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Monday, January 18, 2021

We’re Doomed!

It’s the stereotypical post-WWII sci-fi story. 

The human race has been wiped out by a planetary catastrophe. The sole survivors are an American astronaut and a Soviet cosmonaut, both in orbit in their separate spaceships. Diminishing oxygen supplies force them both to land on some remote tropical island paradise that’s the only place left untouched by the disaster, and as the American climbs out of his ship, .45 automatic in hand, he thinks, “Well at least the last man on Earth will be U.S. Air Force Major Adam Adamski!” He takes careful aim at the Russian, but in that last moment of hesitation before he pulls the trigger she removes her space helmet, to reveal that she is a stunningly beautiful blonde woman, and in thickly accented English she says, “My name is Captain Eva Evanovitch. I want to make babies and repopulate the Earth.”

Adamski says, “Too bad, I’m gay,” and shoots her anyway.

Just kidding!

But seriously; the field of sci-fi is simply cluttered with end-of-the-world Adam & Eve stories. Every writer has written at least one; even Jules Verne’s last known story was “The Eternal Adam.” For some reason we in the field of sci-fi simply love to destroy the world, and then offer humanity a hope for a fresh start. (Except for Nevil Shute, who destroyed the world and then offered absolutely no hope, which is why no one is talking about doing yet another big-budget remake of On the Beach at the moment.)

I’m not interested in exploring the pathology of Jeremiads; that’s a topic for another time. Instead, I want to put forth this question: what is your favorite end-of-the-world complete-destruction-of-humanity story? Right now for me it’s a toss-up between Greg Bear’s The Forge of God and Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but I’m open to suggestions.

What’s your nominee, and why?

—Bruce Bethke

6 comments:

Robert said...

I am legend by Richard Matheson. The Road, Cormac something. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (can't remember the author.

~brb said...

Oh, I do love I Am Legend. My favorite adaptation of that one remains the 1954 Vincent Price version released as The Last Man on Earth. My least favorite is the 2007 Will Smith version, and as for Charleton Heston's Omega Man -- well, it was 1971. Drugs were probably involved.

Didn't care much for The Road. Got the feeling that I'd already read it before and that McCarthy didn't bring any new ideas to the table.

Good call on Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I didn't think of that one.

Jeanne said...

My first thought was "A Quiet Earth," by Craig Harrison, though I've only seen the movie. The movie left an indelible impression on me, because of the alternate reality it presents: the world 'blinks,' and we miss something. As the lone three people apparently left on the Earth had been in the process of dying in one way or another, when time or reality "blinks," everyone else disappears. In a sense, the rest of the people were 'raptured' away. It's fun in a way, to think about driving any car, living in any house, shopping for anything you want, without financial consequences. Yet there's always a catch, isn't there? The world was still left in need of saving. Finally, it's really not an Adam and Eve story, but there is still a sacrifice. Anyone writing a paper for a Catholic Studies course? This would be a great thesis idea.

Invictus said...

I don't know if I'd call it a favorite, but "Adam and No Eve" by Alfred Bester has taken up space in my head since I first read it. It's been so long, I can't even remember if it's a good story or not, but the images it sparked have got some staying power. Now that I think about it, a lot of Bester's stories have that effect; can't help but think of "Fondly Fahrenheit" every time the thermometer starts to climb.

Pete Wood said...

Jack Finney wrote the novel, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where the plot actually makes sense. The movies aren't bad.
I am Legend is a great novella, but the adaptions just keep getting worse. The Will Smith version is just insulting. They changed the ending after audiences had negative comments on the original ending, which was actually following the book. Too bad they left in all the foreshadowing from the book So, the ending makes no sense.
My two favorite end of the world stories are On the Beach and Second Variety. Second Variety by Philip Dick is the ultimate cold war paranoid tale. It'll stick with you. Skip the movie, Screamers. Utter junk.

Pete Wood said...

Adam and No Eve is an amazing story. I read it as a child and it has stuck with me. Reread it recently and noticed the last line that I missed the first time. That final gives the story some really cool context.