Current Events: Canceling the Apocalypse

I think we have too many zpocs out there.

No, seriously. If you look at the events of the past two years with any inkling of historical perspective, the reaction has killed far more people than the WuFlu. Denied medical care, medical care including ongoing chemotherapy put off, food not planted or harvested, small businesses destroyed, parts and necessary medicines either unobtainable or too long delayed… the list goes on and on.

Apparently our governments and large corporations have learned all the wrong lessons from the unending supply of zombie apocalypse fiction. You’d think a sane person would read, say, World War Z (or preferably skim through the TV Tropes page, that’s more than enough Nightmare Fuel) and say, “See? See what these people did in fiction that produced these horrible results, including clamping down on info, lying about death rates, claiming small businesses are infection vectors even as big stores are somehow immune, the porous borders even as legal citizens get locked down? Let’s not do that.”

Evidently we have a shortage of sane people out there. That, or the whole zpoc meme has been drummed in so thoroughly, people think that of course any spreading infectious disease should lead to mass societal breakdown, looting, rioting, and murder of anyone who doesn’t toe the chosen line.

This is not the kind of world I want to live in. This is not the world anyone should have to live in. Our Founding Fathers lived with the ever-present reality of lethal infectious diseases; one of which, smallpox, the most modern medicine of the time might be able to stave off by variolation. People were doubtful of the procedure because it could have a 2% death rate. The fact that this was still considered a viable precaution should clue you in to the consequences of catching smallpox; about 30% death rate, while survivors were often left with horrible scarring and even blindness. People in the past lived with that reality, and they did not panic. (Most of the time.)

In no way, shape, or form, is the WuFlu anywhere near the level of lethality as smallpox. And yet people are reacting as if Ebola had been unleashed upon the land. Or, you know, a zombie apocalypse.

We need to break down the zpoc panic response. We need to create new memes, and new mental resilience in our culture. In the words of Stacker Pentecost, we need to cancel the apocalypse.

So. How?

Oddly enough, I’d start by looking at another book by the same author as WWZ: The Zombie Survival Handbook. That book shows multiple small outbreaks of zombies getting smacked down by anyone and everyone who could swing a broom or pull a trigger. (The incident of the zombie outbreak mowed down by an assault from combined Los Angeles street gangs is, frankly, dark but hilarious.) That book also shows incidents scattered over recorded history, implying that simple human ingenuity and determination should be enough to stop an outbreak in its tracks.

This is what we need to defang the fear. Stories that show that not only is survival an option, but total eradication is possible and life can go back to normal.

If you want to go for larger apocalypses, harder to beat back? Look at stories like Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. Independence Day (ID4). Mad Max. Terminator. Pacific Rim. All of these are stories that show overwhelming horrors can bust your life into pieces, but people can rebuild a way to live.

Look for the hope. Yes, have characters up against overwhelming odds and not sure if they’re going to make it. But have them always planning to live. (Or in the last extremis, dying so someone else will live.)

Because living through apocalypses and everything falling apart is what humans do. Check out the Toba Catastrophe theory, Pompeii, Krakatoa. Check out the Plague of Justinian, the Black Plague, various outbreaks of Ebola. I could go on. Individual humans die, but as groups we pick ourselves up, dust everything off, and just. Keep. Going.

Or as some would have it, Humans Are Space Orcs.

So. Let’s get brutal, if we have to. (Or soft and fluffy, that can be dangerous too – just ask a kitten.) Roll up our sleeves, do all the finger-stretches, and get creative.

We’ve got a cultural apocalypse to cancel.

Trope Talk: Post Apocalypses


32 thoughts on “Current Events: Canceling the Apocalypse

  1. Two of my parents got cancer during all of this. I have stopped expecting that things will get better. I just expect the world to keep kicking us. I know it’s not the best mindset, but that’s where I am. The only thing I’m really enjoying at the moment are fanfic, anime, and music. I’m actually researching log horizon at the moment. I can’t handle any grim anime at the moment, but log horizon is upbeat enough that I’m enjoying it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. May I also recommend K-on, Love Live!, and BOFURI? Upbeat, slice of life, and success in endeavors from making a band to being idol singers to online gaming.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Not sure if it’ll meet your taste, but Dr. Stone, That Time I got Reincarnated as a Slime and The Fruit of Evolution: Before I Knew It, My Life Had It Made are increasing levels of zany-to-strange but uplifting nonsense, too.
      Reminds me, I need to get [spoiler] yelling HADOKEN! over and over as a ring tone….

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I would agree with your basic premise of apocalypse fiction probably having a hand in things… but I’d go a step further, that it’s not just the idiot balls that they are filled with that affect how people see things, but the simple parts of lack of understanding of how things physically work that people take for granted as “well, everyone just knows that.” That is, in fact, part of why I cannot stand WWZ or any of the other stuff I’ve looked at by that author: even when it’s trying to be helpful it’s being catastrophically dangerously wrong. Stuff like the mechanics of how and why bullets or explosives do damage, and thus how and in what ways they would be useful (or would not be useful) are gotten horribly wrong, and _everything else the books teach is based on extrapolation from the assumption that it is correct about this_ (just as one example).
    And while WWZ isn’t the only case of this, I see it throughout the apoc genre. The little “basic assumptions about how things work” that aren’t even considered any more than “the sky is blue”, but upon which a chain of extrapolations is built that leads to the more obvious surface flaws and failures. So even when people acknowledge “this obvious surface feature is wrong”, they still accept all the premises that lead up to it without realizing they are doing so, and then their proposed solution is also flawed because it is still built on a foundation that is wrong, even if they recognize “somehow, this needs to be fixed to fit the actual observations” (like the old “orbits are circles upon circles” attempt to “fix” orbits while keeping the same flawed base assumptions about them).
    And yes, this is one reason I really like your stories. You do the research to get as much as possible of that background correct, so that the stuff in the foreground is built on a solid foundation. And that is what we need.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It’ll be interesting, a decade or a few from now, to see a well-researched sociological study of how the reaction to COVID-19 maps to reactions to earlier pandemics. Like, how well “burn the witches!” corresponds to some of our own recent events.

    …actually, a comparison *today* between different cultures’ reactions would be interesting. I’m thinking primarily of comparing the reactions of relatively “safe, pampered” cultures with cultures (like large parts of sub-Saharan Africa) where people still live daily with malaria, cholera, occasional Ebola, and epidemic levels of HIV.

    I say this because my personal feeling is that a big part of this overreaction is due to the sheer *inexperience* of modern Western nations in dealing with pandemics. The flu is background noise. Cancer is scary b/c there’s no *cure*, but early detection can usually give a fighting chance. HIV is easy to avoid by avoiding dangerous behaviors (although… more on this below). But lethal viruses that spread everywhere, to everyone, that you can’t go to the pharmacy and get a pill for? That Doesn’t Happen Here!

    Anyone reminded of the USA cultural freakout over AIDS in the 80s? Lots of stigmatization and misinformation — people actually believed it could be passed by touching the same water fountain. Children who had the HIV virus were barred from schools. EMTs refused to touch HIV-infected people who were bleeding out in front of them. And of course, the whole thing got entangled in religion and politics, which dropped the signal-to-noise ratio even further. AIDS infections were headline news on a nightly basis. There were zpoc-style novels written about HIV going “airborne” by mosquito transmission and Ending Civilization.

    I’m convinced that a big part of the recent sociopolitical turmoil in the USA is in large part people having a “burn the witches!” reaction — they can’t get reliable information on the virus, they’re blocked from most regular activities (including stress-relief activities) by a mix of reasonable and UNreasonable safety precautions. The “experts” are openly calling each other liars. “Leaders” are often revealed as violating the rules they’re setting for everyone else, or using the situation as justification for a power grab. Just going to the grocery store could potentially be a death sentence. And there’s *no* light at the end of the tunnel (“normal is not coming back”).

    Put people in this kind of situation that strips them of any feeling of control over their lives, and how will they react? By *grabbing* onto *anything* they feel they *can* control, or influence, and going *completely overboard*.

    In the USA, this is exacerbated by the pandemic hitting when polarization and division was already on an upswing due to normal cyclic factors and various externalities.

    I’m reminded of a particular Vorkosiquote: “I swear, half of what we call insanity is just some poor bugger dealing with their issues in ways that annoy the people around them.”

    I try to remember that every crisis looks like The End when it’s happening, but 10-20 years in the rearview mirror, it was “wow, we really overreacted there, didn’t we?”

    Liked by 3 people

      1. it’s like he had a particular idea of how things should be managed and was just waiting for the right disease to “come along.”

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Satoyama got to this before I could get back here, and is correct: Fauci was one of the main motivating forces behind the debacle that was AIDS, so the two are very related. He wanted everyone who tested positive forcibly quarantined and everyone masked until there was a vaccine for HIV. Sound familiar?


      1. There are supposed to be some other issues with his influence on the AIDS matter, that people apparently do not remember fondly.

        I will say that when officials lie, and conceal information, it always opens up the spread of rumors.

        So false rumor of the effects of AIDS, and an ensuing panic, could be explained in a way that isn’t the fault of ordinary Americans if the official information control strategy then was similar to the official information control strategy now.


  4. “In the words of Stacker Pentecost, we need to cancel the apocalypse.”

    Another *Pacific Rim* fan! Gosh, I love that line *so much*! Yes, let’s cancel the darn apocalypse and get on with *living* already. Like our hostess I had to put a post-apocalypse story where everyone was getting on with living, thank you very much, because the current climate just does not lend itself writing that type of thing. (Darn, darn, darn, *DARN*.) I’m now back to fantasy, romances, and anything else I can think of that isn’t apocalyptic.

    Let’s cancel this “apocalypse” any way we can with sci-fi, superheroes, fantasy, romance, and whatever the heck else we can come up with. I am *so done* with gloom and doom. Time to shut up, pick up, and put up.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Putting away apocalypse stories during an “apocalypse” may not be the right plan. Remember about “Fairy tales don’t tell us dragons exist, they tell us dragons can be beaten”? Even if that’s just a paraphrase, it still definitely applies.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Agree and disagree.

        Agree, fiction can help. The SAO fic I talked about here, 2019-2020, figuring it out really helped me with tools to handle this mess. Okay, I’ve hit a point where continuing to attempt writing it became difficult.

        Disagree, because a lot of apocalypse stories I have come across are not helpful.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Right, but the point was someone who comments on Vathara’s blog _writing_ an apocalypse story, which sounds like it’d be much more likely to be an actually _helpful_ apocalypse story than the junk that’s currently out there and was being complained about. That is, that the existence of an apocalypse (or what people think is one) is _not_ the right time to stop writing about surviving/winning against an apocalypse, but instead the time to make sure there are stories about “it _can_ be survived!” to keep morale up and get people actually fighting back.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. For me, the bad examples make up a lot of my understanding of what an apocalypse story is.

        I would not know where to go in designing a helpful apocalypse story.

        The story I was designing, was about ‘interesting’, with a bit of ‘realism’. I think some truly terrible things are interesting, and that it is realistic for there to be people who are not broken by them. I’m tired of romance plots that run on porno logic, and of civil disorder plots that run on conventional revolutionary theory, or grim derp dystopian feeling.

        Of course, there are very good grounds to say that I do not know where to go in designing /any/ story. 🙂

        My reading comprehension today seems to be really bad.


      4. It’s not so much putting them away, it’s whether or not you can personally work on them. In my case I’d been hit with a bunch of messes one after the other on top of the lockdown craziness, including dealing with the aftermath of a death at the very least accelerated by the isolation.

        I don’t have the personal resources to do full-on apocalypse stories ATM. Need more reliable income to take the strain off first!


      5. I can definitely understand not having the resources.

        That is what backburnered my SAO fic, in combination with some poor life choices.

        Today has been an annoying day where some of my issues are concerned. Lots of themes seem a bit too scary, too close to home, ATM.


  5. I got a bit of an apocalybunny.

    Step one, what if the entity behind transmigrating a bunch of gamers to an other world was the big evil of that world, who grossly misestimated how they would behave in that other world, because of misunderstanding what the behavior in game really meant.

    Step two, which potentially could be applied to any gamer transmigration, time skipped to ‘mumble years later’. Some of the gamers having kids in the new world, could have, in a different timeline, had kids back on earth. What happens if the adult kid of a couple gets reincarnated into the kid of that couple in their isekai bodies?

    Okay, it felt cool when I thought of it. But then, so did “Wen Qing falls into spring of drowned Hetrodyne.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Some folks desperately want a no-win scenario.

    Then failure is the only option– so you don’t have to even try.


    :goes back to Space Orc-ing:

    In case you haven’t caught this one yet:

    alien: So what did you specialise in?

    human: adaptation.

    alien: Adap- you can’t do that. Adaptation is meant for the PROCESS of specialisation. You can’t SPECIALISE in adaptation.

    human: Sure I did. I’m actually the apex predator in every surface inch of my native planet.

    alien: And every species you classify as human is capable of producing viable young? Where would the mixed-adaptation offspring even live?

    human: Anywhere they want, really. External, genetic climate modifications are largely just for the aesthetics these days.

    alien: What about temperatures? Could a human adapted to the coldest climate just move to the hottest region, or vice versa, and survive?

    human: Oh yeah they do that a lot. They’ll need to be taught how to properly equip proper tools, clothing and shelter maintenance in order to keep themselves to tolerable temperatures, but yeah.

    alien: Tools and maintenance?

    human: Yeah, there’s machines that can make hot air cold, and cold air hot, so while outdoor survival is only possible temporarily, it’s possible to make housing structures that are comfortable in any climate.

    alien: I don’t… I don’t think that counts as “adaptation”. That’s not what natural adaptation means.

    human: Actually humans don’t consider it “natural” either. We kind of consider ourselves separate from other nature.

    alien: Well that sure explains SOME human behaviour, but… That’s not natural adaptation. That’s not how any of this works.

    human: Nah it works quite well. We’ve specialised in making tools and machines for adaptation.

    alien: That’s not how it works.

    human: Nuh-uh. Is too.

    alien: Are you SURE you’re not specialised in being exhausting to deal with?

    human: Well actually I’m a pursuit predator as well, so literally yes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of the things about “humans are space orks”.

      There are a lot of parts of the WH40k fluff, setting, and backstory that I don’t care for.

      I like the Orks, and I partly like the Necrons.

      One of the things with the Orks is the Waaagh, which is a shared state of madness with physical effects.

      Back in day, I said to myself “Self, when you look closely at American culture, isn’t it a bit nuts? Wouldn’t it be cool if America was basically something like that?”

      These days, I’m far from sure I would mind an iteration of HFY that was into American exceptionalism, and executed it along those lines.

      Of course, my thinking right now is a little similar to having a sinus infection. So my better moments are “Oooh. Wouldn’t it be cool if…”, but not even achieving my normal (low) levels of figuring out if something makes sense, or actually fits.

      Interesting thing about Isekai, it is pretty heavily about ‘okay, how do you cope with an alien culture’, and it is widely popular because just about every culture now is having to deal with closer interactions with aliens than they are used to, aliens that are more alien than the old traditional neighbors.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It didn’t occur to me until we were well into the shutdown why people were feeling the effects of not seeing other people. See, at the time, I was taking care of my then 98 (going 99) grandma. What people were beginning to experience was basically my daily life for over five years. Though she has passed on and I’ve moved back to my parents’, I’m still having trouble doing job hunting. I don’t know how to fill in that gap on a resume or explain my odd skill set. I got used to being domestic. I did two jobs in the last year but quit them because 1. I spend too much money working a retail job (and my feet hurt all the time) and 2. I tried caregiver work but realized that I was beginning to despise it after only a few weeks.
    On the apocalypse front, my whole adult life has been spent with some degree of bad things happening every year. Literally. I was sitting my dorm room of my first year of college as an eighteen year old when I learned of the planes hitting the twin towers (as I grew up calling them). I don’t think I have the emotional capacity to get too excited or worked up for extended periods of time anymore. It’s probably a coping mechanism but its working for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Try Resumes For Dummies, it has hints on how to fill the gap. I’m currently trying to apply that myself – I was also a caregiver, for over 6 years, and I am still completely burned out. Looking for part-time work that has absolutely nothing to do with caregiving because I would run screaming in days.


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