"The end of the world. THE END OF THE WORLD!!! Will it bring total annihilation, glorious transcendence, or both? When will it happen? Can we do anything about it? Will we be able to get good jobs afterwards?"
-- Opening line from the class syllabus for the Apocalyptic Literature course at Juniata College
Don't worry, this isn't actually going to happen
You may have heard about how the world is ending this week. The Mayan calendar is coming to an end, and thus, many are saying, an apocalypse is nigh. December 21, 2012, to be precise. At 6:11 AM, to be completely exact.
Now, it's important to point out that the Mayans didn't actually predict the end of the world this December 21st. (The calendar's just getting reset.) This hasn't stopped many from forecasting certain doom, but chances are, we'll be Doomsday-free this month.
Still, on the off-chance that the "forecasters" are right, it can't hurt to be prepared. So we've complied a list of sci-fi, fantasy, thrillers, dystopia, and post-apocalyptic books, films, and television to provide you with an end-of-the-world primer. And whether aliens invade, meteors hit the Earth, or zombies attack, you'll be prepared.
Just remember: Don't Panic.
This message brought to you by Marvin the Paranoid Android
For the Apocalypse:
-- 2012 (2009 film)
Start off with this appropriately-titled special-effects bonanza, featuring John Cusack as a science fiction writer racing for safety as the world literally tears itself apart. The, erm, "science" in this one is best left unexplored, but the CGI is top-notch.
-- Independence Day (1996 film)
Prefer aliens in your apocalypse? Look no further than this summer blockbuster, which includes inspiration on how to defeat an invading alien race with your handy-dandy Macbook.
-- Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
Expecting a Biblically-based end times? Check out this humorous novel by Gaiman and Pratchett for tips on dealing with motorcycle-riding Four Horsemen, a misplaced Antichrist, and angels and demons who have decided they sort of like the human race.
-- The Day After Tomorrow (2004 film)
If you're thinking climate change may be the culprit of the end times, check out this movie, which stars Dennis Quaid as a paleoclimatologist warning that a seismic shift in the world's climate is coming -- well, sooner than expected.
-- The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Plan on coming of age during the ensuing apocalypse? Then take a look at this book about Julia, who is trying to deal with the slow destruction of her world, along with her parents' failing marriage and her own issues with first love.
-- Knowing (2009 film)
If you're trying to predict the apocalypse, this is the film for you. Nicolas Cage stars as a physics professor who stumbles upon the contents of a fifty-year-old time capsule. Once he cracks the code of the contents, it gives him a shocking look into the future ... and the past.
-- World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
As Monroeville residents, we should know all about zombie takeovers -- but if you need to brush up, this novel's for you. (This has a movie version and a full-cast audiobook in the works; in the meantime, also check out the AMC show The Walking Dead.)
-- Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Thinking asteroids? This YA read (the first in a trilogy) sets the stage with an asteroid knocking the Moon closer to the Earth. The effects are gradual but catastrophic, leaving Miranda (our main character) facing increasingly different choices.
-- Cell by Stephen King
If you ask us, the most obvious potential cause for an apocalypse? Cell phones. Apparently, Stephen King agrees.
-- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Don't panic! This book (and film, TV series, graphic novel, radio show, and towel) remind us that the story begins ... when the world ends.
(VIDEO: "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" teaser trailer)
In the aftermath:
-- A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
If you're planning an Apocalypse more science-fictionally based, try this finely bizarre read. It's set in a post-nuclear world where a recently-excavated, 20th-century shopping list is the the most prized and sacred artifact in the world -- penned as it was by the blessed St. Leibowitz.
-- Mad Max (1979 film & sequels)
Good for tips on how to cope during an oil shortage crisis, not to mention how to start your own motorcycle gang.
--The Passage by Justin Cronin
If a post-apocalyptic world run by vampires who were created from the failed attempt at developing an immunity-boosting drug sounds like it might be something you see in your future, take a look at this book.
-- The Stand by Stephen King
Think the world will end because of a plague? In this dark and devastating world, the few people left alive struggle with dreams of good and evil. This is a classic horror novel from the master of horror.
-- I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Great how-to guide if you find yourself the last survivor on a planet full of vampires. (Or zombies, in the most recent film remake.)
-- The Road by Cormac McCarthy
If the cause of the end times remains a mystery, try this post-apocalyptic story of a father and son trying to survive in a savage world. Their love for each other supports them on their journey to the coast.
-- Oryx and Crake/The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
These two related stories concern the after-effects of the destruction of the environment of North America. A good cautionary duo after or before an Apocalypse.
-- The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Let's hope no one finds themselves in this dystopia -- a post-apocalyptic world created by a monotheatic government that forces women to become "breeders." A chilling, thought-provoking read. (Are you an Atwood fan? Then check out our previous post.)
-- The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
A less horror-based epidemic than The Stand? In this novel of a world crippled by a superflu, one man hangs on to his humanity the best he can with his dog and his 1957 Cessna plane.
-- The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
(If you suddenly find yourself in Panem?) Here, we have another future world run by an authoritarian government. This time, teens are thrown into an arena to fight to the death to pay for an earlier uprising.
-- Blade Runner (1982 film)
Robot takeover! Based on "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by Phillip K. Dick, this film stars Harrison Ford as a blade runner (a robot hunter) in a bleak future where androids are banned from earth. It's Ford's job to find those that are hiding out (or blending in) and eliminate them.
-- Soylent Green (1973 film)
... we'll just avoid this Apocalypse, okay? (The film shows the devastating effects of overpopulation on New York City in 2022 -- but there is, as you may know, more to the story.)
-- Time Machine (1960 film)
Don't like the Apocalypse you wind up in? Check out this classic ... and time travel your way back home.
-- Post by Ms. B and Tracy