Children of Men

2007-10-06

in Books and literature, Films and movies, The environment

When was the idea of the post-apocalyptic future invented? I went to Blockbuster tonight in hopes of renting some clever comedy. Because of the unavailability of certain titles, recommendations from staff, delayed consequences from my trip to Morocco, and random factors, I ended up watching Children of Men instead. It makes for an uncomfortable accompaniment to my ongoing reading of The World Without Us. Then, there is Oryx and Crake and 28 Days Later. Even Half Life 2 had similar nightmare-future police-state fixations.

I wonder if it could be traced back, Oxford English Dictionary style, to the point where the first work of fiction emerged that envisioned the future as a nightmarish place. Furthermore, the first such fiction to envision human activities as the origin of the downfall. I wonder if ancient examples could be found, or whether it would all be in the last hundred years or so.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

. October 6, 2007 at 10:01 pm

At times Children of Men bears an uncanny resemblance to Half Life 2. Especially during the urban scenes in the refugee camp.

Tristan Laing October 7, 2007 at 3:50 am

This is a question I should definitely be able to shed some light on.

eschatology – the study of the end. Revelations – the book of the end. Thinking of the end, the fulfillment of history, the end of history is deeply related to Christian thinking, and specifically a certain interpretation of early christian thinking appropriated by the church to produce the popular religious notion of apocalypse.

In Paul’s 1st letter to the Galatians he states that the time immediately preceding judgment day will be a time of torment, a time for testing. This gets interpreted as fire and brimstone. Alternatively, it could be interpreted as nuclear winter. (What I think is the correct interpretation concerns recognizing the false appearance of God as Satanus, the enemy (this is long, long before Dante’s mythology of hell. Any hell at this point is strictly analogous to Tartarus)). My interpretation is besides the point – the point is thinking of the end times (Paul believed the day of Judgement would come in his own lifetime) gets interpreted as a nightmarish scenario.

The notion that humans bring the nightmare upon themselves is probably not possible to separate entirely from the Christian tradition of “the day of judgment”.

Certainly lots of people study eschatology, and have certainly done the kind of work your wondering about. There is a probably a book out there which sets as it’s task write the “OED history of Nightmare futures”.

Emily Horn October 8, 2007 at 12:18 am

Did I not suggest ‘Knocked Up’?? That’s it. I prescribe you a dosage of a wacky buddy comedy taken with a medley of beer and M&Ms.

Milan October 8, 2007 at 1:43 pm

Did I not suggest ‘Knocked Up’?? That’s it. I prescribe you a dosage of a wacky buddy comedy taken with a medley of beer and M&Ms.

You did indeed. My next foray into video rental will align more closely to your suggestion.

As it happened, I do not have a Blockbuster membership, and buying the previously viewed copy of CoM was only $3.99 (less than renting a film). Also, the copy of CoM I bought in Morocco turned out to actually be a copy of United 93. That had left me wanting to see the former film.

R.K. October 8, 2007 at 3:56 pm

Here’s some eschatology for you:

Humanity’s Final Message to Those Who Would Come After

“Today every school child — all ninety-seven thousand of them, worldwide — knows the story. Or at least parts of it. If you took a poll of random people on the streets, and believe me we have, you’ll find a plethora of partially correct answers, answers that get a piece of the story exactly right but that miss the big picture.

It’s not hard to understand why. The big picture is scary.

The big picture is that we’re all dying. Every last one of us.”

Milan October 9, 2007 at 12:23 am

See also: Voluntary Human Extinction Movement

“The basic concept behind VHEMT is the belief that the Earth would be better off without humans, and as such, humans should refuse to breed. However, this does not mean that they intend to force people to not breed, to kill anyone, or to commit suicide. This last point is illustrated in their motto, “May we live long and die out”.

Milan October 9, 2007 at 12:25 am

Also: Church of Euthanasia

“The Church of Euthanasia (CoE) is a dadaist political organization started by Rev. Chris Korda in the Boston, Massachusetts area of the United States. According to the church’s website, it is “a non-profit educational foundation devoted to restoring balance between Humans and the remaining species on Earth.” The CoE uses sermons, music, culture jamming, publicity stunts and direct action combined with an underlying sense of satire and black humor to highlight Earth’s unsustainable population. The CoE is notorious for its conflicts with anti-abortion Christian activists.

According to the church’s website, the one commandment is “Thou shalt not procreate”. The CoE further asserts four principle pillars: suicide, abortion, cannibalism (“strictly limited to consumption of the already dead”), and sodomy (“any sexual act not intended for procreation”). The church stresses population reduction by voluntary means only. Therefore murder, rape and involuntary sterilization are strictly forbidden by church doctrine.”

Alena Prazak October 9, 2007 at 4:34 am

Another addition which I (Oleh) finished reading tonight to the post-apocalyptic lieterature is “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy. For me it re-enforced the importance of avoiding the destructoin of the wonderful planet which we are fortunate to inhabit and be stewards of. It is a fairly easy book to read and does well casting a pall on the journey of a father and son who are basically left alone to fend for themselves in awful conditions.

R.K. October 11, 2007 at 1:56 pm

Existential externalities
Posted by: Free Exchange | Washington, DC
Categories: Externalities
IS IT good to exist? It’s amusing to watch economists debate the question.

. September 29, 2008 at 4:01 pm

John Oliver On Apocalypse Literature

By David Pescovitz on Book

In this JBooks.com video, The Daily Show writer John Oliver gives a quick survey of apocalypse literature, from the Old Testament’s Book of Daniel to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road to Rob Kutner’s Apocalypse How.

John Oliver’s Literature Rodeo: Apocalypse Edition (Thanks, Kenneth Gordon!)

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