Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

So many ways to go, so little time to read about going (image via

posted a video featuring Stephen Petranek discussing (via TED) the top ten doomsday scenarios for human kind. I thought I'd put out a corresponding list of suggested fiction that I've read that relates to each:

10 We lose the will to survive: Tough one. Jack London's "To Build a Fire" comes to mind. Perhaps the slow decline of the unnamed protagonist from resistance to final acceptance of his fate could serve a metaphor to a situation in which the human race, facing some calamity or another, simply gives up and accepts it's fate.

9 Aliens invade: Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game." Having repelled a previous alien invasion (just barely) the planet unites and creates a globe wide search for the next military genius.

8 Ecosystem collapses: Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka's "Natures End." I read this in the 6th grade and it scared the sh*t out of me. I've re-read it several times hence and while now I find the overall message a bit melodramatic, alarmist and founded in a rather static vision of human kinds ingenuity, it still remains a favorite.

7 Particle accelerator mishap: See #2

6 Biotech disaster: Kevin Anderson and Doug Beason's "Ill Wind": In light of an oil spill after an oil barge collides with the Golden Gate bridge a microbe is released that is supposed to consume the polluting spillage. Not to long before America realizes said microbe consumes anything petroleum based (gasoline, plastics, etc.) and is virulent.

5 Reversal of the Earth’s magnetic field: Got nothing on this beyond a film I watched that assured us that an orbital line up of planets would cause the poles to reverse. The Jupiter Menace or some such it was called.

4 Giant solar flares: Not much here though I do recall reading a short story some years ago that had solar activity messing around with physics. Gasoline became water, concrete became quicksand, etc. Be damned if I can remember what that story was titled.

3 New global epidemic: Ah. Two stand out here. Stephen King's "The Stand" an excellent novel consisting of a superflu that wipes out most of the planet and an Armageddon like pitch of good versus evil as American survivors drift toward either the light or the shadow. Additionally, George R. Stewart's "Earth Abides." Some affliction descends and only those close to death (the protagonist is near death from a rattlesnake bite) resist it.

2 Rogue black hole: David Brin's "Earth." Alan Lustig "loses" a singularity and now the earth has at its core a growing black hole. If you're into Gaian theory this book is for you. An exceptional book, seen?

1 A really big asteroid: Easy one. Larry Niven and Jerry Pournell's "Lucifer's Hammer." A comet, not an asteroid, strikes the earth after breaking up into multiple projectiles. A dude surfs his biggest wave (hundreds of feet tall) earth suffers Hot Fudge Sundae and human kind resorts to minimalistic standards of survival.

Add your's in the commentary. I'm specifically looking for #'s 5 and 4.


Anonymous said...

Closest I can thnk of on #4 is S. M. Stirling's novels of the Change, where physics inexplicably changes and suddenly things like gunpowder and electricity don't work. Society collapses. Anarchy reigns. Former memebers of the Society for Creative Anachronism become kings because they have all the swords. It sounds odd and far-fetched, but the books are good reads.

I've got nothing on #5. That's a pretty specific disaster.

M1 said...

Truly, a very good post - mucho appreciated. (There's a zeitgeist component going on here that I & Effy dig)

A Q: Why this post now?

Dick Stanley said...

A trifle pessimistic, aren't we?

Jay@Soob said...

arherring, thanks. Your reading list, from what you've posted at d5gw is exceedingly interesting. If only we could read while we sleep. Maybe tuck a book under out pillow.

Jay@Soob said...

M1. Why now? Two point answer. 1. Another blogpost excited the idea of considering man kinds end within the context of fiction.

2. Human kind is fascinated with the concept of it's own destruction or demise. From Revelation to the Final Hour to the Mayan calendar to out of control Global Warming. Human beings seem to be the planets masochists, plotting a course in their own favor while, at the same time, amassing around and making a great fuss about the next supposed great calamity that will end their planetary dominion.

Jay@Soob said...


an important note, of the above mentioned works of apocalyptic fiction (spoiler alert) human kind survives.

Personally, I may be a cynic, perhaps, but a pessimist nearly never.

Purpleslog said...

Gamma Ray Burst. That's it, the end.