"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Dark and Stormy Summer

In 1816, the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia did away with summer, and caused crop failures and starvation for the following three years. Mary Shelley spent the summer at Lake Geneva, writing the book for which she would become famous: Frankenstein. Article at NPR.

What is the connection, do you think, with the many end-of-the-world books that have been written in the last several decades? A partial list follows:

On the Beach (Nevil Shute), Earth Abides (Stewart), Eternity Road (McDevitt), Oryx and Crake and The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood); Fiskadoro (Denis Johnson); Galapagos (Vonnegut); Alas, Babylon (Pat Frank); Lucifer’s Hammer (Niven and Pournelle); Love in the Ruins (Walker Percy); The Road (Cormac McCarthy); Cell (Stephen King); Year Zero (Long); Toward the End of Time (Updike) -- and of course Wyndham's fabulous Day of the Triffids, which had many of the elements of the genre in one place: Nature gone amok after misguided scientific experiments, possible weird kinds of warfare, social breakdown, reactions from the militaristic, to the nihilistic to the back-to-nature. The book, of course.

Send in your favorite end-of-the-world or -civilization titles.


Carol said...

I'm partial to Richard Matheson's "I am Legend" and the 1964 film version, "The Last Man on Earth" starring Vincent Price.
Here on the Canadian west coast, our summer has been gloomy and oppressive and I find that my outlook is bleaker than usual. Maybe it is time to write a 21st century Gothic.

Zen of Writing said...

On the Beach seems to be on everyone's list. It hasn't got much of special effects, either, just the sense of impending doom while the music keeps playing. Maybe that appeals to folks.

I'm not even sure what my own favorite is, Atwood's Oryx and Crake, maybe. Day of the Triffids was kinda fun -- hm, have to add it to the list.

SB said...

We've definitely gone beyond the occasional monster. Monsters are everyday news these days. The whole show is up, is what it means.

Zen of Writing said...

Yeah, that's what worries me. If something is so prevalent on people's minds, it's happening.