Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pre-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder (PASD)

The New York Times business page is laying the groundwork for next summer's apocalyptic thriller (an essay by Charles Duhigg - Coming: "Invasion Of the Walking Debt").  The article provided a rundown of key books that are making up the potential apocalyptic shockwave. 

First up is the recently re-issued When Money Dies: Germany in the 1920s and the Nightmare of Deficit Spending.  First published in 1975 (and who was president?), it has found a cult following in Washington and among hedge funds.  The book charts the travails of people like Anna Eisenmenger who bartered her dead husband's gold watch for potatoes, watched her malnourished grandson develop scurvy and saw neighbors attack mounted policemen so they could slaughter and eat the horses.

No zombies in the Weimar Republic in the 1920s - just inflation.  Duhigg writes the following:

"Undoubtedly, though, inflation aggravated every evil, ruined every chance of national revival or individual success, and eventually produced precisely the conditions in which extremists of Right and Left could raise the mob against the State, set class against class, race against race, family against family, husband against wife, trade against trade, town against country.  It undermined national resolution when simple want or need might have bolstered it.  Partly because of its unfairly discriminatory nature, it brought out the worst in everybody - industrialist and worker, farmer and peasant, banker and shopkeeper, politician and civil servant, housewife, soldier, merchant, tradesman, miner, moneylender, pensioner, doctor, trade union leader, student, tourist - especially the tourist.  It caused fear and insecurity among those who had already known too much of both.  It fostered xenophobia.  It promoted contempt for government and the subversion of law and order.  It corrupted even where corruption had been unknown, and too where it should have been unknown, and too often where it should have been impossible.  It was the worst possible prelude - although detached form it by several years - to the great depression; and thus to what followed."

Pultizer Prize finalist Colson Whitehead has a new novel out in October entitled "Zone One."  A tale of the infected and uninfected on lower Manhattan.  Think George Romero with investment bankers.  As Duhigg points out in his essay, "Nothing says apocalypse, apparently like a city without functioning A.T.M.'s."  This is probably a little better than the German, pre-Nazis, uber-inflation scenario - at least killing zombies feels like a job.  As Jason Zinoman writes in his new book on horror films, Shock Value, "The monster has traditionally been a stand-in for some anxiety - political, social, or cultural."

Finally, Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson.  I just finished this book and would highly recommend it (Note of caution - be careful in the future regarding how networked all your machines become in your house and office.).  And guess which famous director is making a movie of the novel for release in Summer 2012?

From Robopocalyspe:

"The streets of central London are mostly empty.  Attacks came too fast and too organized for most citizens to react.  By law, all the autos had full-drive capability.  Also by law, hardly anybody had guns.  And the closed-circuit television network was compromised from the start, giving the machines an intimate view of every public space in the city.

In London, the citizens were too safe to survive.

Visual records indicate that automated trash trucks filled dumps outside the city with corpses for months after Zero Hour.  Now there's nobody left to destroy the place.  No survivors brave the streets.  And nobody is around to see two pale men - one young and one old - encased in military exoskeletons as they leap in ten-foot strides over the weedy pavement."

Remember that inflation, political battles, recessions, depressions, budget battles, fights over taxes, etc. have a long history in this country.  Things and thinking move in cycles - we have managed change and economic/technological transitions before and sometimes transitions are rather ugly looking affairs.

The bigger risk?  We don't have much of a history with zombies and killer robots.

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