Tuesday, May 5, 2015

24 Causes of the End of the World

I finished drafting “Drakar & the Order of the Blackened Glaive” yesterday, went over the last bit again this morning on the way in to work, and have it scheduled for release as tomorrow’s post.  In the meantime, a buddy and I have been working a little on a new story idea, one that started from a kind of challenge posted by one of our classmates on Facebook:

“Why are dystopian futures always focused on an omnipotent and omnipresent central government rather than an absence of a central government?”

It got me thinking.  Granted, I can name a few dystopian stories about the chaotic lack of government off the top of my head—Mad Max, Brandon Sanderson’s Reckoners novels, The Postman, Snow Crash, maybe even the Shadowrun RPG system…  Still, there’s no doubt that today’s dystopian stories are mostly about oppression and the loss of freedom.  This is even true in a couple of the samples above, especially Snow Crash and Shadowrun.  Americans are afraid of omnipotent corporations and/or government, and it’s been that way for a while now.  We’ve not seen chaos in this country in quite some time, but folks feel overwhelmed by the prospect of Big Brother.

I’m always looking for story ideas, and this one struck me as an interesting challenge.  How do we build a sci fi story that’s about a legitimate collapse of civilization, that ends in chaos and not oppression by our government or corporate overlords?  To put it another way, how does the future turn out to be Somalia rather than Blade Runner?

There have been many great stories about the End of the World, but
Thundarr the Barbarian is probably my favorite of all.
So.  This is my list of Potential Causes of the End of the World.  Just to point out how hard it is to come up with “new” ideas, I’ve also listed the source material for my favorite versions of each story after each cause of the apocalypse.

1.    Locusts (Bible)
2.    Alien invasion (Independence Day)
3.    Asteroid (Armageddon)
4.    Zombie pandemic (World War Z, Walking Dead)
5.    Mutated flu virus (The Stand, The Strain)
6.    Sentient plants/animals start eating people (Little Shop of Horrors, D20 Modern)
7.    Sentient machines (Maximum Overdrive, The Matrix, Terminator)
8.    WWIII / Nuclear War (Mad Max, Terminator)
9.    Global Warming (The Day After Tomorrow)
10.  Social Decay/Nobody Gives a Shit (The Running Man)
11.  Systemic Financial Collapse
12.  Genetic splicing ruins crops worldwide (The Wind-Up Girl)
13.  Magic returns & causes havoc (Shadowrun)
14.  The actual End Times occur, leaving Hell on Earth (Left Behind, The Seventh Sign)
15.  Nihilists from the future try to prevent environmental catastrophe by killing lots of people in the past, reducing earth’s total population to a manageable, sustainable level in the future. (Continuum; Jim Starlin’s Adam Warlock storyline; Rainbow Six)
16.  Mass infertility outbreak (Y The Last Man, Children of Men)
17.  Volcanoes & earthquakes (2012)
18.  Runaway planet hurtling btwn Earth & moon (Thundarr)
19.  A massive solar flare melts the electric transmission system, causing 1000 years of darkness
20.  Cthulhu attacks from the bottom of ocean (Pacific Rim).
21. A team travels back for research and inadvertently changes the past, altering the future, and creating chaos (Chrononauts). 
22. 21. A team travels back for research and when they return, they accidentally reintroduce a deadly pathogen that destroys all life.
23.  Rise of a newly evolved species that seeks to rule humanity (X-Men; The Reckoners)
24.  Trans-dimensional attack (Cthulhu)

Got any more?  We’re still missing one, I think.

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