Thursday, August 06, 2009

On Post-Apocalypse*

(I'm back to work in my office again, after a three day class affair in Frankfort. The trip was beneficial, despite the fact that there wasn't much going on in the city. I learned a bit more about the US Army Corps' HEC-RAS program, which is used to analyze river and stream flow. I have used the program a few times while I was a student, but this workshop was much more informative.)

Sixty-four years ago America dropped the nuke on Hiroshima. I have mixed feelings about this. While I believe it was vital to end the Great War, did instantaneously killing 140,000 people merit the use of the bomb? This is a classic example of the "What if..." or "If only..." scenario. Who knows what would have happened had we not bombed Japan. I don't want to think about it.

What I want to think about is the bomb itself. In high school I did a research paper on J.R. Oppenheimer, the "Father of the Atomic Bomb." He lived a depressed life after his work, plagued by guilt and horror of what he helped develop. Why was mankind driven to create such weapons? We were better off shooting everybody with rifles and pistols, but then the bomb comes along and threatens our way of life and understanding. Heck, it causes the whole world to gold Cold and wonder "What have we done?"

I like reading post-apocalyptic books. Cormac McCarthy's The Road was probably one of the best books I've read in a really long time, which I read about two years or so ago. The novel focuses on two un-named characters, a father and a son, and they are traversing the road seeking only to stay alive. It takes place in a post-apoc setting. There are scenes from the book that stick out in my mind that I can still remember, and if you have not read it, I would highly recommend you do so.

Still, the idea of a post-apocalyptic setting is intriguing. Earth is drastically different, ravaged and primitive. There is always some matter of Old Technology that hangs around, confounding the survivors. In Fallout3, Washington, DC is transformed to a wasteland, full of bandits, mutated insects, and other crazies. In the Mad Max, Australia is driven to a society that depends solely on gasoline. I Am Legend New York was crippled, killing most people, but turning the others into some sort of mutated-bloodthirsty-humanoids. The world is always barren, dark, and lonely. Society is a dual society: the scavengers and the survivors.

I'm not sure what it is I like in this seemingly depressing genre, but I do. Maybe it's the glimmer of hope man always seems to have. Maybe it's the macabre. Maybe it's the horror. Maybe it's the fun in exploring what the new world has to offer. Whatever the case is, post-apocalyptic stories are typically compelling and memorable.

In all of this, I still don't know what to make of the Bomb, only that I should try not to think about it too much. Kind of like the death penalty. I'm torn on that issue, too. How can I support killing someone, when it's wrong to do so? But how can I support providing money, food, and shelter to someone who commits those sorts of crimes? Life is too full of complex, convoluted issues. I'm glad I'm not the one that's in charge.

*The Apocalypse I am referring to is not to the Return of the King, but to the destruction of earth. It is entirely possible that these could be one in the same, but I believe it is also possible that mankind can destroy Earth before the Biblical Return.


David Wagner said...

Excellent post. Tough issues, true. Both nukes and death penalty... issues far easier to deal with at a distance, emotionally, intellectually, physically. It's easy to be pro-death penalty when you don't have to throw the switch...

I think part of the appeal of post-apoc story settings is to help make us more thankful, and maybe more proactively protective of what we have now. I love Fallout 3, though on the face of it, it should be depressing and off-putting. Not sure I get it either...

By the way, your books are coming. Funny, I wrapped them individually, thinking it wouldn't matter, price-wise, since the costs are based on weight. But the place I took the packages to ended up putting them both into a bigger box, together. Apparently, number of packages effects the price as well as total weight. So, you can open them, then open them again! I wasn't trying to be annoying; it just worked out that way...

Death to Kaptcha!

Captain Joe said...

Aye, the apocalypse is a hauntingly fascinating notion.

If you haven't already, I strongly endorse The Stand by Stephen King. It asks the questions you're asking, Logan, and provides some real vivid imagery. It's old school King, good vs. evil, and a monster of a novel.

logankstewart said...

@David: Exactly my feelings, dealing with these issues at a distance. It's also easier to be pro-bomb when you don't throw the switch.

It'll be like opening two presents!

@Cap'n: I've not read The Stand, though it's been recommended a few times to me. I've bought the uncut version and it's sitting on my shelf, but I've not got to it yet. One day I'll tackle it.

On a side note, I am very much pro-nuclear energy/power. That said, I think nuclear power plants pose such a minimal threat to society and the environment that their economic and energy benefits far outweigh the risks.

Krista said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Krista said...

Kind of scary when you think of things like this! I've read a few Post-apocalypse books in my day and hopefully when and if the time comes I'll have learned a few things from them!

By the way, I've opened my blog up for business I hope you stop by and enjoy!