Take Isobelle Carmody’s Obernwtyn series, which is set in post-apocalyptic Earth. After the devastation of a nuclear holocaust, survivors slowly repopulated the non-poisonous areas; it is eerie how the gaps and tension between rich & poor, or administrators & religious & military, can be so easily recreated (and mistakes repeated). While I very keenly follow the thread of the author’s tale in this excellently imagined future of telepathic birds and ‘misfits’ with paranormal abilities who unravel a mystery from before the apocalypse, it amuses me to no end to ‘hear’ tales of the ‘ancients’ who flew across the skies in silver birds get lumped together with other tales about creatures that are half-fish and half-human. “Historical” records seem so improbable to the population at that time, that these tales are considered as fabulous our own fables and fairy tales of today. Ironic, eh?
In Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series (as yet UNFINISHED despite book 11 coming out at the end of this year, you fan-milker!!) * ahem * errr yeah… moving on… yeah… this series * may * be set in a far far distant future here on planet Earth, but I can’t be 100% sure on that, no thanx to the author dragging the tale out unnecessarily! But again, glimpses into the ancient past indicate technology comparable to what we currently see, although how much of that was ‘magic’ vs ‘technology’ is not very clear. I like the idea of random males & females being born with the ability to touch the ‘One Source’, and the various things that can be done with this ability.
Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman’s 7-book Death Gate Cycle tells a tale of a post-Sundered Earth, tho as we move forward in the story, pieces of the past get filled in: humans almost wiping out life on the planet, reemergence of dwarves and elves, emergence of ‘mutant’ humans who become demi-gods due to their innate magic abilities, war among two ‘branches’ of these demi-gods, and how even such ‘intelligent’ creatures can fall into the trap of thinking they can and should and must control the lives of the lesser creatures (humans, elves, dwarves). I found references to "the Mangers" who built a mysterious machine in the "Factree" really amusing :D
Stephen King’s Dark Tower series also includes many references of the remnants of the Old Ones, from the time before the world ‘moved on.’ In a decidedly cowboy / western setting, you have the improbable existence of robots (Andy, Messenger Robot (Many Other Functions!)), and onshore oil rigs and oil tankers with ‘meaningless’ brands such as CITGO and MOBIL! This is not so much ‘our’ Earth in the future, but rather one of an infinite number of parallel worlds with the Dark Tower as its nexus.
Why do these types of tales appeal to me so much?
I suppose it’s all too easy for me to imagine the world as we know it to slide downhill into oblivion… and that whatever we leave behind will be totally meaningless to those who come after us. Despite our technological advancement, our superiority,,, in the end, will we just be a puzzle for future archeologists, trying to put together a picture of our society based on a McDonald’s logo, a piece of an X-box circuit, a jawbone with titanium implants and a ‘selipar Jepun’ for example?
I like the idea that society of the future ‘regresses’ in a way, where we are no longer ‘slaves’ to technology or machines… so while we may be back to hard and difficult times, the pleasures in life are also simple. In other words; all the technological advances we have today have not actually improved our quality of life. Yes, our lives are easier, but at the same time, less meaningful, don’t you think?
I think it’s because I long for the insanity to end…. The world as we live in it today is in a horrible state… so many things that are happening are caused by age-old hatred and fear, so much so that so many people don’t even know what they are fighting for, or why anymore, except that “that’s how it’s always been”. And this willful stubborn blindness is not only seen in the literal fighting of let’s say the Middle East… How about people who just can’t accept change; who can’t accept that the only thing constant IS change??
I wouldn’t be surprised if this world does actually get destroyed by a nuclear disaster precipitated by U.S. vs “Muslim” vs North Korean vs whoever else’s forces. I really don’t forsee any resolution to the unrest in the world today… unless a miracle happens where everyone decides at the exact same moment to give peace a chance…
So to escape beyond this immediate world… to one where this disaster has already happened… plunging the world into a totally different environment… seeing humans (tho not limited to this species) learning to survive again in a totally different but brave new world… ah, THAT is what I like…
Of course, the same old mistakes, the same old behaviours still get repeated… after all, who am I kidding…. A world of total good would be totally boring!
I like the analogy of life as a pendulum which swings to and fro, to and fro, with the peak on one side being ‘good’ and the other ‘evil’ : such oscillation is natural, and is reflected in the rise and fall of both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ dynasties, for example. But what if during one of these ‘good’ dynasties, the well-meaning people attempt to arrest the pendulum there at the ‘peak of good’? An unnatural event, right? And while those living at that age would enjoy the unnatural extended good/peace, what happens when nature exerts its laws, and starts the pendulum swinging again? Balance must be kept… so the world would be plunged into a deep and black turmoil, would it not? Balance!!
Reminds me of something I read about the difference between was it Chinese/Asian philosophy and that of the druids… Both strove for this ‘balance’, but went about it in totally different ways… one ( I don’t remember which, but would guess it was the Chinese/Asian) would strive for a state of stillness in order to maintain this balance (my guess is meditation as one of the paths to this), while the other sought movement and understanding of ‘extremes’ for without knowing the two sides / limits how are you going to recognize the balance/middle?
Ah yes, my rambling again… do bear with me, dear readers… back to why this particular type of tale appeals to me so much… it is my ardent hope that humankind one day realizes that so much of what they are looking for actually resides inside themselves.
To quote from Babylon5: the exiled G’Kar, serving an eight-week prison sentence for assaulting his sworn enemy, when being informed that he seemed “happier in here than you were out there” he replied,
Everything out there has only one purpose:
to distract us from ourselves; from what is truly important.
There are no distractions in here.
You can learn much from silence.”
Meditate on that, why don’t you?