Today’s film is a change of pace from this week’s posts. No futuristic fashion shows, no staving off leeches with panty hose, no singing children trying to save our future. Instead, I give you this haunting animated short which provides a glimpse into a post-apocalyptic world and its isolation, which is actually the theme of my novel. Time to get back to it. (French with English subtitles)
What to say at the end of 31 days… That the experience wasn’t at all what I expected, though I don’t know what it was I did expect? That I wound up writing something other than what I wanted to write, but those unwanted words led me to know which words I do want? That what started as a bit of fun has begun to coalesce into a calling? And what does that mean going forward?
Although the tribulations of our world will always have a voice here, ongoing Ebola updates will no longer find themselves the focus. Instead of facts and fears we will concern ourselves with questions. Questions like:
- Where has this happened before–in history, in fiction?
- Where might this trend be taking us?
- What might that future look like, sound like, feel like, taste like?
- What have the great creative minds of our generations and those that came before seen in their crystal balls that might help us?
- What might we need? What might we use? What might we discard?
- What can we do now to prevent or prepare for it?
- What can we do to change it?
It is only by asking questions like these that we can begin to make a difference–in our ability to survive or avoid any looming apocalypse.
I believe that no single one of us can see the big picture, but that the connected community of us can begin to piece together the puzzle. Which piece do you hold? Science? Technology? Fashion? Solace? Truth-revealing fiction? Heritage seed saving? A tasty recipe for an alternative to Soylent Green? Whatever it is, I am inviting you to share it. My job will be to create space and to ask questions. That first part I will be tackling between now and the new year. The second begins with this:
What one thing in the world right now do you consider the biggest threat to our survival–as a person, a culture, a species?
Whatever it is, sit with it. Let it rest in your mind until you begin to feel a way to transform it. One small step may be all it takes to change everything, especially if you share it. Please share it.
This gorgeous collaboration between Platige Image and ESA is directed by Tomek Bagiński and stars Aidan Gillen, of Game of Thrones fame, and Aisling Franciosi. Ambition was shot on location in Iceland, and screened on October 24, 2014 during the British Film Institute’s celebration of Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder, at the Southbank, London.
The future begins when we envision it. It becomes real when we create it.
Two years ago yesterday, on October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New York City with a storm surge that flooded subways, tunnels, and streets, caused widespread power outages, and even shut down the New York Stock Exchange. Which was crazy enough on its own, but turned out to be only a fraction of the damage done. From its formation on October 22, just south of Kingston, Jamaica to its dissipation over Ontario, Canada on November 2, 2012, Hurricane Sandy was responsible for approximately 150 deaths and 21 missing, millions of people without power, severe gas shortages and rationing, more than 19,700 flights cancelled, and approximately $68 billion (USD) worth of damage.
Those of us not in affected areas spent our days watching unbelievable images–row after row of drowned taxi cabs, boats resting on train tracks or piled like a child’s forgotten toys, street signs buried up to their necks in sand, a roller coaster half submerged in the ocean.
For the US, Sandy was the second costliest Atlantic hurricane, after Katrina in 2005 which did $108 billion in damage. But what really struck me about Sandy, perhaps more than any other disaster before or since, was how just plain apocalyptic it looked–billion dollar, summer blockbuster, The Day After Tomorrow-level apocalyptic. And suddenly, this whole climate change thing felt really, really real.
Here are a few refreshers, just in case those images don’t still haunt your dreams:
50 Dramatic Images of Destruction (The Telegraph, UK)
Hurricane Sandy Then and Now (CNN World)
Shocking Before and After Photos of Hurricane Sandy (Buzzfeed)
More good news on the Ebola front: Texas nurse, Amber Vinson is free of the virus and has been release from the hospital. That leaves one remaining patient, Dr. Craig Spencer, a Doctors Without Borders volunteer, who was diagnosed in New York City last Thursday, October 23, after returning from Guinea.
Which means that all infected Americans have either caught the virus in West Africa, or while treating a patient who caught it in West Africa. But that doesn’t mean the best solution is to keep American doctors away from the danger zone. Dr. Bruce Ribner, Amber Vinson’s doctor at Emory University Hospital, believes the opposite is true.
The thing that we really have to keep in mind is that the only way that we are truly to be able to make our citizens safe is that we control the outbreak in Africa.
Dr. Bruce Ribner
And he’s not the only one. President Obama agrees.
Threatened by lava flowing uncharacteristically south east from the Kilauea volcano, most residents of the small Hawaiian town of Pahoa have been forced to evacuate. The lava flow has already consumed the local cemetery and is threatening the road that leads in and out of the area. According to the Hawaii County Civil Defense Director, residents will be allowed to watch as the lava engulfs their homes. Many others who have come to see the lava crawl first hand will be turned away.
At night the red glare was visible a hundred miles at sea; and at a distance of forty miles fine print could be read at midnight…. countless columns of smoke rose up and blended together in a tumbled canopy that hid the heavens and glowed with a ruddy flush reflected from the fires below; here and there jets of lava sprung hundreds of feet into the air and burst into rocket-sprays that returned to earth in a crimson rain…
Mark Twain, Roughing It
For those whose homes or businesses remain, there is a real danger that the roads will not survive, isolating the town from neighboring rural areas that rely on Pohoa businesses for groceries, gasoline, medical services, and other crucial amenities.
On of the most important ways to keep your mind, body, and spirit working smoothly is to get a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, quality sleep seems harder and harder to come by these days. And while we can’t dream Ebola, over-active volcanoes, school shootings, or any of the other recent mayhem out of the world, there is one simple thing we can do to improve both the duration and the depth of our sleep: turn off the computer.
There are a variety of ways that computer usage, especially late at night, can compromise our dreamtime.
- Bright, flickering, blue monitor screens can reduce melatonin levels
- Low grade radiation from cell phones can delay crucial deep sleep, and/or shorten its duration
- Processing ever increasing loads of information can keep our minds spinning even after we’re asleep–decreasing the restorative benefit of slumber, and can result in generalized stress or anxiety
- Screen addiction not only overloads us with information, it also robs our minds and bodies of the hundreds of tiny mini-breaks we used to get throughout the day–standing in line at the post office, sitting in the car waiting for the kids to get out of school–forcing our systems to put even greater pressure on the rest we get at night
- And then there’s the regular old adrenaline- pumping stress of getting one of “those” emails that spins you sideways right before you’re supposed to head to bed
So what can we do about it, short of taking vows of technological poverty?
- Turn off your screens at least an hour before bed, giving your body and mind the time it needs to wind down toward sleep
- Steer clear of Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and other quick flipping, info-dense sites after dinner–not only can the sheer volume of data keep your brain clicking even hours after you unplug, the “just one more message” mentality that seems to go hand-in-hand with these kinds of sites can make it nearly impossible to find an easy shut off point
- Practice not picking up your smartphone or tablet every time you have to wait–instead, try noticing your surroundings, talking with someone, or just tune in to the state of your body and if you’re tense, take the moment to breathe through it
- Consider a digital sabbath where you avoid all electronics for 24 hours–not only will it give your mind a rest, it can help save on your electricity bills, too
Today at lunch, a friend asked me to define apocalypse. We had been talking about this blog, about an upcoming End of Days-themed art exhibit, and why all sci-fi seems (to him) to be apocalyptic.
To him, apocalypse means the end of everything–the total destruction of the world and everything in it, à la Revelations. For me, sure, it could mean that, but I prefer to take a broader view. In my world, and the world of this blog, I define apocalypse as a catastrophic event. That event could be:
- Global–a meteor hitting the earth, climate change
- Regional–the Irish potato famine, the black plague
- Local–tornado, earthquake, wildfire
- Personal–losing a loved one, losing your job or your home, learning you have cancer
When my neighbor Ann was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer that had already metastasized to her bones, she became suddenly interested in apocalypse fiction, perhaps looking for models for how to survive, perhaps looking for ways to handle the worst, perhaps looking for ways to put her illness into perspective. When she asked me for recommendations, I gave her my short list. When she asked me why I love apocalypse fiction so much, my answer was even shorter: hope.
Hope is the foundation of most apocalypse fiction, and perhaps all prepping and survivalism. The belief that there is a chance, and that maybe, with a little work and luck, we can improve that chance. That even if the world does devolve into Mad Max, that somewhere out there lies Tomorrow-morrow Land, where the children will be safe. Somewhere out there lies a place where the sick will be healed.
Perhaps that is what drives us to stock up on staples at the onset of autumn, knowing that cold and flu season isn’t far behind. For my part, I hauled out to Costco on Thursday for discount tinned fish, a 12 pound bag of short grain brown rice, and two 48 count boxes of extra strength Mucinex. Protein, carbs, and medicine–the best bang for my buck. All I need now is a case of chicken broth since Ann isn’t here to bring that to me anymore. The loss of soup when sick isn’t a catastrophe, the loss of Ann, that’s another story.
I had another short film all lined up for today, but I just learned that Dallas nurse Nina Pham is finally free of Ebola 13 days after first testing positive for the virus. While she still has a lot of recovery to do before she begins to feel well again, this news is yet another sign that the end is not near (at least not by Ebola pandemic).