Friday, May 28, 2010

Apocalyptic Fantasy

So, I'm currently re-reading Stephen King's The Stand, in which a major plague wipes out most of the world and leaves only a few survivors. I'm also reading (in small, occasional pieces) Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, which features an odd sort of apocalypse-by-ennui (or perhaps apocalypse-by-incompetence is a better assessment of it). Again, only the chosen few are saved. And, of course, I have a deep love for zombie movies, many of which chart the fall of civilization before the undead hordes. Hell, when I was younger, I used to fantasize about extra-dimensional portals just randomly showing up, whence demons could step out and begin their invasion. Naturally, I'd be able to fight back, and...

As I've gotten older, I find these sorts of scenarios less appealing as a personal fantasy. That's partly because I'm increasingly aware that I probably wouldn't survive. It's also because even if I did manage to survive, odds are that my friends and family wouldn't. When I was younger and more self-centered (and, honestly, I had a lot fewer friends) that didn't bother me so much.

Creating an appealing end-of-civilization fantasy is something of a balancing act. On the one hand, the threat has to be big enough that it could really cause the collapse of society. On the other hand, ideally, you want a something that you feel like you have some reasonable chance to survive. (Part of the appeal of zombie films, I'm convinced, is that they fit this middle ground admirably. It's easy to picture them eating and infecting people until civilization effectively collapses... but a man with a shovel stands a pretty good chance against a single zombie.)

So, ... do you have any favorite end-of-the-world fantasies, dear readers? What do you see yourself doing as civilization crumbles? Thoughts on the genre are also welcome.


  1. "when I was younger, I used to fantasize about extra-dimensional portals just randomly showing up, whence demons could step out and begin their invasion."

    If you've never played Rifts, you need to.

  2. Lovely setting, horrible system. And by horrible, I mean incomplete. Oh, if you're used to RPGs, you can figure out how it's supposed to work... but you have to fill in the gaps yourself.

    Still, it's a fun game. I ran a couple of sessions in it, before that particular gaming group imploded.

  3. Eh, the recent Ultimate Edition filled in most of the gaps, but I'll definetely concur the mechanics are overcomplicated and underexplained.

    Rifts character creation is literally a 3 day process for me, with periods of intermittent crying and swearing. Thankfully, once you get a game going it can be totally awesome.


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