Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The End of the World As We Know It

By Beth Terrell

Last night, our critique group drifted into a discussion of the volcanic disaster that is supposed to end the world in 2012. Imagine my surprise when I logged onto Murderous Musings today and discovered that Mark had blogged about that very thing. We were talking about the big Yellowstone Park eruption, while Mark's is half a world away, but the results are apparently the same. I shudder to think of the consequences should both of these seismological events occur at or near the same time. I'm not a brave person, as we've discussed in past posts, so all this apocalyptic talk has me a little on edge. I've always wanted to go to Yellowstone, but maybe I'll put off my travel plans until 2013!

Of course, people who know about these things assure me that the 2012 date is a misinterpretation of the Mayan calendar. Our own Pat Browning directed me to some Mayan calendar articles by Ivan Van Laningham at They're interesting reading, if you can keep your head from exploding. For those who write fantasy, there's some good fodder here.

I got the sense that Mark's tone was somewhat less than 100% serious, but his article reminded me of Isaac Asimov, who, when asked what he would do if he knew he had only six months to live, said, "Type Faster."

So, how about you? If you knew the world really was about to end, what would you do? Kiss your spouse, cuddle your puppy, call your mother, eat a whole hot fudge cake all by yourself? Type faster? Maybe, for some of us, all of the above. (Well, okay, maybe I'd share the hot fudge cake.)

One member of our critique group suggested that the Mormons might come out of it all right, because they're supposed to keep at least two years worth of canned goods and water on hand at all times, which would give the ash time to blow off (or whatever volcanic ash does) and for things to start growing again. I started to think of all the other things you might need, such as vegetable seeds, potting soil, full-spectrum light bulbs, generators, air purifiers to circulate the air inside whatever bunker or safehouse you might end up in. That reminded me of the Brendan Frazer movie, Blast From the Past, which is about a couple in the 1950's who believe there's been a nuclear attack (because a plane crashes in their yard) and go down into their underground bunker to live for the next 30 years. The woman is pregnant with our hero, who forays out into the real world as an adult to re-stock their supplies and, naturally, runs into a woman with whom he fals in love at first sight. (It's a fun little movie, one of my guilty pleasures.)

Anyway, that made me wonder what would happen if the bunker were buried under a thick layer of volcanic ash. What would happen then? Would they be able to open the hatch when their two years was up? What would they find when they got there? Would it be as bleak as Carmac McCarthy's The Road? And what about life in the bunker itself? What kind of people might end up in the same bunker, and what kinds of social dynamics might develop? What if the group woke up one morning to find that one of their own had been murdered? Why did it happen? Who did it? How would they deal with the discovery that they are trapped underground with a killer?

You see the way my mind works. One minute, I'm worrying about the impending end of the world, and the next, I have a new story idea, which is aheck of a lot more fun. And that, my friends, is why we should all take a tip from the master: just type faster.


Jean Henry Mead said...

Great article, Beth. I agree. I've put my writing projects into high gear and put off the unimportant things s that will probably never be completed, anyway. I'm also going to store a huge chocolate cake to eat when and if the eruption begins. (I'm allergic to chocolate, but love it). I think the only thing we can do is to enjoy life to the fullest and be grateful for the time we have left.

Vincit said...

This is a question I can't wrap my mind around. But I do stay in touch, on a daily basis, with my God, so I expect I'd be OK. I'd want to try to help as many people as I could, but I'm not stocking up on anything. You only have some gang steal it from you, anyway. And who knows? we might find out about it like Charleton Heston did in "Planet of the Apes." JK on that one--I'm sure we'd get a "we interrupt this program to, etc. Had this been a real alert, you would have received instructions to tune to. . .what?! This is a real alert?! We'll get back to you. Bye now."

Beth Terrell said...

Oh, so true. Some people at work have been reading THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy. I have it in my TBR list, but it's so bleak, I just haven't been able to steel myself to begin it. Talk about your end of the world stuff.

Mark W. Danielson said...

I think someone should write a song about it with that title. What? Someone already did, you say? REM? In 1987? Dang it! Well, at least they felt fine about it:)