Let Me Countdown the Ways

Creating a dystopia is all about the question: what if things go horribly wrong? What if a new plague wipes out half of humanity? What if a group of greedy corporations secretly take over the world? What if our creations rise up against us? It’s a fun exercise, but we (as writers and readers) don’t want the world to go that way. Just the opposite. Usually, we’re playing around with these ideas with the hope of it all not going tragically wrong.

But, what would it take for things to go really, really wrong? Like end-o’-the-world wrong. Over the past few years, experts (and the media) have compiled all sorts of happy lists.

Most of these lists share at least these causes of mass destruction in common (in no particular order):

  1. Killer asteroid
  2. Rogue black hole
  3. Global pandemic
  4. Nanotechnology/biotechnology disaster
  5. Nuclear war
  6. Super volcano
  7. Climate change
  8. Robots taking over
  9. Solar flare
  10. Supernova


Some of the experts throw in potential causes like alien invasion, killer mutants, and mass depression/insanity—with some sincerity.

Looking at this list, I can see that Earth getting swallowed by a rogue black hole or getting hit by a big enough asteroid (or flare) would bring the world to an abrupt halt. We’d go out with a bang. However, we could probably limp along as a species after a global pandemic or robot uprising and go forth and rebuild our civilization in some form or another. It ain’t going to be pretty, but that’s the stuff of good dystopian fiction. (Of course, dystopias don't need a world meltdown to happen.)

Here's one of my favorite doomsday scenarios. (It may have more to do with the goofy edge to this Science Channel video than the actual method of world destruction.)



And what kind of dystopia might this disaster create (if we indeed survive)? How 'bout this little cult-classic?



What’s your “favorite” way to go? What kind of dystopia might it produce? Discuss.

26 comments:

Tina Lynn said...

Personally, I don't like the world ending too suddenly. If there is no escape or time for escape, the end truly is the end. Where's the story? That's why the global pandemic option, nuclear war, robots taking over, (no alien invasion, really? it could happen) are more my speed. There could be pockets of survivors. I make sure the characters in my WIP have a chance to escape the apocalypse, otherwise the story would end in chapter six.

beth said...

Hmmm...I think we can't discredit the possibility of man just screwing up. A government taking over, people electing themselves into a dumb situation, etc. The movie IDIOCRACY was a gross exaggeration, but at the same time, I can see something similar actually happening...

Palindrome said...

I think my "favorite" way to go would be zombies...er, global pandemic. I believe I'm semi-prepared. I have my machette. I may need to do a little more muscle building and aerobics but on the whole, I'm a great shot.

I think there's more of a possibilty of the world careening into chaos.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Global pandemic. I think it gives more options and a variety of ways to go - like zombies!

Angie said...

Good choices. Mind you, I'm not discounting humankind just bringing it on ourselves--electing the wrong people, letting corporations takeover, etc. That's a whole different post, though.

Christine Fonseca said...

Hmm...I think gov take over and/or pandemic is not too much of a stretch!

Kelly Bryson said...

Pandemic, for sure. Second choice would be an electro magnetic pulse from an atomic bomb destroying all of our electronics, resulting in the breakdown of society. Third choice is mutant squirrels who've developed a taste for human viscera. Scares me to death;)

Tere Kirkland said...

I'm thinking a meteor wipes out most of life on earth and a few stragglers on each continent get to eke out a miserable existence under an enormous, life-stealing ash cloud.

Good times!

Carrie Harris said...

I think my favorite is #4 (nanotech/biotech disaster). It's funny, because all my books have dealt with AVERTING #4. Does that make me anti-dystopian? ;)

Oh, and I adore Tank Girl.

melissa @ 1lbr said...

Since I was an astronomy major, I'm passing on almost all the outer space ones. I think we're pretty ok there (with the exception of when the sun dies, which is quite some time in the future). It'd be more likely to be something small that shifts the planet's natural balance - solar flares I can see. Earth disasters seem more likely too - major earthquakes, volcano eruptions, hurricanes and the like.

Of course, I can certainly see the corrupt government or pandemic possibilities too. :)

Lisa Gail Green said...

I know! I know! How about TWITTER breaks down and the blogosphere EXPLODES and there's no more INTERNET! I get the shivers just thinking about it.

I need help, don't I?

Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian said...

I go with some sort of physical disaster - asteroid hit or giant volcano - because if you aren't killed in the first actual disaster, you have a chance to survive using your wits. A pandemic is too random, and an oppressive government is just too depressing (or too realistic?) - harder to work against, anyway. And I live in the woods, so no flesh-eating squirrels, please (Kelly, are you channelling Dave Barry? Sounds like something he'd come up with...)

Jeff Hirsch said...

I for one welcome our new flesh-eating squirrel masters.

Elana Johnson said...

I think I'm in the "limp along" category. I'm not sure how the world is going to end, but I think humans won't be completely wiped out. Great post!

Angie said...

My pet (at least right now) way to go is actually corporate takeover, but I think I'll also throw in a little global warming / pandemic action--and stir in the resultant flesh-eating squirrels.

Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian said...

@Jeff: Brown-noser!

(Unless they really are reading this, in which case I welcome them too)

Donna Hole said...

I'm partial to the idea of solar flares.

That will quiet the Global Warming activists. I get tired of hearing how humans are an abberation, a bacteria on Earth that needs eradicated.

I wonder if scientists can make a heat shield large enough to encompass the entire planet?

......dhole

Megan said...

I love the global pandemic idea so much I'm writing one myself. :)

I loved Stephen King's The Stand one of my favorite books.

Jemi Fraser said...

They can all be so much fun - I think my fave to write would be the technology wipeout. Some kind of super-virus. Fun stuff :)

Angie said...

Thanks for stopping by everyone! It's been fun. See you next week.

Elizabeth Briggs said...

I'm a fan of the "robots taking over" storyline. Seriously, have you seen what Japanese robots are capable of these days? Skynet is just around the corner. ;)

Christina Farley said...

I'm with the electro magnetic pulse. It would be cool to be sent back to the dark ages!

Or like Star Wars where they regress.

Annette Lyon said...

I just loved the line about how an incinerating atmosphere would be very bad. LOL!

Angie said...

I loved that line, too, Annette!

doctorcrankenstein said...

Zombies. Hands down.

Props to Palindrome :)

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