March 4th, 2011

turbine

Tough Guide to the Post-Apocalypse

Here are my notes from the Tough Guide to the Post-Apocalypse panel. Sorry, fonts (bold/italic) were lost.

The Tough Guide to the Post-Apocalypse
by Philip K. Slick

Zombies are a stylistic choice - it's hard to do steampunk stuff now that the trees are all gone - they're hard to ignite but they burn quite well - you can use leftover android lubricant as a starter fluid - do zombies use voodoo economics?

Leftover computers may or may not be available, depending on whether there was an electromagnetic pulse (but zombies have no pulse) - computers may be reduced to "person who computes" (mentat) - there may be computers in orbit that zap any resurgence of technology

Shortage of power means that computers and other tech can be used in places where solar power is available - hydroelectric and wind power may also be used

A single übercomputer may have caused the apocalypse in the first place and is now worshipped as a God - an ex-California Governor may be involved

The Apocalypse is the end of Life As We Knew It, or the way your mouth looks after eating that sour Japanese candy - a "lifting of the veil" to display that which is behind the world, the dawn of the New Jerusalem - like Utopia, which means both "good place" and "no place," Apocalypse is both the end of the old world and the dawning of a new and better world - not with a bang or a whimper, but a pratfall

Fashions in Apocalypse depend on the politics of the time and place in which the work was written - the current fashion depends on the fears of the time (atomic armageddon, ecological catastrophe, overpopulation) - the presentation may be science-fictional or horrific - the apocalypse may be escapist wish fulfillment, a chance to build the world as you would like it - the Cosy Apocalypse

People return to their old ways - the world becomes large again, in the absence of modern transportation and communication technologies - return to colonial or medieval lifestyles

Comedies about the end of the world include Dr. Bloodmoney, Dr. Strangelove, Good Omens, The Bed-Sitting Room - the apocalypse need not be grim

Why do we love the end of the world? It's a chance to start over with a clean slate - what if all the people vanished? (e.g. After Man, The Harvest, Re-Birth) - it's a chance to break all the rules - a chance to have the whole shopping mall to yourself - a chance to confront your fears about the worst the future may hold - a tremendously simplified world - it's very hot in YA right now (e.g. Hunger Games, Uglies, Ship Breaker) - we think of ourselves as the survivors who get to build the new world - a lot of good stories can be set in the rubble of the old world - a reaction to guilt about the current state of the world: we will be punished for our sins, but eventually redeemed - it also makes the lives we have now look ever so much better - we like to be scared - its a way of knocking the characters back along the Hierarchy of Need, reducing their priorities to the most basic - apocalyptic stories are a way of knocking issues of class away - the readers of apocalyptic fiction are those who are not currently fighting to put non-radioactive bread on the table - "what would we do if we couldn't continue our current cushy lives?" - people love to watch a train wreck or slow down to lookie-loo at automobile accidents - people are interested in things that are rare, distant, but could be potentially life-threatening - it's an evolutionary advantage to pay attention to rare and unlikely but potentially threatening event - a way to learn through observation or imagination

Apocalypse depends on point of view - from the perspective of the humans who have Left The Building, or the trees or the grass or the cockroaches, the end of the world could be a very good thing

Post-Apocalyptic fiction before the Bomb includes The Scarlet Plague, The Purple Cloud (a reaction to the gas warfare of WWI) and the entire New Testament

Alien invasion is a form of apocalypse (e.g. The War of the Worlds)

Darth Alfalfa says "I am your fodder" (I just thought of that one)
"Yonder lies the castle of my fodder"

Investigation of How Things Work - post-apocalypse as insight into human society - a kind of small-scale experiment in sociology - recolonization of a world without the need of interstellar travel - not all apocalypses involve humanity (e.g. The Star)

Use of humanity rather than technology - development of human power, human computers, selective breeding

Compound apocalypses involve the end (or the threatened end) of what's left of the world

Apocalyptic mission statement: often post-Apocalyptic fiction involves The Search for The Thing Left Over from the Old World, or the Attempt To Prevent Being Overrun by Mutants - in The City Not Long After the mission of the post-Apocalyptic society was to make art - some post-Apocalypse societies are focused on restoring civilization, others are focused on avoiding the mistakes of the Before Time

Tragedy can be found in many ways in post-Apocalyptic fiction - often those things that were important in the Before Time break down and become a sad parody of themselves

Rebuilding - some post-Apocalypse fiction covers the crash, some covers the rebuilding afterward (e.g. Lucifer's Hammer), some both, some take place a long time later - we like to see both the tearing down of the old world and the building of the new world (e.g. Farnham's Freehold) - Ballard did this several times - Short story "Lot" covered only the end, the movie Panic in Year Zero based on it showed the rebuilding as well - many of the most tedious New Wave stories were nothing but "everything breaks down, everybody dies" - sometimes there are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know and there's conflict between those who wish to rediscover the old knowledge and those who want to stop them

Glass half empty / glass half full / glass turned into radioactive slag

Even Cicero said that "times are bad, children disobey their parents, and everyone's writing a book" - every generation believes it is the last

Mortality - Apocalyptic fiction is young people's way of dealing with the realization of extinction of ego - the world today is different from what I expected and I'm more philosophical about it - what if we did manage to change the world? - what happens when we outlive our parents? - we live "larger" lives than our parents did; an apocalypse is a way of making the world smaller and more comprehensible again - we simplify the lives of people of an earlier generation, but their lives were as complex as ours

The post-apocalyptic world is a stand-in for our world - our world has finite resources, conflict, existential threats, fears about the future etc. but the apocalypse strengthens and focuses attention on these problems - "how can we bring children into such a horrible world?"

Saving the Library is a demonstration of the writers' fannishness - "my obsession is the thing that will save the world!"

Reinvention of technology - any reinvention will perforce be different from today because the post-apocalyptic environment is different - many resources were relatively easy to obtain when we first began to exploit them (literally lying around on the ground) - on the other hand, post-apocalyptic societies will find many resources conveniently pre-mined and left lying around in the form of manufactured goods

Post-apocalyptic picaresque novels (e.g. Davy, Julian Comstock) show adventure in a new, bucolic world

Wish fulfillment - we fans assume that we will be among the Heinleinian survivors - most women carry bags containing everything needed to re-start civilization - "if the apocalypse happens, at least I've got my Leatherman"... "and a book to read!" - Diana Paxson's post-apocalyptic world is basically the SCA - in Sterling's Dies the Fire the filkers defeat the SCA because, as goddess worshippers, they are nicer

If I survive the apocalypse I will finally be able to finish reading my To-Be-Read pile, and I'll have space to store it - just don't break your glasses

The apocalypse represents the end of time - you now have all the time in the world - do you or do you not restart time? (So far we have restarted it every time this has happened)

The post-apocalypse as morality play - the population reduced to such a small number of people that it becomes a question of psychology, denial, and interpersonal dynamics

The Last Fan On Earth Sat Alone in a Room - there was a LoC on the door

Repopulation - We Who Are About To and other works deal with the question of reproduction and repopulation - who should breed, how much, and why? - should the "imperfect" (e.g. insulin-dependent diabetics) be allowed to survive and breed?

Two raccoons look out on the human world - one says "now?" and the other replies "be patient, they're screwing it up as fast as they can" - one Rotsler cartoon shows a fuggheaded character saying "what, you mean evolution isn't over?"