Monday, September 05, 2011

Dystopias and post-apocalysms

"Why don't you like The Road and Melankolia," my husband asked, quite reasonably. He has nevered shared my preference for fantasy and science fiction, just as I have never shared his love of social realism. We try to find common ground, and both items fit with things I otherwise love. How is the planet from Melankolia different from the Death Star? Why is the ruin of the United States in The Road different from and Dies the Fire and The Time of the Dark?

First of all, Star Wars, Dies the Fire and The Time of the Dark are all post-apocalyptic, not apocalyptic. Some little piece of humanity has survived, and while life is hard and oddly realistic, such as the roaming packs of cannibals around the dying cities of S. M. Stirling's after-the-disaster US, there is hope. The Death Star will annihilate all resistance, but there is hope. The dark is breeding humanity like cattle, and when they are forced to the surface the free-ranging meat which is humanity becomes prey once again. Still, there is resistance, and hope.

There is no hope in Melankolia. For a while there's false hope, as the planet pulls back, but in the end it goes from bad to worse. There is no hope in the The Road either. Nothing. It's the end. As literature and as art, it conveys the emotion and the sense of loss and despair with precision and gentle cruelty. There is no "post" to their apocalypse. Dystopia.

I need hope though. All I need to understand the fragility of the civilisation we enjoy is to read the paper. I have to believe that after the planet has become flooded from climate change and the melting of the poles, and 3/4ths of the population is dead, something, preferably something interesting, beautiful and optimistically human will create a culture among the scattered islands, rising from the drowned or broken cities. Not the final collapse of humanity..

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