Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Smoking Breaks for the Apocalypse Gal

At Kelli Russell Agodon's blog, she posts about her habit of imagining worst case scenarios, and I can truly relate. One of my nicknames is Apocalypse Gal, because my brain tends to go that direction if I give it any freedom at all. Is it because writers have such good imaginations? Is it because we're in the habit of noticing? Perhaps some of us are just wired that way.

One day in December, after a day of brutal meetings at work, when most people had gone home, but I still had several hours to serve in the office, I watched Threads on YouTube. Yes, I felt guilty about it, but I didn't download it and burn it to a CD. I would buy the film, if it was available in a form that my equipment could play. I'd love to have my own copy to complete my trinity of 80's nuke films, along with Testament and The Day After.

There I was, Christmas lights outside, watching Threads on my office computer with the sound on mute. After a day of draining meetings, I found it oddly satisfying to watch the world blow up in scaldingly graphic detail. Call it my own kind of smoking break. After 15 minutes of nuclear apocalypse, I was ready to return to administrative work.

Lately, I've been waking up in the middle of the night, and I have an odd technique that helps me get back to sleep: I get up and read one of the short stories out of Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse. I find it oddly soothing, and often return to a sleep of sweet dreams. I would have expected the opposite, but somehow the short stories are just the right length to lull me back towards sleep, and the stories just outrageous enough (or I'm tired enough these days) that I don't lie there, wide-eyed in the dark, waiting for the nuclear afterglow.


Karen J. Weyant said...

I have never seen Testament, although I hear it's a very good movie.

I, too, enjoy (perhaps enjoy is the wrong word), end of the world stories and movies. I have two shelves of books about the end of the world (and am looking forward to the movie version, The Road). Have you read Atomic Ghost or Learning to Glow?

Kristin said...

I love "Testament" because it shows family relationships in a poignant way that isn't always seen--they aren't sacrificed to the special effects. It's an oddly subtle movie, for an end of the world movie.

I haven't read either of the 2 books you mention, but I'm adding them to my list--thanks for the recommendation!

"The Pesthouse" by Jim Crace is my favorite recent apocalyptic novel, although I also enjoyed "The Road" immensely. "Song Yet Sung" by James McBride also has apocalyptic flavors, although it's set in pre-Civil War America (a slave can foresee the future--fascinating!).

I'm interested in how these novels make the apocalyptic catastrophe so lyrical. Perhaps I should think about an academic paper . . .