Friday, 23 March 2012

The End Is Nigh?

I own an awful lot of dystopian and post-apocalypse fiction. Partly because I read SF indiscriminately when I was a teenager, and partly because - even though the sun is shining outside - humanity has been living under the shadow of self-destruction for pretty much a century. We've developed weapons of mass destruction and used them. We set up political systems which deliberately starve some, work others to death, and leave a minority free to drive SUVs, buy islands and jet about the place in search of cooler sunglasses or higher heels.

We've poisoned the earth, the air and the waters. We're baking ourselves to death because we don't want to share transport with strangers and we want to lie on a patch of sand a bit further than the patches of sand we used to lie on.

We are, in fact, stupid.

Which explains why there's so much disaster literature, and why so much of it is for teenagers. Teens have it easy. Yes, there's the acne, self-loathing, self-harming, exam pressure, rioting, constant surveillance and distrust, paedo-paranoia and below-the-bum trousers, but it's also the last opportunity to actually care about the big issues before you're forced into selfish capitalist consumerism as an alienated individual. The pressures on adults are so huge that it's hard work caring about what we're doing collectively.

That and the fact that disaster lit chimes with each teenager's secret belief that s/he is the culmination of evolutionary perfection. Unappreciated, apres-ils le deluge (or other catastrophe). We like to shock ourselves, and disaster-lit is ideal because we can feel that although we have the answers, we can't actually do anything to stop it: it's too big. Wallow in the horror.

Which is why disaster book sales peak at times of communal stress.

See the original here or click to enlarge.

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