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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Are apocalyptic scenarios still fresh or are they becoming cliche?

We know that man vs man and man vs self are two of the more common forms of conflict, personally, I enjoy man vs environment just as much. In my "What would your character do?" book there is a small section on apocalyptic situations:

- highly contagious plague strikes
- a tsunami is predicted
- two nuclear nations look poised to launch missiles
- ozone layer is suddenly degraded
- an endless drought leads to famine
- during a way, an enemy approaches
- civil war erupts after long economic depression

Definitely situations that can create a dynamic, fast-paced (or tragic) back drop for a story.

It seems that movies and television have taken hold of the apocalyptic / mass destruction realm and constantly churn out something new about the end of life as we know it. But what about books?

Swan Song, The Stand, The Postman, Eternity Road - these are just a few of the works that have an apocalyptic situation.

My question comes down to... are apocalyptic themes still "in" or are they "out"?

Here is an older article on the 20 ways the world could end. It's pretty interesting... and a little frightening at the same time.

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Blogger Sans Pantaloons said...

Hello Rashenbo, Nice to meet you.
One idea from eighties TV I always thought was clever was the creation of a plastic eating virus by the military as a potential weapon. Of course it escapes into the wild and all electronic devices, communications and transport sytems start to fail as their insulation and packaging are devoured. I don't know if this has been taken up by any authors. All of my reading time is presently devoted to technical articles and papers. Oh joy...

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Laughing Muse said...

I think that any idea, even a cliched one, can be redone in a way that is interesting and appealing. Therein lies the true challenge :D

The book The Postman neatly avoided some of the scenarios (and left itself a little more room to play) by specifically not giving much background about what had happened. We knew that following the whatever-it-was, there was the periods of starvation and rampant disease which further whittled down the population. David Brin never did state what happened, though. He never even alluded to it, all throughout the book. His story was about how the humans survived, how they coped, how one person dealt with resurrecting a myth in order to survive...and then to give hope to others around him.

Don't worry so much about whether a theme is "in" or "out", concern yourself with how you tell whatever story you want to tell. (Heck - get a bunch of gamers together, feed them pizza, and turn on a tape recorder. You'll get tons of story ideas - some of which will mesh, some of which won't, some of which will make you doubt their - our - sanity. :D )

3:10 PM  
Blogger Rashenbo said...

Too true Muse, I am not writing anything like an apocalyptic scenario.... I was just thinking about it today. Funny how the mind tends to wander at times.

As a gamer... yes, get a bunch of us together and you have a mixture of technobabble, geekness, and cool factor! :)

I miss those old DnD days, when rolling your character took several hours and was just as much fun as facing those initial encounters. :D Although, I never went for the "lightning bolt! lightning bolt!" method :D

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Laughing Muse said...

Are you familiar with "Central Casting"? It was a chart that listed all kinds of character abilities, disads, perqs, background tidbits, you name it. You rolled the dice, then used the corresponding number's information, to build your character. Great for fleshing out NPCs. I remember we once spent a night sitting around, rolling up characters and laughing at some of the results. We never got up the guts to actually use any of the characters from that evening...

6:47 PM  
Blogger Wylie Kinson said...

Hey Rash,

I used to love a good old apocalypse based story but truthfully, now they scare me a little. Don't know if because I have kids and worry about their future, or if things like global warming, nuclear capabilities, etc... are becoming more plausible.

7:50 PM  
Blogger Amy Ruttan said...

Weird I was just talking about this today at work. It was a whole big theological discussion. We have a girl who is a born again christian and she believes no will go to heaven without being "saved" and she believes in a total apocolypes with the whole revelation thing.

Ok, enough of my tangent. I don't think they're "out", I think it's something people think about in the back of their minds all the time.

I kind of like the apocalyptic themes still. I enjoyed The Stand and Water World.

I also saw at West of Mars, and Thomma Lyn the meme about Blogs going Apocalyptic. Great post.

8:01 PM  

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