Ashes

I’ve always had a fascination with post-apocalyptic stories. People staggering amongst the ruins of our great civilization, scrounging to live, with a few  clinging to humanity as the rest of society regresses around them. Who doesn’t like a little Mad Max every now and then? One of the things that intrigues me most about the Terminator franchise isn’t the idea that soldiers are traveling through time to try and prevent the fall of mankind, but the fact that ultimately they fail.

I didn’t get a chance to see The Road, but I’m reading the book now and it is bogglingly good, one of those “why does anyone bother to continue writing in this subgenre after this” sort of books. (Though the fact that it’s listed as “literature” instead of “science fiction” is an example of arrogant genre-dismissive bullshit that I can’t stand.) For a fun exercise in seeing people entirely missing the point, take a gander at some of the negative reviews over at Amazon. I particularly enjoy the one that thinks the lack of punctuation was perhaps an accident.

I did get to see The Book of Eli on Monday. There were a few things that could have been improved, but overall I thought it was quite good. I’m kind of surprised at the overall negative reviews it’s gotten. Many immediately complain that they’re tired of apocalyptic movies, at which point I pretty much stop reading. Isn’t that your own fault for becoming a movie reviewer? Stop whinging about your comfy, trivial job.

Anyway, I am interested in the place of religion in these settings. Would people turn their backs on the old religions, since they appear to have failed? Would they cling to them, desperate for salvation? Would they invent new ones to try and explain the horrible events that took place?

The third option is a sticky wicket to me. We tend to think of religion as something that humans naturally develop per a basic need to explain the unknown, but I have to wonder if new religions would arise at all. In these scenarios, humans are barely surviving, primarily off the remnants of the dead, and a landscape so inhospitable makes long-term survival for the species unlikely. When would these people have the luxury of inventing new gods?

3 thoughts on “Ashes”

  1. I think people would either lose faith entirely or cling harder to their old faith. I doubt they would have the gumption to make up somethig new at such a traumatizing time. You’d need the comfort of your familiar God, in my opinion. Also, Christianity, at least, has apocolypse built into it, so it might be able to survive.

  2. I agree, and I think that’s what we typically see in these stories – the faithful and the nihilistic savage. Book of Eli kind of presents a middle ground that isn’t often explored, I think.

    Though, I think Octavia Butler explored the “inventing a new religion” thing some in her books. I haven’t gotten around to reading them.

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