“The Mayan calendar ends December 21st, 2012.” People cling to this idea. Despite all the studies that show that the Mayan system did not indicate that the world would end, but that human beings would enter a new era of understanding. Despite new research that shows that this date has been calculated incorrectly. Despite the simple fact that, no matter how big a stone they carved it on, their calendar would have to run out of room sometime. And, despite a new, more accurate translation that says nothing about any kind of significant event on the calendar’s end date.
Still, just in case it is the end of the world (and “the nutbags with cardboard signs had it right the whole time!”) I suggest you read up . . . BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!
I’ve always enjoyed apocalyptic fiction, whether written or filmed. Just before the Christmas season, I focused almost exclusively on the subject for a while, mostly rereading my favorites. I broke off to read seasonally, as I always do at this time of year, but I’ll probably be right back to it. Unless, of course . . . IT’S TOO LATE!
There’s a lot of bad stuff out there, in my opinion. For instance, I rarely bother with anything that includes zombies. But there are also some really good stories around. Here are some of my standouts (if they sound interesting, check your local independent bookstore):
James Howard Kunstler wrote an excellent non-fiction book about peak oil, The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century. In the final chapter, he envisions a smaller scale, more community-based society. He explores these possibilities in two novels (so far) in what he calls his “World Made by Hand Series,” World Made by Hand, and The Witch of Hebron. I have these two books on audio book, and listened to them again around Halloween. The stories are set in the Hudson River valley, and the second one takes place in October, with allusions to Washington Irving. These books portray a post-oil society that is violent, noticeably paternalistic, and somewhat depressing. Nevertheless, it’s engrossing, perhaps because they live somewhat like we do. There’s a supernatural element that I originally found off-putting, but I appreciate what the author suggests by it. I’ve read these about four times now, and find that I easily assimilate into the setting, enough so that I find myself thinking as if I were living that same life when I’m not reading the books.
I didn’t get back to them this time around, but I really enjoyed Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games Trilogy. I read these to see if Aly might be interested in them, and liked them myself. The recent movie was great, although it shows none of the inner dialogue, or the background on the dystopic society in which the action takes place, which I really enjoyed.
The best of this genre that I’ve read is perhaps George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides. This older book offers a thinking man’s apocalypse—much of the story centers around the main character’s internal cogitation on what’s happening in a (blessedly zombie-free) post-pandemic America. Stewart portrays what might happen to society should it lose its educational and philosophical structure. I find it fascinating.
After Twelfth Night, I’m eager to get to a newly-acquired used copy of a book I read long ago, John Hersey’s White Lotus. This book explores race relations from a unique viewpoint, asking what would happen if white Americans became the slaves of Chinese society. I read it once, years ago, and the ideas in the book have never left me. I’m anxious to return to them, if by January 6th it won’t be . . . WAY TOO LATE!
Incidentally, the best concise explanation of the brilliant Mayan calendar I’ve found is Geoff Stray’s Little Wooden Book, The Mayan and Other Ancient Calendars.
Also, if the apocalypse is coming, make sure you’re dressed for it!