This is the way the world ends.

Playing Fallout endlessly is definitely me slacking off all kinds of important things. Video games are not useful for life plans, as a rule, unless you’re doing game design, and as I understand it, that’s the lame part. However, all the gunshots and scrounging and mutants have put me in a mood, and I think I have a concept for a… setting, at least. Maybe I could try a game in the world to see how it worked? Or maybe there’s a story here? It feels like it would need to be a long story, and I’ve got one novel being poked at now.

Yes, I also have two short stories I really must finish and send off. And I should really expand that bit about the bitter selkie daughter. Shh.

So the basic concept (somehow this journal is becoming mainly a bunch of writing notes) is a post-nuclear world that’s a little less Mad Max.

I have a theory that we see the aftermath of nuclear war the way we do because tests have historically been performed in desolate, conventionally ugly places.¬† When you think of the original atom bombs, you think of New Mexico deserts, of underground bunkers, “I am become death, destroyer of worlds,” and so on.

(Tangent: Does anyone know why that particular line is translated with such odd grammar? I’ve always wondered what “I am become death” was supposed to convey that “I have become death” or “now I am death” or any other construction wouldn’t.)

And of course we’re the children of the cold war generation. Nuclear wastelands had every reason to be part of the collective mind, and in the most horrid ways possible. And then there’s nuclear winter, the dust clouds ensuing that shut out the sun. That would certainly make photosynthesis suck for a while, I suppose, and probably do some really weird things to the atmosphere that would change the climate. Maybe that’s what a global catastrophe would look like.

But here is a picture of Shukkei-en, a garden in Hiroshima that stands only a little way from ground zero. So that’s about sixty-five years later. But hell, the Japanese love their elaborate gardening. A lot of work must have gone into that, right? So let’s look at this article about Chernobyl (which isn’t a perfect comparison, since there weren’t any bombs involved, just contamination, but bear with me). It’s mostly a photo essay about abandoned human structures. Look for lots and lots of pictures of creepy abandoned toys and falling down buildings. It’s a great series of photos, very spooky and evocative. But now look past the ruins. You’ll see a lot of green. It’s gorgeous, in fact. If you were among those trees instead of in the horrible collapsing amusement park, you’d want to have a picnic. It would likely be interrupted by wild horses or family of boar, because the wildlife is plentiful and thriving without human intervention.

That’s not what the nuclear holocaust is supposed to look like, but we’ve had these examples for a long time. Maybe it’s a horror at the idea that when our world ends, the rest of the planet goes on.

This suggests on a sort of PETA (people for the eating of tasty animals, donchaknow) style humanity sucks and hubris is all that’s between the world and happiness and Eco-Eden is waiting if we just give up civilization vibe that I don’t like all that much. So there I’ve pissed off the Save the Sea Kittens crowd, green activists, and Greek dramatists right there. But my point goes on!

Radiation is fucking dangerous and bombs will wreck your shit. I have very firm opinions on these matters. Just try and convince me otherwise. I think we just tend to go the wrong way with the kind of horrors this particular apocalypse sets forth. Here’s food for thought. Many trees in the Chernobyl zone don’t know which way is up. These highly complex, ancient forms of life have lost touch with a basic connection with the world around them. They grow in all kinds of bent, twisted shapes. Reality has shifted.

No dramatic wasteland full of guys on motorcycles, presumably playing card games. (Whoa, was that Mad Max and Yu Gi Oh? Nerd points.) That’s what we all see happening when the bombs fall. Or, frankly, when the zombies arrive, or when God flips his shit and unleashes the Book of Revelations, etc. The generic desert of the end isn’t coming for us. It’s no surprise we think of it. Deserts. They suck. Simple. We of the geek kind have a half-dozen survival scenarios set out for just that, and we don’t even wonder why.

In my apocalypse, the world is still beautiful. Hauntingly, maybe invitingly. Life finds a way. When Earth has lacked ice caps but had land around the poles, lush forests grew up that saw no sun for six months out of the year. Complex communities thrive in sunless, boiling water miles under the ocean. So don’t look for a global, scrubby flatland full of randomly enlarged, hairless versions of current critters. Look for woods your grandparents didn’t see before you, and try and figure out which way is up.

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~ by badandfierce on October 23, 2010.

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