24 November 2012

Post apocalyptic anyone?

I am not a science fiction writer nor a follower of sci-fi; however, there are some themes that I find fascinating. Science fiction tends to hold some of those themes. I think of the movie Gattica and the genetic ethical situation there is one of those sci-fi themes to which I am drawn.

Another theme that fascinates me is the world of the post apocalyptic. That is post some cataclysmic destruction of society's structure as we know it. It probably all started for me on a ski trip in high school when the group watched a Mad Max movie.

One of the most memorable books I've read in this theme is from a great writer of mystery fiction and that's why I ended up reading it. P. D. James wrote The Children of Men in 1992. I'd read most of her books, so I just picked it up having no idea what it was about at all. It's not a mystery at all. Perhaps you've seen the recent movie from the book in 2006 though I see online this described as dystopian rather than post apocalyptic. I haven't seen the movie and have heard the ending is totally different than the book.

I define post apocalyptic as: the world has changed irrevocably and cannot go back to what it was or what we know it as in our present day. I'm not sure why it is so fascinating. I'm obviously not alone in it based on the books and movies.

Perhaps it's my imagination of what would I do in this particular situation. It's sort of has a bit of that watching a train wreck feeling for me. I want to look away but I keep watching or reading.

I've actually been in two atmospheres that were vaguely post apocalyptic and I found it to feel like I was having a sneaky adventure in some other world. The beauty is I got to leave and go back to central heating and warm water.

In the 1990s, a neighborhood near my high school home was condemned wholesale. I'm bad at estimating square area, but let's say it's a housing area of a mile by a half mile with 50 homes. It ran along the highway. During the battles to buy houses and condemn those who wouldn't sell, I remember a disgruntled home owner spray painting in large letters on the side of the house something about the city council stealing homes and it was clearly visible from the highway.

Eventually all the people were moved out and a chain link fence went around an entire neighborhood of homes and then seemingly nothing happened. My significant other and I decided after several months to be nosy and go take a look. We didn't have to break any fences or anything. We simply ducked under an industrial size chain across a street of ingress.

As many people do when they move, the families had had garage sales and yard sales. When the sale was over, they apparently just walked away. Make shift tables were still in place in some driveways with abandoned garage sale items on the tables. The houses had not been salvaged yet so windows, doors, kitchens, etc still in place. The people had not locked their homes. After all it was just a matter of getting out, so my husband and I wandered in and out of blocks of abandoned homes and did not see a soul. I even picked up a couple of cocktail dishes a la 1950s that had been left lying around. I still have them.

It was such a strange abandoned and empty world despite being in the middle of city. Books on tables, clothes on hangers in closets. It was surreal and it was voyeuristic to be inside looking. A few months later the bulldozers arrived and a thriving shopping strip was erected, but I glimpsed a world beyond before they did.

More recently I bought a Groupon for a "villa" in Portugal. It was a week in a private villa and we needed a break after an intense six weeks at the office, so we packed up and drove from Madrid to the coast of Portugal.

The neighborhood was hard to find. We followed signs for three different housing development names and finally arrived and went in an office that still did not show the name on my coupon. The people were delightful and the house was great, but the neighborhood looked like it had met with time travel to that still fictional post apocalyptic era.

It had been intended I think as a fancy housing development but then the economy, like Spain's, crashed. So did the construction of the development. In between completed two story stucco homes of four or five bedrooms were crumbling ruins of cement and brick frames of what were to be Portuguese mansions. A wild dog pack roamed the development looking for the bread people threw out for them. The asphalt was pocked or non-existent. A few houses had been bought by people who did have money and had been decked out to an extremely polished European haute couture home. It might be right next to one of the skeletal remains of one of the houses that didn't make it. Again, it was surreal. Fortunately, we're the kind of people who can appreciate a semi-post apocalyptic neighborhood for our coastal vacation. It gave me a glimpse into the idea that those conditions can come from sudden crushing poverty, not just from bombs or odd interventions of the divine a la Children of Men.

I suppose I really should look into reading more books in this line of literature since it seems to fascinate me. But like the train wreck scenario, it's a little painful so I don't seek it out.

Any favorite post apocalyptic books, movies or experiences?