I have been reading your collection “Cries from the Crypt,” a copy of which you made available to me when I joined your mailing list. Let me clarify that: I have read your interviews and commentaries and have held off on sections excised and alternate beginnings and endings and the like until I have read the works from which they were taken. I’ll tackle those later. Apparently it is not available at present to the general book-buying public, but the work is good enough that you may wish to reconsider that.
I sense in you a great dismay at the present state of our world and for its future. That is, I must confess, a dismay I share.
You depict in calm, detailed, and frightening manner the accelerating problems affecting our world: over-population, climate change, loss of habitat, extinctions, the most massive migration in the history of the world. As you suggest, they are so interrelated that they might be viewed as one problem. Life As We Know It will soon change, drastically and not for the better. The big question: the continued existence of Life itself.
You reflect that this gathering wave will affect core beliefs of mankind. Religion. Morality. Ethics. Religion, I fear, has been a frail and bending reed. In my section of the United States religion played its part in the continuance of slavery and the lynchings that followed its abolishment: preachers offered prayers at KKK rallies and at lynchings. I myself witnessed how retrograde the white Southern church was in the 1950s and 1960s and even to this day.
How many people have to be flung back into the sea to drown by those on the lifeboat before any claim to morality will cease to exist? And won’t the personalities of those remaining on the lifeboat quickly become what we refer to as Narcissistic?
Your “Lost Girl,” which sounds fascinating and which I have not read yet, something I intend to remedy, you describe as dealing with the pre-apocalypse. I’m not certain in my own mind how to define pre, present, and post when the precede apocalypse. The third is clearest, of course. I agree with your assessment of much post-apocalyptic fiction as undeservedly upbeat, suggesting too often that we’ll get through this. I agree with your high opinion of book and movie “The Road.” You know, there is great resistance to that book in some quarters, I think in part because it is so downbeat. Because it rings so true. We don’t like to face that. I’ll get through this (and the Devil take the hindmost). I’ll survive.
Okay, now you’re going to laugh at me, but I can live with that. (I’ve lived with worse.) One of my favorite apocalyptic works is the movie “2012.” It’s always fun to see earthquakes and things blowing up and the West Coast slipping into the Pacific and Yellowstone erupting. I’ve got nothing against the West Coast or Yellowstone, mind you, but the mind can conceive of both ending in disaster.
When the movie came out in 2009 there were several strains of criticism. One was that the movie was inappropriate in showing people (but not in close-up) falling from buildings, for that might remind them of the jumpers on 9/11. Personally, I felt that the suppression of those images by the media was disgraceful and disrespectful to those forced to leap. Lies, in fact. Like those upbeat and optimistic endings to most post-apocalyptic novels.
Another involved the science: Sunspots would not interact with stuff deep down below our feet to cause such a speedy disaster, and if a tidal wave topped the Himalayas it wouldn’t have acted like that. I shrugged those off easily. The first was just a quick McGuffin to get the fictional ball rolling. I have no problem with that nor the latest gimmicky explanation of a zombie apocalypse. That tidal wave? Well, by then it was a small detail in the scheme of things.
A third problem that some had I found more intriguing: People were upset that those saved were those able to pay their own way in order to fund the Arks (the .0001%, as it were) and those lucky few who got wind of the Arks and were plucky enough to take advantage and owed their success to incredible luck and coincidence. It’s not fair! The super-rich and the insiders got on and all the good folks did not! I thought that rang absolutely true.
Today, as I watch money being channeled upwards into the pockets of an ever smaller number of profiteers, I begin to wonder: what do they know that I do not? Is what they know or suspect the reason why they are willing to ignore all morality and decency? Just asking . . .
“2012” is an oddly jaunty apocalyptic work and certainly falls into the category of those falsely optimistic that you identify. It seems upbeat only because it follows the trajectory of one man repeatedly in the right place at the right time who along with his family “survives.” But we do see horrific (if entertaining) devastation of the world around him as he races through. And we do become aware if the self-selected few who end up on the Arks and ultimately land in (are you ready?) South Africa. And you can’t help but shudder when you think of the society that this group of aging billionaires and a few lucky ones will manage to set up. It won’t be a pretty sight.
I threw in that chatter about “2012” in part to lighten the mood and in part to make (or at least suggest) the odd point or so. But now let’s circle back to that Narcissistic Monster. He (his usually being male gives me excuse to refer to him with the masculine pronoun) tends, as you suggest, to be glamorized at the expense of his victims. That man whose brains are being eaten alive is a real shit and deserves what he gets. That busty slut was having sex in the woods with her best friend’s boyfriend and deserves the axe through her head. The victims exists in these works only to die. Rightly, I think, you prefer not to glamorize the monster.
Thinking of such books and movie makes me think of endings. Clarice Starling in the first movie featuring Hannibal Lector survives after solving the case, but I fear she is damaged. But Hannibal, not ther central villain here even if he is the more charming of the two, keeps on going. In the movies suggested by my second example one is likely to end up with that Last Girl Standing. A Survivor! But likely as not there will be a quick coda in which she is confronted with unexpected menace or doom. And most likely that last shock will be extraneous, unearned.
I guess we have to blame Brian De Palma for that. But in “Carrie,” what those who try to copy didn’t seem to notice is the last great shock was not extraneous. It comes from the nightmare of the Last Girl Standing, one who is irrevocably damaged.
You suggest that your own young daughter will inherit a world far different from what you have experienced. I know that you hope that she may be one who survives. Sometimes I think from your Facebook posts that you may be trying quietly to prepare her for enduring the worst while keeping her happy and involved in the moment. I don’t have children: in that I am blessed. You do, and I believe that you are blessed.
I see your writings as being filled no so much with doom and gloom but with a realistic and wise assessment of the world situation. I see in your pictures and written accounts on Facebook a man happy with the dailiness of his life in beautiful surroundings: the landscape, the sea, cliffs and coves. My own surroundings are more modest but still in their way lovely: the white clematis is blooming of the back fence, and if we get some rain the rusty-red spider lilies will be popping up all over the east hillside. We both seem to find joy in our surroundings.
And maybe that is the secret to surviving a while longer in these Last Days.
With best wishes,