A few posts ago, I asked if, given current economic and political conditions, the next thematic trend in SF and fantasy will be a return to woeful tales of doom and disaster. Sure enough, lately I’m coming across signs that the zeitgeist might be finding a warm place in Cold War era end-of-the-world narratives.
In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal there’s a short review of Genesis by Bernard Beckett. Yeah, I know, the title is cringe-inducing, but it actually fits (both the title and the author’s surname), at least according to writer Jeffrey Trachetenberg’s description:
…survivors in a world destroyed by nuclear and biological weapons are forced to re-think what makes the human species special…the issue of machine self awareness emerges as pivotal.
Not exactly original, but, then again, “nothing is new under the sun” as Ecclesiastes noted back in antiquity and, as Trachetenberg notes, revisiting this time honored trope is in part a result of “deep-rooted international concerns about such issues as global warming and the 9/11 attacks.”
Also in keeping with the history of the genre is the fact that Beckett is a young adult author, which was how the book was marketed in his native New Zealand, but was acquired for the adult market in the U.S.
Also on the subject is Ron Rosenbaum’s Slate article on The New Nuke Porn in which he compares yesterday’s end-of-the-worlders to today’s more graphic versions (presumably, Beckett, as a “young adult author,” is a little more old-fashioned in that respect).
As an aside, I just started Rosenbaum’s The Shakespeare Wars, an account of major academic debates and controversies regarding, among other things, whether a mere lower-class actor would have been smart enough to write the plays attributed to him. And that these aren’t mere discussions of intellectual investigation, but frequently personal attacks as if this really matters (I know, it does matter, but it doesn’t really matter, it’s not the end-of-the-word if you think Shakespeare – or someone writing as Shakespeare – really did rewrite Hamlet, as opposed to producing a work of genius in one draft.) As someone whose academic credentials include minor concentrations in both Shakespeare and science fiction (separately, not together), the book also reminds me why I made the right choice not to pursue that career path.