End of the world Wednesday

There’s no doubt about it, I’ve been getting my dystopian on over the last year or so. There are any number of rough beasts who could be blamed for this, but I think it might actually have been the fault of Rick Perry, who if anything was rather a smooth beast. In any case, I came across some reference to him and then I realised that if the world was going to end that I really ought to come out from under the duvet and inform myself about it. And so I started to watch the Daily Show again.

I should ‘fess up at this juncture and point out that my only contact with US politics is the Daily Show. It allows me to learn about things like Bachman, Cain, Perry and Santorum without having to heavily sedate myself. For the record, I was already well-informed about Gingrich. He was a figure of great fear for me when I was a paranoid teen; I was convinced that he and Zhirinovsky would become presidents of the US and Russia respectively and THE WORLD WOULD END.



That didn’t happen, but it’s no reason not to keep an eye on these things. Some day the wrong lunatic is going to get more power than is good for us. Then we’ll all wish we’d paid more attention to the Daily Show.

You see, I was raised on the post-apocalypse. What child of the eighties wasn’t? Actually it turns out that many sane, well-balanced people weren’t, and they went on to live happy, fulfilled, normal lives. But the rest of us concentrated on the dystopian and we came to inherit the cynical. You’ll be sorry when it really is the end of the world and we’re all well-informed and saying, ‘See, I told you so!’ as you head off to your well-stocked bomb shelter while we continue to jitter in front of the TV, spotting patterns in things that aren’t really there.

I was raised on Z for Zachariah, Children of the Dust, Brother in the Land. I have no idea where my parents were while I was reading these horrors at a formative age, and they were horrors – Brother in the Land used to give me a pain in my stomach but I read it over and over again. I correctly identified that the pain in my stomach that happened when reading it was due to the fact that I was reading it, but I kept on reading it anyway.

I have worked hard to preserve precisely that learning curve for the rest of my life.

I think my parents thought I was still reading Enid Blyton. I wasn’t. I was learning that the world would end in ill-defined but fiery horror. I was learning that surviving the apocalypse was not the smartest move.

I moved on to realer-life horrors. War memoirs and hostages, misery memoirs, the whole damned lot. But a really good post-apocalypse still stops me in my tracks and makes me forget to do important things. Two years ago I bought a copy of The Road as a present for someone and then missed their birthday because I was in bed, reading The Road, too entranced with horror to leave the house.

In keeping with my general learning curve of contrariness, it may not surprise you to hear that it never occurred to me that I might want to write some kind of dystopian setting one day. Or that that it didn’t still occur to me after I had already started writing it.