All the talk lately about ‘apocalyptic weather’—record high temperatures, raging fires and drenching rains – has rekindled my decades-long interest in the ‘post –apocalyptic.’ If we’re headed that way, I’d like to approach it with as much grace as possible, and using this genre of books and movies to prepare seems to make sense.
My knowledge of the Apocalypse quadrupled reading “The Last Myth,” that great book by Moab writers Mel Giles and Matt Gross. In it, they document the history of our modern fascination with ‘end times’ and how we’ve become a culture, which seems to require that every generation believes it will be the last. While the term “apocalypse” refers to the absolute “end of the world”—the end of life on earth, the “post-apocalyptic” genre is based on creative predictions of what human life will look like after the current civilization is destroyed.
I’m a huge Mad Max fan. As far as I’m concerned, Mel Gibson will always be Max Rockatansky and not the angry alcoholic Christian he’s become. And who can forget Tina Turner in “Beyond Thunderdome” (the third in the series)?
I was one of three or four people who actually liked that great Kevin Costner bomb, “Waterworld.” While I’m not one to covet man-made metal machinery, I love the trimaran, the Mariner, that Costner’s character built. I saw the movie three times just to watch the sailing scenes. Alas, the $15 I spent did little to prevent “Waterworld” from becoming the biggest money-losing film ever to date. (Losses now pale compared to those incurred recently by “John Carter From Mars,” much of which was filmed around Moab.)
“The Drowned World,” the 1962 book by the late, great science fiction writer J.G. Ballard, is filled with psychological and evolutionary themes. It is set in a London partially submerged by the rising seas fed by melting polar ice caps.
Climate change is the culprit in “Waterworld” and “The Drowned World.” I don’t recall why civilization delaminated in the Mad Max series. I’m fairly sure that a nuclear holocaust was responsible for killing all the plants and animals and for the constantly raining ash in Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel, “The Road.” I couldn’t help joining the unnamed father and son as a character in that book, as McCarthy’s words made me shiver with the sticky wet cold, and shutter with the fear of whom I might next encounter. Sometimes I type up the book’s last paragraph just to see what it feels like to write such beauty.
“Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins whimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”
Last month for two days, “The Dog Stars,” by Peter Heller absorbed all my attention. Hig, the compassionate main character is a pilot. He and his dog fly around what was Colorado before a contagious fever kills almost everyone. Although everything has changed, Hig manages to find beauty – in the adapting natural world, in a woman who fills him with hope and more.
Although “hope” isn’t a given theme in post-apocalyptic fiction, I’m comforted having read in the Last Myth that there won’t likely be a literal end time. There may be close calls. We’ve had them before, the worst being 45,000 years ago when due to some genetic or climatic event our species dwindled to as few as 1,500 individuals. I’ve heard it said by the most pessimistic that the chaos caused by an annual 6-degree global temperature rise may reduce our population from 7 billion to 1 billion. If this happens in my lifetime, I plan on being one of the survivors because, after all, I have Max and the Mariner and especially Hig for role models.
Brooke Williams and Terry Tempest Williams and a couple of fine dogs migrate between Wyoming and Castle Valley.