Poll Dancer by Keith Ng

Apocalypse Again

My flatmates think I'm nuts. I justify every purchasing decision with "this will/will not be useful in the Apocalypse". I tried to get out Mad Max, Night of the Living Dead, The Omega Man and Shaun of the Dead at the same time. (I already own 12 Monkeys.) I even wrote my own Apocalyptic fiction, entitled "Where to Loot in Post-Apocalyptic Thorndon". Much to my surprise, it's going in the DomPost's weekend supplement on Saturday.

I don't really think the Apocalypse is coming. The article is satire, and "I can't use this in the Apocalypse" is really shorthand for:

"A manrobe is a what now?"
"You think I'll pay that for plates?"

Having spent a few days last week exclusively reading about the Apocalypse, it was interesting to read Russell's links on Monday about the Rapturists.

In general usage, Apocalypse has been taken to mean the end of the world. But very few Apocalypticists actually go that far - in most religious apocalypses, existence continues after "The End". The Definitive End is generally the domain of theoretical physicists and sci-fi writers.

Apocalypse actually means revelation, an act through which the truth is revealed by God. As a literary device, it's an act that takes away everything that keeps the world in its status quo and to reveal the truth of the world. At its heart, it's an expression of frustration at the way the world is now, and that it is fake or temporary somehow. Once the world gets flash-fried, the core that remains - The Truth - will flourish again, after a period of adjustment.

It's the same structure from Book of Revelations to Left Behind to The Day After Tomorrow. Destruction - massive, spectacular, Jerry-Brockheimer-esque kaplowie - is the key to the story, because without the destruction, the adherents of the Truth would remain marginalised as they are in the real world.

Their survival is not about luck, or even simple pluckiness. It's an idea of real, objective virtue in a world that is doomed because it lacks it.

And it's this that gives these stories a mythical power.

The evil could be greed and arrogance, dependence on technology, disregard for the environment, or, more in-line with dogma, having too much sex outside wedlock.

The marginalised in each of these worlds have the opposite of these qualities, and when that evil comes home to nest, their difference will save them.

For a world where environmental degradation is obvious but everyone refuses to see it because of greed and complacency, the environment will be restored through a purge of humanity.

For a world where god doesn't get a capital "G", where South Park gets aired, Mohammed cartoons get printed and where sex, drugs and rock & roll is the norm, God will come down and sort them out.

No value judgements here - just an observation that these are powerful, ancient myths that have been rewritten for every generation for every ill that ever threatened society. Perhaps it speaks to a part of us that would like the world to be reformed for the better. Perhaps it just speaks to a part of us that likes to see things burn. I know I certainly have a bit of both.

And then there's the survivalism, which was cool, surely, before Lost.

Here are instructions for building a fallout shelter with a shovel, a door, carpet and dirt. (I kid you not.) Here is the US Army Survival Manual, with a chapter on how to kick some Stone Age ass.

The Guardian asks ten experts for their picks for the End of the World. They are pretty good, but I liked the more exotic ones on Wikipedia: Ice-9 (fictional: a kind of ice that freezes at normal temperature and changes normal water to more ice-9, thus destroying world), strange matter (some quantum whatchamijig that will pop our quarks or somesuch and turn the earth into a giant nucleon - this is bad), grey goo (a bit more conventional - nanobots eat the world), and quantum vacuum collapse (not even going to try...).

And if none of those suit you, you should do it yourself. The International Earth-Destruction Advisory Board advises that the current Earth-Destruction alert level is Green: Not Destroyed.