Is the End Nigh?

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Jackie Hemond

Jackie Hemond

Some people believe an apocalypse is imminent. But the thought is not new. A Times Square crier has been proclaiming it for years. In the Bible, it has already happened. In the story of the Great Flood, the earth is wiped clean except for Noah and the beings on his Ark. Since Noah, the world regrouped, but the end seems close once again, although there have been several mistakes in its foretelling. Some thought that the world would end in September 2015, with the appearance of four blood red moons; before that, 2012 was the year, when the Mayan calendar ended; and also the year 2000, when fears of Y2K exploded in numerous conspiracy and end-of-the world scenarios.

In science fiction, the end of the world also occurs frequently in three subgenres. dystopian, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction. Dystopian fiction displays a perverted world, where perfection hides oppression and a hellish existence. The books 1984, Fahrenheit 451 and The Hunger Games are perfect examples. The books don’t portray the end of the world, but the plot could lead to one. Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction often overlap. One shows an inescapable, global catastrophe approaching. In the other, the cataclysmic event has happened, but there are survivors. Under the Dome by Stephen King fits in to the apocalyptic fiction genre whereas the zombies, who have been ravaging the earth on television in the Walking Dead, are an example of the latter.

Although Mary Shelley is heralded as the first modern end-of-the world author when she wrote The Last Man in 1826, the real heyday of dystopian, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction occurred right after World War II. Nuclear weapons and the invention of the Doomsday Clock, in 1948, in which we symbolically count down the minutes to a man-made global catastrophe, inspired the writing of these books. Now, with 2 ½ symbolic minutes to go before the end of the world, writers keep churning out these gloomy books. But why? Perhaps, in facing our fear that the end is near, we somehow achieve catharsis. And perhaps, we learn to value what we soon may lose. I will post a list of good end-of-the world books at the library or ask me to send it to you.

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