Some time ago, I submitted a story to an anthology of catastrophes, “Enter the Apocalypse”, edited by Thomas Gondolfi. I’m now the proud owner of my first physical anthology.
Of course, Apocalypse is a term that can be interpreted ad infititum. For me, it was intelligent dolphins. For writer Janice Law, it was something completely different.
Janice Law is an Edgar nominated novelist who also writes short stories and award winning non-fiction. Her most recent novels are Afternoons in Paris (mysteriouspress.com), and Homeward Dove (Wildside Press). She regularly publishes in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and other mystery publications.
I got a Life Tag today. Paula brought it and showed me hers. Don’t lose it, she said. I tasted. Bitter and cold like the bars on cage.
– Janice Law, The Centaur Project
Guest post by Janice Law
It is a curious feature of our species that we have long had a notion of the end of things. The great flood haunted the ancient middle east from Ur to Jerusalem and beyond, while the dreadful Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse careened through medieval and renaissance imaginations fed by unending wars and the Black Death.
For my generation, up to date and scientific, the Apocalypse had a different incarnation, the nuclear cloud. Attending a rural one room schoolhouse, I was spared ‘the hide under your desk when the warning sounds’ but calamity on a global scale was still in the air.
And soon it appeared in books and films, too. Perhaps as a distraction from the all too real horrors of WW2, postwar writers speculated on even more catastrophic events. One of the first was Neville Shute’s On the Beach, a realistic picture of nuclear war like Peter Watkins’ chilling TV mockumentary, The War Game. Later novels, like the linguistically creative Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban and the 21st century The Road by Cormac McCarthy, have dropped explosions and toxic clouds for a look at aftermaths in ghastly worlds of brutality and deprivation.
So if popular culture is any indication, affluence and comfort have not dispelled a vague but menacing sense of disaster waiting in the wings. Films on The Omega Man prototype – well armed guy fighting off mutants and thugs – provide, of course, those Hollywood favorites, car chases, gun battles and gore. But what of all the other favorites, the alien body snatchers and infiltrators, the zombies and vampires, not to mention the host of mysterious plagues and the toxic plants and sinister animal species, newly awakened – or created – by human folly?
Those would surely be recognized by earlier peoples, even if they named the attackers devils or unquiet sprits and labeled the resulting catastrophes as God’s Wrath or Heavenly Fire. In one form or another the Apocalypse is always with us. It is our own mortality writ large, as well as a cautionary tale that warns us of sin and, in less religious spheres, of hubris and folly.
What is different now is that our power to damage the natural world and the health of the planet has grown exponentially, even as every hurricane, flood, heat wave, tornado, eruption and earthquake show us that our tenure may be as precarious as older top species like the carnivorous dinosaurs. Rather than learn humility, we turn to art, to heroes surviving or to trips to the stars.
The choice, no doubt, depends on temperaments. For me, a few survivors is more plausible than the successful colonization of other planets, where, I suspect, the same follies and tragedies would soon follow. In The Centaur Project, I hedged my bets a bit further– the narrator, Kao, is a chimp/human hybrid.
Will he survive? Admittedly things do not look good for Kao, apocalyptic, in fact. At the moment, I have no proof of his fate, but he appears to be the last hominid standing.