The inspiration behind my creative project came from my interest in hypertext fiction and artificial reality games. The proliferation of new information technologies, such as the Internet and social networking sites, has led to fundamental changes in the structure and content of literature. Hyptertext fiction, named for its use of hypertext links, allows readers to engage directly with the narrative through a “Choose Your Own Adventure” format. Readers click links that lead them to further installations of the story, a process that inherently benefits a non-linear narrative. Artificial Reality Games (ARGs), a relatively new form of viral marketing, meld the virtual and the real into a narrative that exists across several platforms. Participants solve puzzles on the Internet as well as in real life in order to receive the next clue or the next installment of the narrative. I am fascinated by this defining quality of ARGs, which erases the boundaries between reality and fiction.
Throughout the novel, the man and the boy find oases along the road, where they find food and supplies to sustain them on their journey. I find these brief respites fascinating because of how short lived they are – the man and the boy are not driven away from paradise, they chose to live. I’m not sure whether, if I was in their shoes, I would have the strength to walk away from the underground bunker, or the house hidden along the curve of the road, or the ship on the beach. Continue reading
The apocalypse that preludes the events of The Road begins with the end of linear time: “the clocks stopped at 1:17” (52). The end of time signals the end of stability, and the devolution of the world into an anarchic wasteland populated by cannibals and blood cults. In the relentlessly gray twilight world, “things believed to be true” (89), such as the existence of God and the different between good and evil, right and wrong, are thrown into question. Continue reading
In one of the entries in his diary, Earl Turner writes, “How fragile a thing is man’s civilization! How superficial it is to his basic nature! And upon how few of the teeming multitudes whose lives it gives a pattern does it depend for its sustenance!” (86) This is just one of his many diatribes on how civilization in Americais decaying, destroyed from within by the cancer of liberalism and multiculturalism. His worldview fuels his belief that the Organization’s acts of terrorism and violence are justified; they are “forging the nucleus of a new society, a whole new civilization, which will rise from the ashes of the old” (111). It reminds me of the epigraph at the beginning of Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto. In fact, oddly enough, while reading The Turner Diaries, I often found myself recalling scenes from that movie. Continue reading
One of the points of contention during the discussion for “Colossus: The Forbin Project” was whether the movie explored a realistic fear of the dangers of technology or whether the sci-fi trope of computers gone wild was merely a lens through which to examine the human condition. In our class, for example, we focus less on the actual details of the apocalypse in the various media we study and more on what apocalyptic belief reveals about human fears and anxieties. I found that sort of critical detachment not only useful, but necessary while reading The Turner Diaries. I know that there is an idiom along the lines of forewarned is forearmed, but I still wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of racist ideology. I have never before been exposed to unfiltered extreme right wing rhetoric and I never realized how deep the hatred cuts.
A few years ago, when I watched 28 Days Later for the first time, it was the DVD version, which included several alternative endings, including one that the director intended to be the original ending but which was replaced because it was considered too bleak (you can watch it here in terrible youtube quality). Unlike the ending which made it past the editorial chopping block, the original ending showed Jim dying in the abandoned hospital after Selena fails to save him, and Selena and Hannah walking down a hallway, away from Jim into their uncertain future. It is in stark contrast to the ending that was shown in theaters, which showed Jim, Selena, and Hannah waiting for rescue in relative safety, implying that there was hope for survival, even renewal through the romantic relationship between Jim and Selena.
From the very beginning, the pages of Alan Moore’s Watchmen are saturated with apocalyptic imagery. Rorschach wanders through a world where the end seems imminent. The streets are littered with trash and lined with strip clubs and bars; there are roving bands of punks and hooligans and a criminal lurking in every alleyway; the world seems to edge closer to anarchy and devolution every day. It is interesting to realize how the connection between so called “moral depravity’ and the end of the world is hardwired in our brains. While I could recognize that what Rorschach saw as signs of moral dissolution were often the results of changing moral and political order, it also wasn’t difficult to understand the rationalization for his vigilante justice. Continue reading
For me, finishing Glorious Appearing segued into Strozier’s discussion of paranoia and violence in “The Apocalyptic Other.” According to Strozier, one of the characteristics of a paranoid is the belief that he “lives in a world of shame and humiliation, of suspiciousness, aggression, and dualisms” (63) as well as deep-seated feelings of persecution and victimization. While Strozier, through his example of his patient Harriet clarifies that these feelings are usually a product of their minds, in Glorious Appearing, the protagonists do in fact live in a world that closely matches that description. They are a tiny rebel army trying to defeat an enemy that is millions strong. If they are captured by the enemy, they are tortured and then executed. Many of the main characters from the previous books have already been killed. In this world, the persecution is real, and therefore the divine vengeance is justified.
Reading the Strozier essays and Glorious Appearing one after the other was a strange experience to say the least. On the one hand, reading Glorious Appearing felt like watching a particularly bad action movie. We know who the good guys are, we know who the bad guys are, and we know what the final outcome will be – we are just waiting for things to blow up and people to die. On the other hand, considering the influential role that fundamentalist Christians play in American politics, Strozier’s analysis of the fundamentalist mindset is frightening, particularly the natural progression from rigid dualistic thinking to the legitimization of violence against others. Furthermore, when I consider how many weeks that the Left Behind series spent on the New York Times Best Sellers list, it is even more disturbing to realize that there are people out there consuming the books’ moral message uncritically.
Kirsch notes that throughout the history of apocalyptic belief, the Book of Revelation has often been at the forefront of what he calls ‘culture wars.’ John, when he wrote the Book of Revelation, was himself embroiled in a cultural war against the Roman Empire as well as other Christians, who he believed were not properly devout. Later, the Book of Revelation was used by both reformers within the church to criticize the church bureaucracy and by the papacy to denounce and persecute its critics. Revelation was also used to justify actual wars, ranging from the Crusades to the Civil War to World War I and II. The culture war that energizes current apocalyptic belief is fought ‘between fundamentalism and the modern world’ (219), where Christian fundamentalists imagine themselves to be at odds with an increasingly godless world. For true believers today, everything from feminism to the Masons to the United Nations is seen as a tool of the Antichrist and a portent of the end of the world (220).
I believe that the Book of Revelation, and apocalyptic belief as a whole, is particularly appealing to those that believe that they are involved in a cultural war. For the talk show evangelists that rail against everything from gay marriage and abortion to Barack Obama and big government, the black and white morality of Revelation is a convenient way to demonize their enemies. For conservative Americans who believe that their way of life is increasingly threatened, the language of persecution that John employs makes the Book of Revelation an effective propaganda tool. And for all those that perceive themselves as the victims of a changing political and social order, the lurid revenge fantasies of Revelation assure them that they won’t have to suffer the affronts of the modern world for long.
The fear and anxiety about the changing world is not limited to religious zealots. Kirsch describes the proliferation of ‘godless apocalypses’ in recent years, where the end of the world is a product of human folly; those that believe in these apocalyptic scenarios must also seem themselves fighting a culture war against forces such as globalization and the spread of new technologies. While technology is regarded with great suspicion by the religiously devout (in one reinterpretation of the Book of Revelation, barcodes are depicted as the ‘mark of the beast’), it is also often depicted as the enemy in ‘godless apocalypses.’ In these scenarios, human beings struggle against the threat of nuclear weapons, artificial intelligence, robots, and supercomputers. One of the key aspects of globalization is the transnational movement of information, goods, and people, but this same movement can also lead to a global pandemic, another deep-rooted fear in current apocalypse scenarios. Finally, a recent article in the New York Times Book Review entitled ‘The State of Zombie Literature – An Autopsy‘ explored the recent popularity of zombie fiction, proposing that is driven by a ‘general anxiety, particularly in the West, about the planet’s dwindling resources,’ leading to the disturbing conclusion that “these nonhuman creatures…might be serving as metaphors for actual people – undocumented immigrants…or the entire populations of developing nations.”
One of the questions that Kirsch raises in his book is why, after 2000 years of the world resolutely not ending, that apocalyptic belief continues to be so popular. I think it taps into fears that afflict both the religious and the general populace, and the imagery contained within the Book of Revelation, of war and chaos and a final battle followed by triumphant peace, has gained broad cultural approval.