Call for Comments: It’s the end of the world … no, I don’t feel fine

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?

2 Comments and 3 Webmentions for “Call for Comments: It’s the end of the world … no, I don’t feel fine”

  1. I think it is important to say that the category of apocalypse within biblical literature, while it has plenty of disasters is not the ultimate point. Biblical apocalypses are about revealing (the literal meaning of the Greek root of apocalypse) the hope that is to come. Sure there are dragons and beasts and plagues and such throughout Revelation, but it all culminates in chapters 21 and 22, where there is peace, and a garden and river. The new heaven and new earth come together. Too often we get all caught up in the destruction because it makes a good movie. But in the biblical sense, there is no post-apocalyptic world. There is a whole new one.

    Apolcalypse belongs properly within Eschatology… the final things. Not every end is apocalypse, but it helped for Christians living under the Roman empire to hear the ways that God would subvert and bring down the political forces that defied God. Apocalypse is a condition of the End in which humanity can do nothing. Things are so bad that the only hope for humanity is for God to act decisively and definitively to begin something new. There is a hard break with the past.

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