Any thoughts on the influence of apocalyptic fiction? : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

The current Spain/Deck wrangle reminded me of something I've been turning over in my head for awhile.

I was going to post this response there, but figured it would be somewhat inappropriate. I can't frame a thread worth beans, yet the topic may merit some discussion. Here goes:

I'd love to see someone frame a thread about the influence of apocalyptic fiction on this whole thang. The recommendations by North of "Lucifer's Hammer" and the 'man & calamity book'{ Sorokin?}, Yourdan's suggestiontion of "Nightfall"; others commonly listed "Alas Babylon"; "On the Beach; "Patriots"; "Atlas Shrugged" me these helped the group suspend belief, many remebered reading and being affected by these titles as teenagers. It made creating a scary or uncertain future together more possible in our minds.

Any thought out there?

-- flora (***@__._), September 07, 2000


I'd like to add "Infomagic" and "Tom's Take" to the list.

-- flora (***@__._), September 07, 2000.

I think we like to scare ourselves. It is good sport. I would add in dystopian science fiction such as Brave New World, 1984 (remember when 1984 seemed so far in the future?) and the movie "Brazil".

-- lars (, September 07, 2000.

{maybe this will be the new word association thread. Apocalytic ...}

Road Warrior

-- flora (***@__._), September 07, 2000.

I think it's because some folks have a hard time differentiating between fiction (someone's imagination) and reality. Too many science-fiction books were brought up last year, almost as evidence, of what was coming. Kinda scary actually.......


-- Deano (, September 07, 2000.

Road Warrior - The Postman

(flora creates a new thread? This must be a High Holy Day. Where's my calendar?)

-- Bingo1 (, September 07, 2000.

FICTIONS, all of them

-- cpr (, September 07, 2000.

I loved stocking my Y2k Memorial Library with TEOTWAWKI material. In fact, while packing up my books a few weeks ago I came across Hard Times, by Studs Terkel and have moved it into the, uh, "other" library I use quite frequently. The short interviews are perfect for, er, short visits to the, uh, reading room.

Reading these pieces absolutely created within me the mindset necessary to develop possible nasty scenarios in my head for 1999 and beyond. Lucifer's Hammer was a good read. Atlas Shrugged was a chore at times but worth the time spent trudging through it.

The most eye-opening books I read were non-fiction specific to the Great Depression. J. K. Galbraith's work in particular was a feast of information (and laughs).

Lunch bell ringeth. Later days...

-- Bingo1 (, September 07, 2000.

-- Bingo1 (, September 07, 2000.


Yeah, FICTION was in the thread title. If you don't want to participate - just leave this thread for the "*NITWIT LIBERAL ARTS MAJORS*" who might have an opinion on the subject of INFLUENCE or IMPACT.


Are you prostrate?

Blade Runner - don't forget the feeling of anti-tech, whether North was totally responsble for that 'meme' {snicker} or not

-- flora (***@__._), September 07, 2000.

Yes cpr, fiction. So what? Fiction has an entertainment value and provides a useful model to discuss current trends, policies, and issues.

-- Lars (, September 07, 2000.

I think you have something there, flora. One's propensity towards "doom" is based in a number of factors; not least of which would probably be one's "situation in life". (Of course, that theory is shot to hell by the person who, no matter what goes wrong (and everything usually does), still walks around smiling and thinking everything is coming up roses. Guessing that one is the exception, though.) You throw that in with "group dynamics" and a situation like "Y2K", and well, we've all seen the result.

I have to tell you, I have tried reading "Atlas Shrugged" a number of times. I simply cannot get through that book. I drag it out every six months or so, and I'm still on like page 100 or something (it's been awhile at this point -- it's probably in storage in with my other stuff). I've never read any of the others that have been mentioned; maybe I'm just not "geared" toward the apocalyptic. (I have seen one or two of the "Mad Max" movies; not especially fond of them. I did like the film, "Brazil", but my friend wanted to get up and walk out -- with the rest of the theatre-goers at the time.)

I think apocalyptic fiction appeals to many people in the vein of "saving the world". I think Ken touched on this in a thread some time ago (though all anyone focused on at the time was the fact that he actually named someone as an example). He wondered if "it's all going away" appealed to men because of a man's perceived need to "hunt, gather, conquer" and the like (if I remember correctly). I think this concept you have has a lot to do with that as well. We'd all like to believe (in one form or another) that we'd be able to "save the world". Hell, that even appeals to *me* at times (uh, yeah, I can squeeze in that "saving the world" thing between my 3 PM meeting and feeding the dogs, thank you).

I remember the first time I read The Stand by Stephen King. Talk about an appealing scenario!! I always wanted to believe I'd be one of the ones "left", but I couldn't shake the thought of "who would I be drawn to" (another thread entirely [g]). I read it when it first came out (during the 1970s sometime, wasn't it?) and I remember not being at all content with the "ways of the world" at the time. I figured this would be a good way to "start from scratch". I kind of identified alot of "the way it is now" in the book (at the time).

Bottom line is that, yes, I do think it has a lot to do with how people view certain situations (especially one like Y2K). But I don't know if it's always such a bad thing; there are times when one really does have to sit back and "re-create society", if only in one's own mind. Kind of keeps things in perspective in a lot of ways.

-- Patricia (, September 07, 2000.


Not only that, but these stories are more familiar to most of us than those from the bible. They are a huge part of our shared culture, and subconcious.


I've got to go - will check back in later.

-- flora (***@__._), September 07, 2000.

Isnt there a series of popular books out now about The Rapture and its aftermath? Supposedly while not being covered by the major newspapers its selling in the Harry Potter range.

Patricia hit on something when she wrote: I remember the first time I read The Stand by Stephen King. Talk about an appealing scenario!! I always wanted to believe I'd be one of the ones "left". I think that like Shirley Mclain, everyone thinks theyll be one of the ones left. Mr. Decker made some reference to a bunch of white middle class middle age men having survivalists fantasies. This seems to be in the same vein.

In an oblique way this reminds me of a NightLine show (a long time ago). A bunch of CPRs pointy headed academics were having a serious discussion on how to warn people thousands of years from now about where dangerous nuclear wastes were buried. They were worried about the scenario where the symbol (as well as the words) for radioactive waste would be forgotten. They speculated on coming up with some symbol that would scare people and warn people away even if they didnt know the specific meaning.

While this sounded serious (and they meant it as so) it was all patent nonsense. There was the hidden assumption in their arguments that somehow future generations would not forget what A for Anthrax meant or P for pneumonia but R for radioactive would. It was as there would be selective amnesia or loss of technical knowledge, but not medical or agricultural knowledge. Thousands of years in the future people would be living in peaceful pastoral communities (and in perfect health of course) but wouldnt know anything about radioactivity. Yeah Right! It also ignored the fact that we can read hieroglyphs as well as the language of the Aztecs today. Both languages are close to 5000 years old and the means they had of preserving knowledge were markedly inferior today. Plus thousands of copies of almost everything exist today. It seems to me that a lot of the doomsday books operate on the same principal. Unfortunately the above discussion was real.

-- The Engineer (, September 07, 2000.


Read everything in your list, except Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand, right?) I guess I happen to love apocalyptic fiction, now that you mention it. The buildup mechanism, where only one or two, then a very few know of the imminent danger... it's thrilling to read if written well.

I can see how even those who have never really read A.F. would still be susceptable to falling into this buildup mechanism, except for them it might be even more seductive, being that they're playing the main roles in the "novel".

-- Bemused (and_amazed@you.people), September 07, 2000.

>> I can see how even those who have never really read A.F. would still be susceptable to falling into this buildup mechanism ... <<

What are we genetically programmed for, if not to react to "survival" situations?

-- Brian McLaughlin (, September 07, 2000.

>> I can see how even those who have never really read A.F. would 
still be susceptable to falling into this buildup mechanism ... << 

>What are we genetically programmed for, if not to react to "survival" situations?<

True. To expand on that thought, who do you think reacted better to the "survival" situation in question, doomers or pollies? Remember, you have the luxury of hindsight to work with. To not use hindsight would be very genetically suspect...

-- bemused (and_amazed@you.people), September 07, 2000.

I like all those books [and movies], Flora. I think they produce a temporary influence, but I doubt the influence would be the same on everyone. It's like reading [or watching] anything else, IMO. We mentally assume the role of the character we enjoy the most, and feel their pain, anger, power, helplessness, strength, etc. until reality strikes.

My favorite movies are those with starlets of great strength and power. I can watch a movie like "Last Kiss Goodnight" and visualize myself being strong, resilient, talented in all sorts of skills. I walk taller, FEEL stronger, and have great confidence...until the back door sticks and I can't get the damn thing unstuck. Suddenly, I'm half an inch shorter, a LOT weaker, and lacking confidence. The influences of these books and movies last a short time unless one immerses oneself in only that type of material. Wasn't this response mentioned in the thread on pornography? Studies demonstrated that folks who were exposed to pornography felt differently for a short period, but the experience had no lasting effect. In contrast, folks who immerse themselves in this material to the exclusion of all other types of material reinforce the feelings to the point of reality exclusion.

-- Anita (, September 07, 2000.

People who are fantasy prone and easily mislead are refered to as "category 5" in psychological terms. These people would indeed be influenced by fiction writing, television programming, etc. An example would be those that go forward to the "faith healers" and claim "he made both my arms the same length!" They are weak minded when it comes to things like this.

Y2k was open season on the KoS's (and other doomers) of the world. Mix in a just enough reality (or real sounding tidbits) and then get the group-think mentality to take over. Next, you create an "us VS them" mentality and BINGO! you have a rich field for the propigation of meme's.

So, to answer your question, YES I believe that fiction writing influenced the doomer minds.

-- Super Polly (, September 07, 2000.

>> To expand on that thought, who do you think reacted better to the "survival" situation in question, doomers or pollies? <<

It's hard to find an objective measure of a "better" reaction in this case. Measured purely in terms of survival outcome, everyone survived Y2K. If we retreat from that "pure" measure, maybe the next best measure would be the return on energy invested.

The "doomers" show up least well by this standard. They spent a fair amount of energy thinking about and preparing for an event that did not require any preparation. Many doomers spent money that could have potentially been better spent in other ways.

Clearly the pollies arrived at a conclusion that more nearly fit the outcome. However, the "pollies" used up a fairly large amount of energy debunking Y2K that (theoretically) could have been better spent elsewhere.

So, if I were to judge from the utmost reach of objectivity, the "best" reactions were those who paid no attention to Y2K whatsoever, in that they spent the least energy to survive it.

So, the answer is neither doomers nor pollies came out best. The ignorant did.

-- Brian McLaughlin (, September 07, 2000.

The Engineer wrote: "I think that like Shirley Mclain, everyone thinks theyll be one of the ones left."

Not to nit-pick, but I didn't say I would be one of the ones left; I said "I'd like to think I would be...".

I don't really know/care what Shirley McLaine thinks; personally, *I* think she's a wacko (but I'm pretty sure she doesn't much care what I think either [g]).

Like I said, I haven't really read many "doomsday"-type books, so I don't know what their premise would be beyond the obvious "doom" and having to re-build society in some form or another. And like the example you pointed to which Ken gave, that scenario has a certain appeal to many people, for whatever reason. I know a good many people, with vastly different tastes and vastly different lives, who all found the concept of The Stand quite appealing; all for the same reason.

I think one can liken that phenomenon to the "group dynamics" of the "doomers" as well. While from varied backgrounds, and with differing lifestyles and some with diametrically opposed politics, they all seemed to come together to rally towards one "cause". I remember thinking how funny it was at the time that the extreme left and the extreme right all had the same views on Y2K (though their end- result agendas differed considerably)!

Of course, you couldn't tell them that.

-- Patricia (, September 07, 2000.


-- Patricia (, September 07, 2000.

Hey everyone, sorry for the delay & for all the typos -yikes!


There was a thread I enjoyed on the old bomb about whether the future would more closely resemble 1984 or Brave New World {& if it's already here - with Prozac & Ritalin}.

You clever lurkers with search capabilities would earn another jewel in your crown, if you can turn up a link.


It wasn't only works of fiction, though. {OT- {Other thread} I thought Hardliner called you a teeny bopper, maybe I'm mistaken}.


I'm a non-fiction kinda gal. This was my first real run into a few of these titles. Nightfall & Hammer have the familiarity of each being set 'round the foothills of my hometown. Having had many family members still there who refuse to prepare for quakes, I'm sure added to my feeling ill at ease - at the possibly uncontrollable.

Like Patricia, I've never managed to make it through Rand. Her stuff is loved by my husband & dear brother-in-law {he still wears 'John Galt' on his nametag whenever one is required, much to my sister's chagrin. {He's a financier}}. I thouroughly enjoyed the Galbraith long ago.

You know, it was nostalgic on the bomb when folks traded tales from their folks from the war or depression. And perhaps romantic, in a way.


This idea of resiliency is an interesting one, especially in this case for me. On the flip side, it makes me wonder about Super Polly's 'immunity' - I'll get to that later. I'm not prone to the apocalyptic form of entertainment either, & ususally think of it as a 'guy thing' - {if Deedah can get away with some of this gender BS, so can I}.

Your mention of the hunter-gatherer thread brought a smile to my face. I remember it well, & it's a shame in a way that the content was lost. I'm not sure that Ken doesn't enjoy the ensuing fracas so much that he goes for the short term gain.

Thanks for your balanced response, you've given me much to think about.

The Engineer,

That's fascinating about the rapture books, I haven't heard a thing about it - will have to do some poking around. I hadn't even thought of Shirley MacLaine with regards to this stuff, now that you mention it - it seems obvious in a way. Her books may not appeal to Patricia, but they sure have been popular with many.

As for the Nightline episode-- two thoughts: it sounds like a 'Twilight Zone' episode, & Carl Sagan used to come up often on the old bomb. Maybe not often enough? Jim Cooke made good point at the beginning of the 'unforgiven board'. It had to do with the need for better communication of technical information to a non-technical public. It's funny that you bring up the doomsday books - the first I picked up from the library was De Jager's 'Doomsday 2000'.


Maybe you have a point there. I know several folks who've read those books - you 'spose they've got immunity? hmmm... Does it make you wonder about persuasive religious or faith literature at all ? - stray thought there...


Do you reckon that the latent {?} desire, or susceptability is genetically based? Nature over nurture, eh? Mix in a tad of Carl Jung, & a touch of Joseph Campbell's primal need for myth and you may have your own best seller there.

As for the "Survivor", if we believe our TVs - duplicity is a virtue. The non- believer who hedged their bets wins according to FEMA rules, otherwise Brian has a point.

Score 1 to the Taomaster


I see your point, but the experience here was shared in a group dynamic - changing the effect. Many folks felt a lessening of pressure towards the middle of '99, and would check back in to remotivate enough to prepare. A re-inoculation process, in a way.

Super Polly,

I'm curious how you originally heard about the Y2k business, and when. Do you think it's your training that offers you invincibility to this and possibly all episodes, or con jobs? Are there common factors which contribute to an individual being more vulnerable to cults or 'memes'? Did you ever have a fear of your own that this 'meme' might be contagious enough to pose a possible threat to anyone but the particpants?


-- flora (***@__._), September 08, 2000.

Hi flora,

Your question's fascinating; thanks for posing it. I think some people who are really attracted to apocalyptic fiction probably have some sort of a predispositional pessimistic outlook, and thus (consciously or not) look for justification for his/her views, maybe in hopes of finding some rationale or rationalization for their premises within the pages of the book. And I can see how the same person might have sought out certain Y2K "spokespersons" who had similar pessimistic views. But then there are others -- maybe more that we would believe -- who are just out for a good story with a big scare (say, The Stand) or something awe-inspiring (e.g., Nightfall), or who are more interested in immersing themselves in philosophy (e.g., Atlas Shrugged).

As for me -- as far as I'm consciously aware I was a doomer for the sum total of a year and a half -- and practically a cockeyed optimist for nearly the rest of my life. And I LOVED Nightfall and Atlas Shrugged. I simply found them very exciting and thought-provoking.

Hey, Patricia -- give Atlas another shot. You know, I had a girlfriend who had it on top of the toilet tank. Took her three years that way, and she not only got through it, but loved the book. That book DOES require a big investment in time, though...but the bang for the buck is IMHO astounding. And who knows? If ya do it that way... hey, after a day or two of eating the wrong ( e.g., politically incorrect) foods, you could probably polish off a hundred pages during just one "sitting." :)

-- eve (, September 08, 2000.

I dunno eve,

I think intuitively that Lars is correct when he says that we just like to scare ourselves, perhaps as a simple outlet for stress. The real live folks I know who routinely look at this kind of entertainment seemed a little less prone to the Y2k fears, maybe because they were familiar with even stranger possibilities.

{You brought up an idea for another good thread - what books do people have in what Bingo calls 'the reading room'}.

-- flora (***@__._), September 08, 2000.


I hear ya. It DOES make sense that the scare factor would be the prime reason behind the fascination with these types of stories. On second thought, I might have overemphasized the "pessimistic predisposition" part of it. But otherwise I still stand by my take - -that there's a strong element (I have no idea how pervasive, though) of the career doomers who enjoy these types of works for the reasons I gave above. I don't know -- maybe it's because I saw a wide appreciation for this type of fiction amongst the pessimists/"doomers" in '98 and '99.

-- eve (, September 08, 2000.

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