Apocalyptic Narrative in Horizon: Zero Dawn

by Kaytlyn Bell, Ball State University

Since its release on February 28, 2017, the video game Horizon: Zero Dawn has been praised for the originality of its apocalypse and its strong storytelling. The game is set on 31st century Earth. Decaying cities surround you, overtaken by vegetation, half-buried in snow, or barely visible between sand dunes. It’s beautiful in that eerie, peaceful way that any place devoid of humans can be. From the very first screen, it sucks you in.

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Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse

by Tynan Drake, Ball State University

In recent years, survivalism culture has exploded around the concept of a zombie apocalypse. At first it may seem absurd that anyone would take this fictional concept so seriously, but by digging beneath the surface just a little, we can find a thriving community of people who feel ready for any obstacle life (or an apocalypse) can throw at them. New generations of “preppers” have begun to treat the idea of a zombie apocalypse as a catch-all simulation for the vast variety of disasters that can occur. While some preppers still scorn even humoring the idea of a zombie apocalypse, others have embraced it as a real part of their emergency preparedness and survival training, with The Prepper Journal proclaiming it as “one of the most entertaining reasons why some choose to prepare.”

The reactions in the prepper community can vary greatly between individuals when the topic of zombie apocalypses comes up. Some preppers view even the idea as foolish and a waste of time, while others argue that a virus outbreak could possibly cause zombie-like behavior. The Prepper Journal commented on this topic, “Real or not, convincing you one way or the other isn’t the intent . . . if nothing else, zombies are a metaphor for a lot of potential behavior post-apocalypse.” Whether zombies are a reality or not, their impact on our culture is undeniable, with Hollywood and preppers alike promoting preparation for the possible disaster.  Since the booming success of zombies in pop culture from Resident Evil to The Walking Dead, people have been asking ‘would I survive the zombie apocalypse?’ paving the way for the advent of Zombie Survival Camps. These camps provide a low stress environment of entertainment in which the participants can begin learning a number of basic survival skills that could be useful in disaster situations. While these camps are far from serious preparation, they provide a sort of crash course for individuals who might otherwise be caught completely unprepared should a disaster strike. One prepper site, Happy Preppers, identified the zombies as the masses of “people who haven’t prepared for uncertain times,” using the zombie as a metaphor for the desperate and sometimes violent actions people turn to when food, water, medicine, and other resources become scarce.

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Justice or Just Luck? Post-apocalyptic Privilege in Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker

by Bethany Benkert, Ball State University

Cover of book, the words "Ship Breaker" in white letters over rust colored background

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Our society is obsessed with luck. We fantasize about winning the lottery and wish each other good luck before important events. However, we are reluctant to give luck its due credit when it is at work in our own lives, at which point it should be called “privilege.”  In his novel Ship Breaker,  Paolo Bacigalupi explores both luck and privilege in a post-apocalyptic society. Environmental disaster has reduced the world to one of extreme disparity. There are the rich or “swank” that live in cities and control the economy. The swank can afford to hire genetically engineered mixes of tiger, dog and human, or “half-men” as guards. Such guards are the best combination of violence, loyalty, and intelligence that money can buy. On the other side of the coin are the poor. They work in dangerous conditions where one misstep could mean death. This post-apocalyptic society magnifies issues of inequality and privilege, with most everything coming down to luck. Many of the poor dream of a lucky break or pray to “the lucky eye” as a deity to protect them.

For while they are struggling to survive, they also aspire for their luck to change. Continue reading

The Use of the Supernatural in “Sleepy Hollow’s” Portrayal of the End

by Taylor Baugh, Ball State University

There are many forms of entertainment today that depict apocalyptic plotlines while also incorporating supernatural forces. Within our entertainment, we want to enjoy imagining the apocalypse; however, we don’t want to face the realistic nature of those apocalypses. So, we include the supernatural rather than real world problems we are facing. It is no different in the television show, Sleepy Hollow, which opens on a battlefield in the year 1781 with Ichabod Crane fighting against the Red Coats. Crane is on a mission from George Washington to find and kill a Hessian soldier. Crane notices the soldier on horseback and shoots; the mark hits the Horseman straight in the chest, but the soldier is not affected. He falls from his horse and stands, swinging his ax, slashing Crane across the chest, and severely injures him. Before Crane falls, he swings his sword, cutting off the head of the soldier, causing the two to fall together. In the next scene, Ichabod Crane wakes up in the year 2013 (present day for the show), just as the soldier he killed does. However, the soldier isn’t just a soldier, but the Headless Horseman of Death from the book of Revelation.

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Bunkerville: Humor and the Post-Apocalypse

by Audrey Bowers, Ball State University

Bunkerville is a satirical, post-apocalyptic musical created by Mark Sonnenblick and Brendan Ternus. The musical was performed on Ball State’s campus in the Fall of 2017, running from October 20th – 28th. Bunkerville is about a journalist named Steve who reports the latest news of the underground bunker in which he lives. His main desire is to leave the bunker someday and to win the Golden Pen, which is the highest award that a journalist can receive. Steve is very hardworking and motivated, but there’s one problem: each and every one of his co-workers hate him because he’s self-centered. In an attempt to get rid of him once and for all, they fake an announcement from a living, breathing person above ground, which sends Steve on a journey to report from the surface. There he meets a violent woman named Fluffy carrying a machine gun, mutants who were created from the nuclear holocaust, and eventually a woman named Grace and the mother earth cult of which she is a member. Continue reading

Women in the Post-Apocalypse: Bailey Shrewsbury Interviews Author Kristen Simmons

by Bailey Shrewsbury, Ball State University

In the Digital Literature Review class, we have studied many different aspects of post-apocalyptic literature, including the way gender is depicted in post-apocalyptic media. Time and time again, we saw women being forced back into patriarchal roles after catastrophic events, and this idea was seldom challenged on the page by the authors we read. I wanted to shed more light on stories that empowered women and challenged the idea that women are only in stories for reproduction and men’s pleasure by interviewing Kristen Simmons. Kristen is an award winning Young Adult author who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. Simmons has written 6 books with another coming out this fall. Her book,“The Glass Arrow,” is a story about Aya, a girl on the run from the men who hunt women to sell them at auction. It’s a story of one girl’s courage to stand up for herself and what’s right.

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“Good Omens” for The End: An Apocalyptic Comedy

By Katie Garrett, Ball State University

Good Omens is a book about the possibility of an apocalypse as foretold by Revelations (as well as Agnes Nutter, an ancient prophetic witch). Instead of being all gloomy about The End, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett come together to write a quintessential comedy featuring angels, demons, witches, an order of witch hunters, and the Antichrist. It is a fantasy version of the apocalypse that isn’t afraid of being too light-hearted about the end of all things.

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“Females are Strong as Hell:” Kimmy Schmidt’s Hopeful Apocalypse

by Bailey Shrewsbury, Ball State University

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a T.V. show that explores how an apocalyptic event can work as a motivator in one’s life. Kimmy Schmidt, the protagonist, was 14 when she was stuck in an underground bunker with three other women by The Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne. The Reverend convinced them that they were survivors of an apocalypse and that above ground was not safe to live in anymore. After 15 years, Kimmy is rescued from the underground bunker and a marriage from The Reverend. A fund is created for the women, and each get a cut to live their new lives, though Kimmy’s is eventually stolen.

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a story of hope in the face of adversity, and we watch as she takes her new life in her hands and wants to live it to the fullest. This directly contrasts with Lee Quinby’s ideas of how apocalyptic media affects our life: “Rather than quelling the fear of endism and satisfying desire for electism, this consumption of the forms of expression seems to be generating insatiable craving for more” (9). In other words, Quinby believes that post-apocalyptic literature and media makes us more depressed instead of giving us hope.

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Gender and Leadership in the Post-Apocalypse of “Revolution”

Image via NBC.com

by Abigail Gelopulos, Ball State University

Realistic, strong, female characters that still maintain their femininity have been rare gems in almost every medium, but they are now slowly becoming more prevalent.  This type of female character is generally hard to find, especially in the post-apocalypse genre because, unfortunately, creators in this genre often revert to patriarchy in their stories.  This is an idea that James Berger discussed in After the End regarding the novel Lucifer’s Hammer and the tendency in apocalyptic literature for the post-apocalyptic era to portray “what the writer considers to be truly of value” (Berger 8). The TV show Revolution makes an effort to reject this inclination towards patriarchy in its use of both male and female characters, who are placed in leadership roles based on their adequacy for the role rather than their gender.

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“Time Enough at Last”: Guilt and Happiness in “The Twilight Zone”

by Nick Smith, Ball State University

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Often cited as the most beloved episode of the entire Twilight Zone series, “Time Enough at Last” can arguably be called the definitive Twilight Zone episode. This episode tells the tale of bookworm Henry Bemis, whose world as he knows it abruptly comes to an end thanks to a nuclear bomb. Having snuck into the bank vault at work to read, Bemis survives the blast. Initially depressed, Bemis is comforted to discover he finally has “time enough at last” to read all the books he desires. However, before he manages to begin this task, his glasses fall off his head and shatter on the ground. The episode then comes to a close with the distraught Bemis despondently saying, “That’s not fair” (00:23:32-00:22:36).

As Bemis is the main protagonist and a rather sympathetic figure in general, it is safe and logical for viewers to agree with his declaration of unfairness. Yet, I argue that viewers should also consider the question of Bemis’ guilt. In this world Rod Serling created, Bemis unquestionably had something to gain from the end of the world. He could read any and all the books he wanted. According to Peter Wolfe, author of In the Zone: the Twilight World of Rod Serling, “What is disturbingly true is that Serling, invoking a harsh puritan morality rarely in force in The Twilight Zone, makes [Bemis] imaginatively guilty of the bombing attack, since, for a moment or two, he profited from it” ( 52). While Bemis himself doesn’t start the war or order the nuclear strikes, as Wolfe points out, he still becomes imaginatively guilty of ending the world. As the last surviving man, Bemis is the only one who can be held responsible. He has become the scapegoat for the human race, albeit an unknowing one. An important question to ask then becomes why did Bemis not die with the rest of man? He must have been left alive to learn a lesson. Continue reading