Every Day is the End of the World

So here we are. Four writers that have all written books focusing on a dystopian or post-apocalyptic world. We're not alone either. Look at any list of upcoming YA novels and you'll see that the market seems to be starving for books with the words post-apocalyptic or dystopian in their descriptions.

Now, assuming we're not just trend followers (And honestly, it's not really possible. It just takes way to long to write, edit and get a book published) what's going on? Why are so many writers like us, independent of each other, writing stories like this and why are people so interested in reading them? Specifically why are kids interested in reading them?

Well I can only theorize why kids are reading them (which I'll do in a minute) but here's what led me to write mine....

I was thinking about the Gordian Knot. You know the story. Alexander the Great comes to Gordium and finds a knot so complex he can't untie it. His solution? Chop it in half with his sword. Knot undone. Problem solved. I think our world right now  feels alot like that knot--mind bogglingly complex and so tangled with competing ideologies and interests that the whole thing has ground to a halt and become completely useless. Sometimes it feels like the only solution, the only way we'll ever be able to move forward again, is to tear it down and start all over. I mean, who doesn't have a fantasy of a simpler and quieter time? A time when we lived closer to nature, closer to each other, closer to our own necessity. I think that idea, the idea of being able to hit the reset button on a too complicated world, is what drew me to writing a book like this.

Now, why do kids want to read this stuff? Well partially I think for the reasons above. They live in the same world that we do; they're not blind. But I also think that when you're moving through your teens years your life is a constant upending of everything you know. Like many writers, I spent my early teen years as an impenetrably shy loner. I ate alone. I had no friends. I had no direction. But then one day I wandered into my High School's theater when auditions were going on and for some reason I got up on that stage and BAM! For the first time in my life I was good at something! And so much followed that: friends, a workable sense of humor, better grades, girls that were actually willing to talk to me. If this wasn't the end of one world and the beginning of a new one I don't know what was.

And it seems like when you're a teen so many events in your life are like that, right? Relatively small moments that somehow produce huge transformations. You go from Junior High to High School. You fall in love. You get dumped. You get your driver's license. You have sex. You discover The Clash. One little adjustment and everything changes. Over and over you're saying goodbye to one world and hello to another.  Didn't it feel like that? So monumental? We laugh at it now, all the drama, but add years of near constant transformative change to a set of raging hormones and a evolving sense of self and no wonder every little thing felt like the end of the world. Of course our teens years felt monumental. They were monumental.

So I think when teens read a story about the end of the world maybe they connect to it because they live their lives on the precipice of one radical transformation or another. They get the grandeur of it, the angst and fear and possibility of it. I think maybe teens read this stuff simply because the end of the world makes sense to them. To them it's something that happens every day. I know it did to me.

So what do you all think? Why is this a trend now and what do you think of it?

15 comments:

Kate Evangelista said...

You know the song with the lyrics "it's the end of the world as we know it"? Recycling through my mind as I was reading. Great post.

Matt said...

For decades now, we've been force-fed a constant diet of "The End is Nigh!" Whether it was Global Cooling, nuclear war, over-population, resource wars, Global Warming, Republicans, etc.; every time one threat was removed we were presented with something worse to replace it. So the past couple of generations grew up expecting theirs to be the last. But now we're still here and we've been thinking about the end of the world our entire lives. It's only natural for some significant portion of the stories we write to deal with the end of the world.

beth said...

@Kate: How ironic! That's *exactly* the same song as I was thinking of while reading, too!

Jeff, great topic!

Rebecca J. Carlson said...

Great thoughts! I always liked to read post-apocalyptic stories because I wanted hope that there would still be some people around somewhere doing something, even after the end of the world. The stories gave me hope.

Jeff Hirsch said...

Thanks for coming by an commenting guys! Love to hear everyone's thoughts. Yeah, Matt, it seems like no matter the era people always seem to think they're living in the end times. Interesting how we always imagine ourselves on a precipice. That may just be accelerating now with all the global warming, peak oil, peak water, peak everything stuff

Becky Levine said...

Interesting. My son loves this genre & I know the things you talk about are definitely part of his "philosophy." Hadn't gone this route, though, in thinking about his reasons. Thanks for the post!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

My 11 year old thinks most things are the end of the world. I'm pretty convinced it will hit once he turns teen (which coincidentally - or not? - will happen in 2012. Don't say I didn't warn you).

Lovely post. I definitely think of REM more than The Clash for that last moment on earth, but that's just me. Of course if Green Day is playing in the background, then I'll know I've made it to heaven. :)

LM Preston said...

I don't believe this is new. Everyone has always been intrigued by what would happen if the world would end. From the 2012 theory to nostradamus to the Bible. I know I love stories and movies that focus on this. Young people are only now getting a taste for it because the YA market has opened up to them. When I was a kid, I'd just mosey on over to the adult section for these thought provoking books.

Jeff Hirsch said...

Thanks for the comments everyone! Keep thinking about those end of the world music picks, I'll be posting a playlist for the apocalypse on Wednesday and would love to her your thoughts on it.

Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian said...

My whole family has been reading Pfeffer's "Life as We Knew It" series, and we joke about stockpiling. A part of me sort of wishes it would happen, though, and your post lets me admit it - yes, the whole destruction and death thing would be kinda bad, but things would be so much SIMPLER in so many ways. And hey, I'm naturally a stockpiler, and we already live in the mountains, with elk at our front door, a nice garden out back, secluded and well-armed...and most importantly, I have the keys to the public library! We can wait anything out:)

Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian said...

Okay, you made us completely change our post for the day (which was going to be about "Pinkalicious and the Pink Drink" - so - !)

http://3tnar.blogspot.com/2010/05/sky-is-falling-sky-is-falling-maybe.html

Jeff Hirsch said...

Thanks for coming by and for linking to us, Three Turtles! You're totally right, I think some secret part of all of us wishes for it. I mean, I'd be useless after the apocalypse. I depend on my iphone and my kindle and my laptop way too much and I am not particularly handy or outdoorsy. And yet still...the idea of all that simplicity and quiet.It's tempting.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is if the stuff comes down I'm heading over to your place. Sounds like you guys have your act together!

Mary McDonald said...

You know, I never realized this was such a huge trend until I started researching how to query my novel. Wow! What a shock!

doctorcrankenstein said...

@ Matt, End of the world... Republicans... lol you cracked me up.

I loved the Gordian Knot analogy, I'm going to have to remember that one.

And discovering the clash may be a little less "world-shaking" for today's youth than it was yesteryear... :P

I agree with some of the people above, It's not really a new thing. I collect Isaac Asimov Science Fiction Magazines from before I was born and a number of the short stories in those are Dystopian in some form or another.

If I had to nail its recent increase in momentum down to any one thing I would have to say The Matrix.

MLB2k11 said...

Thanks for the post. It was very interesting and meaningful.
Android apps development| Android app development companies|