Thoughts and lessons learned while reading “Bangs & Whimpers: Stories about the end of the world” edited by James Frenkel.
Warning: Spoiler Alerts! So don’t get all nasty, I gave you a warning. I summarize the basic premise of some of the stories to help me remember their points. You have been warned. SPOILER ALERTS BELOW!
The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke: Just because lone self-proclaimed wise men are on the top of a mountain in the middle of the Himalayas doesn’t mean that they actually know what they are talking about. Even if they have done it for centuries. Also, who would sign up for the apocalypse? Why would one ask God to quit? Mr. Clarke, no surprise here, gives a solid plausible explanation to these questions.
Killing the Morrow by Robert Reed : One man trusts his gut when all around him, including himself, falls to mind control. Aliens attack my osmosis.
We Can Get Them for you Wholesale by Neil Gaiman: I enjoyed watching Gaiman lets his sense of dark comedy flow free. In his graphic novels, I am use to him getting more burdened down with obscurity. A vain man unknowingly hires other-being mercenaries to kill us all.
Not with a Bang by Howard Fast: A wonderfully comic piece of how one sensible man reacts when the sun gets dramatically snuffed out like a candle.
Lost and Found by Connie Willis :Explains why it would be bad if the Holy Grail had been in Russia during the 1950′s.
The Wind and the Rain by Robert Silverber: I really like the narrator’s angle to a common warning. Think Inconvinet truth with the cold amusement of a perspective millions of years later.
Expendable by Philip K Dick: What a wonderful imagination on that man. Would the spiders and the ants and the feral cats mourn our passing?
Finis by Frank L. Pollack: The world burns quickly and two people kiss.
A Guide to Virtual Death by J.G. Ballard: More of a warning than a record of Humanity’s willingness to create their own end.
Emissary from a Green and Yellow World by Robert Sheckley: I really liked this one. A wonderful comedic commentary of what makes Humans so wonderful and horrible at the same time.
The Portable Phonograph by Walter Van Tilburg Clark: Once we are barely holding on, living in caves, we will lament for the beautiful things once-made my man. Duh.
Fermi and Frost by Frederik Pohl: How the shit would play out in Iceland. Well thought out scenario. Good example of how to logically think out a world.
Ultimate Construction by C.C. Shackleton: At 2 pages long, the definition of how to switch-it up at the end. Sandcastles made of sand might not be a bad idea when we know everything is going to melt anyway.
The Manhattan Phone Book (abridged) by James Tiptee Jr: Lame. It turns out to be a lecture to the reader on how the apocalypse won’t really be that fun, because, you know, of all the death also you, the reader, will probably die. WHATEVVVVER!!!!
The Man who Walked Home by James Thurber: I did not understand half of what was happening, but a wonderful story of the birth of faith and ghosts in the machines of science.
Interview with a Lemming by James Thurber: Great example of how to write a short, very short, story that is meant to only set up the end. Makes you question the role of basic assumptions and how they lead to different logics.
The Last Question by Issac Asimov: The end is very far out indeed. Very very very far out. Like a billion years far out. Who else better to pull that off but the master?