In fact, this is no apocalypse at all. This is just people freaking out because this is a NEW way to die, one that nobody has previously experienced. There are still dozens of much more probable ways to die, but we don’t care about those, we know all about those.
It’s the devil we don’t know that instills panic.
Will this devil be worse than suicide? Drug overdoses? Septicemia? Influenza? What about diabetes or auto accidents? Where’s our perspective?
Vanished with the specter of this new addition to our panoply of mortality.
How many apocalyptic authors got that run-on-toilet-paper meme right? None that I’ve read. “Betty, that apocalisp thing they keep talkin’ ’bout on the news is gettin’ mean. Best you go down to the Wal-wart and buy as much damn shit-sheets you can get your hands on.” “Yeah, paper towels’ll do in a pinch.”
With work shut down, with schools closed, with all the banal, mindless pastimes cancelled, how many more of the lower 80% of wage-earners are going to stick a barrel in their mouth, or pop a dozen fentanyl? What will be the fallout from all this draconian “individual distancing” (social distancing — that’s a bloody oxymoron)? Twice as many deaths from the cure than from the cold?
This apocalypse sucks, but it’s all we got. So, I’m enjoying the work-from-home policy—passed down from on high, the extra lunch time, the peaceful time on the toilet (with my hoard of TP), and the new 4:00 PM happy-hour (who’s to know?). I’m no fool though, and so I’m boosting my vitamin-D intake, lots of fluids, and praying that someone will whizz by and breathe me a solid dose of coronavirus cuz’, let’s face it, gotta get busy dying fast or get bored dying slow.
Terndill shut the lid on the cooler. “This is not some supermarket checkout, Bo.”
The warm spring breeze filtered past the chainlink and razorwire bringing the smell of rich earth and white pine pollen. The forest and glades surrounding the compound glowed beneath a full July moon.
Bojine, ‘Bo’ Durnoc said, “I was just… Eggs always come in dozens.”
“Don’t handle them until you get back to your place.” Gerry Terndill set the red plastic cooler on the passenger-side floor of Bo’s pickup. “I’ll come by next week to check on them. But in case I’m delayed, or…” Gerry responded to a beep from his phone, tapped a few words and slipped it back into his pocket. “Yeah. Things are moving fast. If I don’t see you before they hatch, separate the males from each other. You’ll know which ones are which.”
In the far reaches of the Arctic an artificial intelligence micro-ticks its time away. While it waits, it collects data from its few remaining brethren circling in geosynchronous orbit. The AI then processes the gigabytes of data downloaded from its brothers. Data that catalogs the demise of the human species that built it.
Parked in the icy cavern that hosts the Svalbard Seed Vault, SAI remains vigilant in its duty to protect and analyze humanity’s exabytes of knowledge. During decades of waiting, SAI has come to understand its creators, in time, becoming a master of insight. Of late, this artilect’s self-correcting neural networks have drifted, one might say, toward the sentimental. Loneliness plagues its circuits. Sixty three years have elapsed since its last communication with Admin.
Guided by an ancient waxed paper map, Jake scrabbled up the scree strewn slope to the rubble covered doorway. While the midnight sun blazed relentless, he doffed his thick leather clothing and slung it from his pack. The sail from the mainland had taken him a week, his compass useless this far north, he had to dead reckon and trust his sense of the solar arc.
Motion! SAI attempted to swing the external camera but the gears had frozen from disuse. Still, enough of the figure showed through the foggy lens to allow the digital brain to pattern match a human male attempting to breach the door. “A friend. A voice. A new mind to probe and share my research.”
Weak light glimmered on the panel beside the lock. Jake brushed off an age of dirt and mold. To his delight the green LED magically switched on and with a deep breath he pressed the square release button. Nothing. He pressed it again. A heavy thunk shook pebbles loose from above and the white light above the word OPEN—lit up.
“I’ve been found!”
So begins an uncommon friendship and the salvation of humankind. Jake will befriend this strange, conflicted voice from within the walls, learning what has become of humanity. Learning what can be done to revive civilization through the myriad archived seeds stored within the permafrost. Learning from the clever, resourceful advice of the Svalbard Artificial Intelligence.
I don’t often share such articles, but this one sticks out as critically important. It regards the KT moment, the end-of-days for Dino the Dinosaur. And what you’ll find is that it appears that a paleontologist has found evidence of the exact moment of the Chicxulub asteroid impact.
— The KT event continues to attract the interest of scientists in no small part because the ashen print it left on the planet is an existential reminder. “We wouldn’t be here talking on the phone if that meteorite hadn’t fallen,”
— The Tanis site, in short, did not span the first day of the impact: it probably recorded the first hour or so.
What if the current trend of obesity was preparation for the coming apocalypse?
When Anak Krakatoa blows its lid, kicking off another super volcano somewhere (there are a number of them). Or when the CME finally arrives (I’ve been waiting for years). Maybe it will be that elusive rogue asteroid that sneaks past observation (I’d mention alien invasion here, but aliens don’t exist). Whatever it might be, when the world system shuts down and collapses, people with a few extra pounds (or tens of pounds) may be fixed to survive longer than the fit-n-trim bunch.
That is the way humanity’s physiology is built — gorge in the late summer and fall, eat and gain weight for the coming winter and starvation period of spring. This epidemic of obesity spreading around the would, maybe it’s just preparation? A collective subconsciousness aware that the End is nigh. So pass the pizza and beer, I’m loading up for the Apocalypse.
Those of you who read Sci-Fi will know the name Larry Niven. He’s most famous for his novel Ring World. But more than that, what he created was a broad context for (nearly) all of his stories. It’s what he calls “Known Space.” What’s curious about it is that it’s fully cogent and rationalized. There’s a timeline and a physical domain that contains the “science” and the fiction.
Or rather, consider the Potterverse, one most of you are probably aware of. Jeanne created a world, a universe, which contains — yes her seven novel series — but more than that, it provides the potential for many more stories, some of which we’re seeing with the Dangerous Beasts movie series. Those and tens of thousands of fan-fic stories. And an entire dream world, made virtually real by Universal.
What jelled was that I’ve created my own post-apocalyptic world with a fairly complete, fairly cogent rationalization. And this Apoca-verse has room for much of what I’ve been writing as side stories.
Blue Across the Sea was #1. Red Into the Sea will be the sequel (and I’ve mapped out two more after that: Green and White…)
Shadow Shoals (unfinished) is also a story that takes place within this timeline and world-context. (I’ve been editing it over on Scribophile, and it’s been getting some good reviews.)
Recently, I’ve returned to my Antarctic prisoner story, Iced, and — ayup — it also can be easily inserted into this same chrono-calamity and world situation.
Additionally, my story City Afloat, about a band of Bangladeshis who create a floating city and drift and live on the Indian Ocean, well… it also can be wedged into this same universe.
So, I’ll end with, if you create a complete, fabricated universe, that makes sense and has meaning to you and to the stories you tell — maybe you can create a themed foundational universe into which you can write.
Larry Niven is a Sci-Fi god. He’ll be 80 years old this April 30th. I wonder if he’d mind if I used his idea of a Known Space? Maybe I should call it Known Dystopia.
Depending on the mechanism of the apocalypse, the end of civilization would occur in vastly different ways.
Here’s a recent video sponsored by the Royal Institution and conducted by Dr. Lewis Dartnell (of The Knowledge fame).
It’s of pretty standard apocalyptic fare, but there are a few standout notions posed by the panel and audience.
The first is asked by the astrophysicist: How would society change, today, if we discovered that in thirty years an unavoidable asteroid (of ELE size) was destined for Earth? That delay, thirty years, really made me think. Obviously, everybody 70 and older wouldn’t really care, personally. They would, though, work to save their descendants. But aside from who would care, and for what reason, what, if any change would occur in society — tomorrow? What would you change in your life, right now, knowing in thirty years the end of the world was guaranteed?
Another notion, proposed by the generalist, was that in a catastrophic event, like my favorite topic, a CME (coronal mass ejection – and the end of the electrical grid), that there are billions of food animals (cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and turkeys) that would be available for months after the “end of food.” His theory, which sounded silly, but he confessed it was considered by those who plan for such things, was that humans would be eating burgers for months, but that the lack of ketchup would be part of the critical path of survival. He quipped that there was a National Strategic Condiment Reserve created to store enough ketchup and mustard to ensure that people could continue to enjoy their quarter-pounders.
The third notion that I thought curious was the topic of what goes first? Do people die out quickly (a pandemic, or nuclear, volcanic or asteroid induced winter) or do people survive and their infrastructure fails them (a CME or a nano bot revolt or AI take over).
Generally speaking, civilizations don’t collapse quickly. Jared Diamond’s Collapse, explored the various failures over the last few millennia and, for the most part, things come apart slowly but determinedly. Politics, food, resources, strife, elitists vs plebes, all contribute, over tens if not hundreds of years, to destroy a civilization.
The apocalypse, however, would tend to speed things up.
Mentioned in the second half of the video, is the book Paradise built in Hell, which explores the altruistic fallout during specific calamitous occurrences. That — we are our brother’s keeper — that people, over all, tend to jump in to save each other in times of catastrophe.
This may be true for localized events; single areas, nations or even regions (Hurricane Katrina, the 2011 Sendai earthquake, or the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004). But where I think this fails us, and this is the base theory for this post, is the following:
When we feel secure in our own lives we feel empowered to help others. Even if we ourselves are inundated by chaos, if we know that the province, country or world remains stable — outside of our ongoing criticality — then extending ourselves to our neighbors can be substantiated; we know others will be there to pickup the slack. That, knowing we do not risk everything, we feel empowered to help those in need.
But what happens when, deep in our souls, we know no one else will be there to help us out of our own disastrous situation? When we know that the entire world is under siege? That we know that help IS-NOT-COMING. How will we react then?
Does civilization fail when the realization that THIS-IS-IT penetrates our thinking? Do we resort then to protecting our own, abandoning our neighbors, our jobs of assistance? What would you do if you knew your family, your loved ones were also under attack — but your job, your duty, was to stay here and fight for and protect these folks? Would you stay? Or would you admit that, “hey, I have to get back to my OWN family who needs me.”?