever enough, and we are constantly bombarded with messages that we must do more, be more, accomplish more. Maybe we’re just all exhausted.

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  4. Eric Syrdal says:

    I purposely didnt get into Revolution because i have a backlog of unwatched programs as it is. I figured I can always pick it up later on DVD. However I’ve seen comments, not just by you but my several of my FB friends that it is a decent show. Maybe I will check it out. Through the magic of TV i may be able to salvage the episodes I missed.

    it is the strangest thing. Even though it wasn’t that long ago that it was not possible, the thought of me leaving my home and not being able to be reached by my wife and children if they needed me, unnerves me quite a bit.

    Technology has given us “instant” life lines to whatever we need at the moment. Emergency or Leisure, whatever. It, no doubt, has saved as many lives as it has ruined. But if tomorrow all that tech was gone we would panic for months before we realized we had known a time without it. I wonder how long it would last before we were able to “function” again.

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    • D. D. Syrdal says:

      I’m liking the show very much, although I will say I have my issues with it. But, it is broadcast tv, not a cable network, so I guess they have limits on how ‘realistic’ they can get. It sort of irks me that everyone is perfectly coiffed, all the men look like they saw a barber in the last day or so, only one guy has a beard. I dunno, I guess even in the Middle Ages people were able to get haircuts and shave 😉 I think you can watch the episodes on NBC’s site.

      That’s so true about the instant connectivity. Forget your cell phone at home one day and we practically panic. Well, I do. I always figure that’ll be the day I get in an accident and really need the damn thing.

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  5. Eric Syrdal says:

    Well unless all the sharp blades were destroyed in the apocolypse..(but I’ve noticed they use swords)…a blade and a room temperature bowl of water could produce a painful, yet possible, shave.

    Cutting your own hair though, that is another story all together. 😉

    I’ll give it a fair shake once I get a “hole” in my other viewing log. See if it can hold my interest.

    Broadcast does have a problem, where cable doesn’t, in areas of “sex, violence, and ohthatsjustwrong-stuff.”

    And touching on your conversation with Bunny. I did see Children of Men and found it horribly weak. very disappointed with it.

    Babylon A.D. was another that i tried to like but just couldn’t. Was kind of a End of the World unless we save “The Chosen One” type of story line set in wartorn “near future” setting. And it’s a shame because Vin Diesel is a favorite action hero of mine now. Richard Riddick is one of the coolest sci-fi anti-hero’s I know of.

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    • D. D. Syrdal says:

      I like Vin Diesel too and that film was sadly so forgettable. He rocks as Riddick, though 😉

      I don’t even think Revolution needs to go HBO’s route and toss in a bunch of gratuitous sex like they did with Game of Thrones. Just show us more of the reality of what living without electricity would be like, how would people cope? Show us the steampunk inventions people would come up with to make their lives easier. They’ve done a little of that, crafting low-tech weaponry. I like the details like that, I don’t know if it bores others (probably).

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    • D. D. Syrdal says:

      Oh yes, been there. We lost power during the winter after heavy rains and flooding one year. No power for a week was getting really old. We’re so spoiled being able to flip a switch and have hot coffee ready in minutes, not to mention central heating (and air conditioning!). I did manage to cook eggs on the barbecue on the deck, but we’re generally not equipped for living like that.

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  6. Eric Syrdal says:

    Yeah, Bunny. We did the same here after Isaac this year. NOT FUN. And my house is not built with the 15ft ceilings and windows that open at the top to disperse the heat.

    We would miss air conditioning down here terribly. LOL

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    • D. D. Syrdal says:

      LOL true! No wonder people went to sleep when the cows did back in the old days 😉 Reading by candlelight sounds romantic, but it’s hard on the eyes. I’m stocking up on camping lanterns, etc. for this year, just in case!

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    • D. D. Syrdal says:

      Oh I’m sorry, Susannah! I didn’t mean to scare anyone with this. I read so much sci-fi and post-apocalypic/dystopian stuff that it just makes me think. I have an unshakeable belief in the human ability to adapt to any situation. You can always look to those old dead guys for inspiration 😉 Look what they accomplished without even a telephone! We’re a hardy species 😀

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  7. rosie49 says:

    This post is so spot on while we’re staring at the models for Hurricane Sandy here in the Eastern US. For all our technology and modern ways, Mother Nature can bring us all back to our carbon-based selves in just a few short hours. Is there anything more humbling?
    That said, I enjoy PA books and films in the same way some enjoy horror — you can suspend disbelief just enough to escape, knowing that safety and the rule of law are still reality. (I suppose that’s relative as well, in a way.)

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    • D. D. Syrdal says:

      I guess this sub-genre (if we care to call it that) of sci-fi fascinates me because I’ve been through so many hurricanes and earthquakes, snowstorms, ice storms, floods… I figure one of these days the power won’t come back on and I wonder how I’d cope with that.

      That said, not all PA literature is doom and gloom. I read an interesting one earlier this year called “Eternity Road” by Jack McDevitt that had society in at least some parts of the US at a pre-tech level but getting on well and with a well-established peaceful society. It does make you wonder how much of ‘us’ and what we are will survive.

      I hope this storm will not be as damaging as they fear. Keep me posted!

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