“Alas, poor country!
Almost afraid to know itself. It cannot
Be call’d our mother, but our grave; where nothing,
But who knows nothing, is once seen to smile;
Where sighs and groans and shrieks that rend the air
Are made, not mark’d; where violent sorrow seems
A modern ecstasy; the dead man’s knell
Is there scarce ask’d for who; and good men’s lives
Expire before the flowers in their caps,
Dying or ere they sicken.”

Shakespeare, Macbeth

 

Something terrible

Something terrible

I continue to wrestle with zombies. I am sketching a novel. It is set here, where I live, and one of the narrators is a 9-year old girl. Something terrible has happened, and is happening, and will happen. I want to generate the permanent and overwhelming sense of dread I admire in The Walking Dead Series 2, where terror loiters in the background, glimpsed from a passing car, or overheard from outside a handsome barn. I do not want the ghouls in plain sight. I do not want a Bosch-like tableau of horror.

I love the speech made by Ross in Macbeth, which I quote above. Indeed, the entire scene, beginning with its ‘desolate shade,’ is ripe with the stench of the apocalypse, and not more so than in Ross’s words.

Something terrible has happened. Like the floods that prompted my earlier musings.  I observe them, and wonder what would happen if it continued to rain. If it just kept on raining. I think back to books I devoured as a teenager – the astonishing ‘apocalypse’ novels of JG Ballard, especially The Drowned World and The Burning World.

JG Ballard

JG Ballard

Something terrible is happening. The world is changing, and not for the better. Mankind has messed up, and is continuing to mess up, the world. Anyone who is fortunate enough to believe differently is a truly happy fool, and I envy you. Our children – my children – will deal with the consequences. The dystopian worlds of Ballard, or Romero, or Shakespeare, loom. Every decent work of zombie fiction, of apocalypse and post-apocalypse fiction, performs as a a parable of this at some level, and none is better than Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

The Road, a great book and a decent film

The Road, a great book and a decent film

Something terrible will happen. To me, to you, to the ones we love. That is the human condition. In the making of fiction, we have to be personal. We have to make our readers care, even as terror overwhelms us.

We do not end well. That is all we know.

“MAN that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay.” The Book of Common Prayer

David Quick, February 2014

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