Today is all about the Apocalypse. So we thought we'd indulge a little more of the fun with this week's Friday Five.
Genre fiction has ended the world in a lot of interesting ways (real life has its fair share of disasters as well). Clearly our favourite 18 apocalypsoda are all contained in Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse, but we don't want to spoil any of them for you.
Here are our picks for the best ways that SF has ended the world. Pipe up in the comments - speak now, or it might just be too late.
Zombies. They can stand for whatever metaphor you're comfortable with (consumerism; biological imperatives; the problems of overpopulation; rage; whatevs) but they're out there, they're coming in ever-increasing numbers, and they're going to hunt you down and eat you. The problem with zombies, whether speedy or classically slow, isn't that any one is so dangerous; it's the sheer scale of 'em. They will, ultimately, overwhelm you.
The Asteroid. I've loved dinosaurs since before I can remember, so I can't help but find dinosaur-flavored apocalyptic scenarios compelling. In The Asteroid, a giant chunk of space-junk slams into the planet and kicks up enough dust to cause a nuclear winter and wipe out the dominant forms of life on earth. Then: dinos. Now: us.
Jurassic Park. That said, there's another dinosaur-flavored apocalypse out there. And it's our fault. People like me - you know, dino fans - insist that scientists figure out how to bring dinosaurs back. The dinosaurs overwhelm whatever lame biological handicaps we put on them in an effort to keep them under control, mate like bunnies, and overrun the planet. Death by dinosaur. My inner five-year-old is delighted.
Supervolcanoes. I can't help myself; I grew up on the Pacific Ring of Fire. (Jared, stop sniggering.) The circum-Pacific seismic belt is home to 450+ volcanoes, (that's 75% of the world's volcano population), and I learned early on to respect the explody mountain. But what's scarier than a regular volcano? A supervolcano; that is, a really fucking big volcano. There are three known supervolcanoes in the US; the last time one of them went off, it covered close to 2/3 of what's now the continental US in ash.
The Kingdom of the Spiders. Equal parts apocalypse-nightmare and arachnophobic-nightmare. Of course they're going to get us in the end. Of course.
I shrugged off all of those until the spiders. Now I'm not going to sleep for a week.
The Death Star. It destroys worlds - and rapidly. One click of the big laser pointer and whammo, Alderaan fragments are trending on eBay. The best part is the sheer casualness with which the Death Star is activated. A little backtalk from a naughty galactic princess? Zorch.
Of course, the true master of the effortless apocalypse is Galactus. Despite his hideous dress sense, the Purple Planet Eater snacks on worlds. The more populated and 'life-filled' the better. The whole thing is made extra goofy by the fact that he's basically just a Big Dude. 30 foot tall is big, but not exactly cosmic. That particular head-scratcher is solved by his unfurling tentacled world-sucking device, which can wrap itself around entire planets in mere minutes. He's always been an eerily impressive villain, but that's always been down to good writing, not physical presence.
If size does matter, what's actually big enough to be intimidating? Another planet, of course. In Robert Chambers' abysmal The Dark Star, the planet villain didn't even do that much. It wafted by, dousing the world with, well, evil. The best ones fully embraced the goofiness of the sentient space-lump. Looking at Marvel again, Ego was a giant, floating, Earth-sized head (with a beard the approximate size of Uzbekistan). In The Fifth Element, the Evil just loomed menacingly - but took the time to place phone calls. There are also a number of "Nemesis" and "Planet X" theories about wildly orbiting 10th planets (Pluto, I still love you) that occasionally graze the Earth as well. Just ask the Babylonian astronauts.
Generic Nuclear HolocaustTM. There's a lot to be said for the post-apocalyptic books that only provide a token description of the apocalypse itself. Cold War. Somethin' something'. Submarines. Somethin'. Red button. Kablooie. Chapter 2: Rebuilding the postal service and/or that weird old lady in Nebraska. Less then two decades ago, fiction assumed we'd all die in a fiery cataclysm of greed and belligerence. Now, we're all writing about zombies.
Vermin. Crabs. Rats. Slugs. Baby alligators. They've all had their own starring roles in various ridiculous thrillers. There have been some fairly repulsive and worrisome real life incidents as well. Still, speaking from the heart, none of those worry me. It's the spiders I'll be watching...
What about you? What are your favourite ways to end the world?