I’m not talking about the apocalypse – the Apocalypse beloved of prophecy and heavy metal. These days, it’s merely an apocalypse. It’s a bit more serious than a teenager saying “my world is ended” and a bit less graphic than meteor showers and dinosaurs.
In fact, the way we talk about apocalypse paints it as a rather everyday, if dramatic, occurrence. The smorgasbord of options is both creative and overwhelming. There are the DIY projects, the “Bring In The Professionals” advertisements. There are endings both mass-market and stiflingly up-market, personalized and one-size-fits-all.
For example: entire genres of filmmaking end the world as a matter of course. Ever since Hollywood saw the iconic “Earthrise” picture from NASA, they’ve been figuring out how to blow it up multiple times a day. Considering the difficulty of getting a good shot, not to mention the business of sequels – they presumably have several backup copies of the real thing.
(“God, Bob, why are you such a klutz? That was our second-to-last copy of Alderaan! Now GET IT RIGHT!”)…([later, in post-production:] “ALRIGHT WHO WAS EATING CHEETOS! THIS LOOKS LIKE AGENT ORANGE, NOT THE DEATH STAR!”)
Then there’s the matter of faith. Despite what I said earlier, there really is quite a difference of opinion among various religions on the matter of the End of Days. I’ve always wondered why people didn’t select faiths based on the longest estimated TTA, Time To Apocalypse. Perversely, a more immediate TTA seems to attract more believers. I’ve never been sure whether this behavior is driven by a) boredom, b) the desire to see Bob, Karen, and the rest of Accounting/Those People fry, or c) a sort of practical, “Git ‘Er Done” mentality.
The options are endless – well, not really. If you’re dealing with the end of time I guess they aren’t. Rather, there seem to be three main camps of opinion.
Option 1: Less is More. The “poetry lovers’ special”, popularized by T.S. Elliott in The Hollow Men: “Not with a bang but with a whimper,” etc. etc. If you have used the word “ennui” more than once in your life, not as part of a spelling contest, this is your tribe.
Option 2: More is Less. This is the option for people who like to debate, and prefer questions over certainty. There are many theories of apocalypse flying around academia, not all of them tied to publishing deadlines and departmental funding. Some of the most memorable include – I kid you not – the Big Rip, the Big Freeze, the Big Crunch, and the Big Slurp.
Option 3: More is More. This is like ordering The Works at a diner: horsemen (horsepeople?), angels, books, frost giants, rains of fire (reigns of fire?), as many free coffee refills as your heart can handle. Hey, kid, enjoy it while it lasts. We’re turning the sign to “Closed” after you roll out.
Are there other options out there? Undoubtedly. Let me know what I missed in the comments. But don’t get too upset if I omitted your favorite – after all, it’s not like it’s the end of the world or anything.
For more fun with finality, I recommend Thief of Time, by Terry Pratchett; and Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. If you’re feeling a bit more serious and natural science-ish, try Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Future of the Earth, by Craig Childs.