From Hannah: As we’ve said in just about every blog post and podcast since March, 2020 is a waking nightmare. If Twitter is any indication, a large majority of the U.S. population has gone from joking about it being the end of the world to wishing for that event to occur. Good Omens, this is not.
Thinking about a potential end of the world, however, made me realize just how many apocalyptic (and post-apocalyptic) narratives exist. There’s the Book of Revelation, which has inspired countless fictional imaginings of a rapture and the rise of an anti-Christ, including the final book in The Chronicles of Narnia and the Left Behind novels and their spin-offs which frightened children of the nineties and early 2000s. There are also the stories like Mary Shelley’s much less famous novel The Last Man, which like the far more well-know I Am Legend or the TV series The Last Man on Earth, takes up the idea that the plague will lead to humanity’s extinction (and, at least to some extent these stories as think about what it means to be “the last-ish” human living). Many of the end of the world narratives also think about climate change in relation to humanity’s survival, such as The Day After Tomorrow and several David Mitchell novels, including The Bone Clocks and Cloud Atlas. I’ve only given three extremely broad categorical examples. We certainly might think of zombie fiction (not just The Walking Dead but also novels like Colson Whitehead’s Zone One). We might also think about the Earth literally being destroyed (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy).
These narratives overlap and diverge again and again, but their differences might have us ask, what do we mean exactly by the end of the world? Are these narratives merely interested in speculating what such an event would look like or do they have a moral question attached to them? And why are we so interested in exploring our own (potential) demise again and again through fiction?