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Death to Humans! (The Apocalypse Remix)

Read his previous post, 10 Ways World of Warcraft Will Help You Survive the End of Humanity!

By Robert M. Geraci

Scientific American recently rocked the Internet with its editors’ piece “Death to Humans! Visions of the Apocalypse in Movies and Literature” but, in doing so, have missed half of the fun. In an article where the sublime (The Matrix) meets the atrocious (The Postman), the chief problem that SciAm’s editors suffer is that, to be honest, they do not know what an apocalypse is.

Threats to the world are not apocalyptic. In one of the apocalyptic texts par excellence, the Book of Revelation, the world isn’t just going to end…it’s going to transform in radical fashion (admittedly thanks to the seven seals that FBI and ATF members thought were marine mammals when David Koresh quoted them, the many-headed beast, and the whore of Babylon who will be drunk on the blood of the martyrs). Despite all the trials and tribulations, the end of the world is a good thing: it will end with the establishment of a wondrous new one.

So, how about some more apocalyptic films and books?

R.U.R. (1927; play) – Robots plan on killing us all. But after they’ve finished their noble work, they will explore an earth purged of, umm, us.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968; film and novel) – In Kubrick’s and Clarke’s classic, David Bowman gets sucked into a galactic hotel and comes back a “Star Child” who can toss aside nuclear weapons as though they are paper airplanes. A new world shall dawn in the warm glow of the cosmic baby’s power.

Dark City (1998, film) – After John Murdoch psychokinetically conquers the aliens who have enslaved humankind, he remains stuck in a spaceship but uses its powers to provide himself with a West coast paradise where he will spend the future with a lovely woman whose memories have been tailored to match his own.

The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955 and 2001-2003; novels and films) – When two hobbits (one deranged and well past his prime, the other just twisted and tired after a noble quest) struggle at the flaming precipice of Mount Doom, they inaugurate a new world. In the end, lava purges the forces of evil and the friendly hobbits have a fighting chance to spend eternity blowing smoke rings and cheering for fireworks.

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (2004; novel) – Cory Doctorow paints us a future where we can spend an infinity in Disney Land, rejuvenating our bodies and, when necessary, restoring our minds to cloned bodies in the case of, well, an accident.  And the line at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride won’t matter because you have an infinite amount of time to wait.

Accelerando (2006; novel) – After the machines take over the solar system, predicts Charles Stross, we can always ask a divine robot cat for help escaping into the outer reaches of space where we will explore the universe, hoping there are other species who haven’t been eaten by their computers.

Boneshaker (2009); novel) – Cherie Priest’s protagonists actually prefer a world of zombies and archaic technology to the pre-apocalyptic world that wishes it could ignore Seattle and its gas-mask wearing angels. Just like the Biblical Ezekiel (who saw the throne of God), Priest’s Zeke knows a good thing when he sees it.

The future can be re-written…what other films and novels promise us a transcendent new world on the other side?

Robert M. Geraci is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College and author of Apocalyptic AI: Visions of Heaven in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality.

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