Your 4.1.20 Playpen

These days, I find myself thinking a lot about something one of my favorite authors, the amazing William Gibson, has written about in his last two books.

Considering this record, it might be worrying to learn that Gibson’s latest novel, Agency, is largely a credible account of a coming apocalypse. His characters call it “the Jackpot”. “It’s multi-causal, and it’s of extremely long duration,” he explains. Over many decades, climate change, pollution, drug-resistant diseases and other factors – “I’ve never really had the heart to make up a full list, else I’ll depress myself” – deplete the human race by 80 per cent.

The Jackpot is the mundane cataclysm of modernity itself. It is hundreds of millions of people driving to the supermarket in their SUVs, flying six times a year, and eating medicated animals for dinner. “If the Jackpot is going to happen,” Gibson says, “it’s already happening. It’s been happening for at least 100 years.”

“The Jackpot is the mundane cataclysm of modernity itself.”  Exactly.  It’s not an overnight thing.  It’s civilization as the frog in that slowly warming pot of water.  That’s how things feel to me in my more morose moments.

In Gibson’s books, technology advances just quickly enough to stabilize what’s left of society finally, but not before the world is emptied.  It’s a sobering vision, to say the least.

Anyway, I’m curious — is there any work of fiction that’s affected you in a similar way these days?  I’m not talking about what you might be watching/reading as escapist fare (Lord knows I’m doing that, too), but what’s resonated with you based on current events.

Share in the comments.

53 Comments

Filed under GTP Stuff

53 responses to “Your 4.1.20 Playpen

  1. Cynical Dawg

    Suddenly Irwin Allen calls to me from the past: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (the TV show). Somehow, Lobster Men, Deadly Amphibians, Deadly Dolls, Fossil Men, aliens, mad scientists, possessed crew members, and time travelers seem quaint compared to present-day crises.

    Here Vincent Price leads an army of puppets to take over the SSRN Seaview:

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tommy Perkins

    Phillip Roth’s The Plot Against America. Right down to the America Firsters. Am also two episodes into David Simon’s adaptation.

    Like

  3. Normaltown Mike

    I read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Crossing” years ago and enjoyed it for the plot. It’s currently on RBDigital (the free audio app for Georgia PINES library card holders) so I downloaded and have found it oddly therapeutic as i landscape and listen. I’ve realized McCarthy is really a philosopher or at least likes to explore philosophy through his stories.

    “The Crossing” is about life and death and what our own lives mean in these two states. Heavy stuff but a global pandemic is serious business.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I gave up on McCarthy about halfway into “Blood Meridian” after the dreadful slog of “The Road”.
      The guy is/was an obvious talent with a very unique style, but the scenes in his novel are very repetitive to me, just minute variations in their description. I found them extremely boring. You must take this with a grain of salt, of course, as I found Berkeley Breathed’s “Bloom County” hilariously entertaining what with it’s pictures and punctuation and all. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      • When I first picked up The Road years ago I started at 9pm and could not put it down until I finished at 4am. Only time in my life I’ve ever read a novel through in one sitting. I know “gripping” and “riveting” are over-used in reviews of films/books, but I was truly gripped and riveted.

        Like

      • Normaltown Mike

        I get that. BM is 1 of my favorites, but it was only after reading several of his books and even then it was only on a 2nd reading.

        The Crossing, along w/ All the Pretty Horses are his most conventional novels and the plots are young men coming of age – which always works for me. CM’s genius, by my lights, is using Spanish speakers to insert complex concepts into the narrative. The characters would come across as too hokey if not for being foreigners and thus their characters are given. The other is dreams which more conventional.

        Like

  4. Nate

    Reminds me of a book I read years ago called Soft Apocalypse, by Will McIntosh. Not a great book in and of itself but presents a very plausible and terrifying scenario.

    Like

  5. Paul

    Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

    Like

    • Normaltown Mike

      At Georgia in the 90’s, a friend of mine took a class in Grady where you write an episode of a TV show.

      His was an update of Metamorphosis via “The Simpson’s” w/ Bart turning into the cockroach. Funny stuff.

      Like

  6. “…It’s a sobering vision, to say the least…is there any work of fiction that’s affected you in a similar way these days?”

    For “sobering vision” look no further than The Road by Cormac McCarthy, as previously mentioned.

    To be completely honest, I’ve been reminded more and more of Shelby Foote’s monumental work The Civil War: A Narrative. Why? Because he paints an engrossing picture — in vivid and lively detail — of how NO ONE KNEW WHAT THEY HELL THEY WERE DOING. I can’t believe anyone won that war. Both sides should have lost.

    Like

    • Dylan Dreyer's Booty

      There are numerous historical occurrences that happened in spite no one knowing what the hell they were doing. Christopher Columbus is a great example. No educated person at the time thought the world was flat, but they did think that the world was about 25,000 miles in circumference. That would be too far to sail west to east Asia (India in particular) because you couldn’t put enough food and fresh water on a boat that would allow a crew to survive the voyage. Plus, as long as that trip would take there was no economic advantage to it. So everyone went around Africa or overland and fought battles with the Portuguese and Middle Eastern tribes.
      But Columbus was in pre-geometry in college and thought that 25k was wrong. His calculations said the earth was only 7-8k in circumference and that it would be a short voyage. He couldn’t sell that to the Italians, but he could sell it to Spain. Ferdinand and Isabella weren’t idiots, either, but they were desperate. They were jealous of Portugal’s wealth from trade, and were only recently able to drive the Moors out of Spain and the cost of that series of wars had them in debt. They needed a win. So they said some hail Marys and financed Columbus.
      Columbus had been wrong about the circumference issue, and had not considered that there was another piece of land in between Europe and Asia, so when they finally hit land Chris was convinced it was India (hence, why to this day we call Native Americans Indians). Everyone else figured it out, but not Columbus. He made 3 or 4 more journeys looking for a westward path to India, and died without doing so while everyone else was trying to grab a piece of the New World.
      The one thing Columbus was an expert in was trade winds and currents, and he chose a course that was not the shortest, but was easily the fastest given the reliance ships had on wind and currents. Any other course would have been a disaster because the crew was Very short on food and water when they did hit land, so he should get a little credit for that.
      It’s a fascinating story as are others in The Discoverers by Daniel Boorstin. Not exactly fiction, but it should give some sense that not knowing what you are doing isn’t always a bad thing. We do a lot of things out of desperation (or stubbornness) that eventually work out.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Normaltown Mike

        Have you read either “1491” or “1493” by Charles Mann? One is about the America’s pre contact and the other the world after. A mix of pop-science, history and anthropology. Long but good.

        I imagine you’d enjoy both based on this.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The mother of invention after all… Nice explanation of the circumstances attending Chris Columbus’ saga.

        Like

    • ASEF

      Also applies to a lot of college football games. (Like last year’s Egg Bowl)

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Lord of the Flies

    Like

  8. Truupster

    I previously read one of my kid’s school assignment books. It has come to mind now —

    The Road is a 2006 post-apocalyptic novel by American writer Cormac McCarthy.The book details the journey of a father and his young son over a period of several months, across a landscape blasted by an unspecified cataclysm that has destroyed most of civilization and, in the intervening years, almost all life on Earth.

    Like

  9. 964Dawg

    The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Ellison offers a grim vision of the worst-case scenario of today’s world. It’s wonderfully written and will scare the crap out of you.

    Like

  10. W Cobb Dawg

    At the risk of deviating from the ‘morose’ mood, may I suggest the movie “A Boy and His Dog” starring Don Johnson.

    Like

  11. Warthen

    Ready Player One. Ingenuity is born out of necessity. Many of the stigmas and bureaucratic obstacles that stood in the way of VR have been relaxed or eliminated in a matter of weeks. Virtual meetings, virtual parties, virtual teaching. Look for Oculus and Magic Leap, not to mention the mainstream software companies, to take advantage.

    Like

  12. I keep thinking of The Stand by Stephen King. The coronavirus is no “Captain Trips,” thankfully. Otherwise we would all be screwed.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. doofusdawg

    There is a fiction novel which I haven’t really thought of in a long while… written in 1967 which had a profound impact on a teenager when I read it in the mid seventies. Logan’s Run raises several of the issues mentioned in the Gibson article and comes from the same genre. Man vs. nature and the balance between population vs. resources appear to be similar themes. And there is always the underlying belief that those in charge have the ability to affect major change in the quest to save the planet which invariably gets corrupted into dictatorial socialism… which is probably more prescient than anything… thank you George Orwell.

    Although I am not familiar with Gibson and his work… perhaps someone could address this… is the dichotomy between individualism and society. In Logan’s run that turn’s out to be the main conflict. Does the Agency tackle this or is it more of an “individual bad” thing.

    As I turn sixty in several months and have type two diabetes. I appear to be right in the cross hairs of this virus much like a teenager looking at twenty one and the government dictated death sentence of Logan’s Run. I am sure there are many folks on this blog in the same boat. Be safe. Surreal times. I need to read more. And I miss college football.

    Like

    • AthensHomerDawg

      Sorry you hear that. They have made great strides dealing with diabetes.
      My oldest son is a resident Dr. Running between three hospitals. Sometimes he just doesn’t make it home. He will be married two years this April and turns thirty in May. His advice…

      Wash your hands.
      Wash your hands.
      Never touch your face w/o washing your hands First.
      Stay out of crowds. Stay out of lines. Don’t handle things touch as little as possible.
      Six feet rule.
      If going to a public place wear a mask and follow all the above.

      Keep well

      Like

      • doofusdawg

        Thanks for responding. Didn’t mean to make the post about me… rather a link between the 1967 novel I referenced and present day… which is what I thought the Senator was trying to solicit.

        Good luck to your son and your family. He is on the front lines and deserves all of our thoughts and prayers. Go Dawgs!

        Like

  14. TBH, I’m not really reading anything right now. I’m fortunate enough to still be working, even though Friday starts 9 (count ’em! NINE!) wonderful days off right in the middle of planting time and if I’m not mistaken I saw a dogwood bloom, and that means fishing is about to get good.
    What I am following is social media and online news. I posted the other night in a Margarita induced fit of frustration that this is all “Horse Shit”. Maybe I misspoke. It’s not complete horse shit. But….
    I don’t trust what the leaders of the country are doing because their measures seem half-assed and inconsistent, and I’m including what I think to be a hugely sensationalist media as a leader because let’s face it, they are. Let’s not drag this thing out any longer than we have to. If we as a nation need to shut things down for a few weeks to let this run it’s course and be done with it? Then let’s do so. But stop fucking around with it. I’ll give a for instance: Our local Home Depot allows one person in at a time now. No one else goes in until someone comes out the other side. The checkouts are clearly marked for distancing. This makes sense to me based on all I’ve heard and read about this virus. The Local grocery store, OTOH, has no such restriction. (And there was a 5 maybe 6 year old kid in the produce department licking, LICKING!! the fucking apples while his Mom’s back was turned I shit you not) Why not make all the essential businesses operate the same? Mandate restricted travel and do some rationing, whatever needs to be done. Just stop the hand wringing mealy mouth speeches and do something.
    And I’m sorry I called it horseshit. I understand that people at risk don’t think it’s horseshit at all and I hope John Prine gets better.

    Like

    • Russ

      I agree with you on the need to be consistent with the mitigation measures. I don’t agree with you that this is just media bullshit. Makeshift morgues in NYC, USN hospital ships sent to NY and LA. USS Roosevelt is about to be taken out of action due to infections on their ship. And this doesn’t even address what’s going on in other countries. Seems like a lot for a media-created story, doesn’t it?

      Like

      • I don’t think it’s all media bullshit with the caveat that the media isn’t above preying on people’s insecurities or outright fear mongering to sell ad space. The AJC for crying out loud posted the story “TWO CORONA VIRUS WORKERS DEAD!” but you had to get all the way through the article before you realized that neither one of the workers in question were confirmed to have COVID-19. That’s the sort of media bullshit I’m talking about. It’s irresponsible and downright dangerous.

        Like

        • ASEF

          Dead bodies are last in line for scarce test processing, and they can’t be confirmed as Covid-19 deaths absent a confirmation from the lab.

          It’s been a problem for weeks now. I have a friend working an ICU in Seattle. They had a couple of dead people who could not get test results back in mid-March. About the same time the first responders at that Kirkland nursing home (very much alive) had their test samples expire because they did not get processed within a week of being collected.

          As a result, the confirmed death count is a conservative measure at this point.

          This whole thing sucks seven ways to Sunday.

          Like

    • Derek

      John Prine is a crisis actor and a libtard.

      This is all an impeachment hoax meant to make dear leader look impulsive, childish and incompetent.

      Sad!

      Like

  15. BuffaloSpringfield

    As well prayers up for Jackson Browne who at the ripe young age of 71 has tested positive. No words yet on the severity.

    Like

  16. Two rereads and one new read. Good Omens, Animal Farm and Justice Gorsuch’s book, “A Republic, If You Can Keep It” The most applicable to our current situation is “Good Omens”. I love what the authors did with the 4 horseman of the apocalypse. War, stays war, but Pestilence becomes pollution , Starvation becomes processed food with no nutritional value and obviously Death remains death. As entertaining as it may seem it does seem the plague/pestilence should have remained pestilence because and , I may be going out on a limb here, but I don’t think this virus was caused by pollution. It’s clear, that mother nature is a bitch and is more than willing kill you. On that uplifting note I’m gonna expose my at risk butt to the grocery store …..choosing between pestilence and starvation ,I’m choosing disease….C’est la vie.

    Like

  17. For those who like (practical) theology, last week I finished Zack Eswine’s “Recovering Eden: The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes.”

    Very thought-provoking.

    Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. Indeed.

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18355414-recovering-eden

    Like

  18. RangerRuss

    Dogwoods are blooming and the crappie are biting. This is my friend’s daughter K Dawg last Friday… IMG_6367.JPG

    Like

    • RangerRuss

      Dammitman!
      It’s a pic of her and a 3 lb crappie. She’s a polite child that enjoys shooting and fishing.

      Like

  19. Yeah, William Gibson is great. I just had my juniors read “Neuromancer.” Most of them loved it.

    I’ll go with “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Funny book about the futility of trying to discover some abstract, universal Meaning of Life.

    Like

    • Didn’t explain my choice very well–or at all, really. In scary times philosophizing about the Meaning of Life seems silly. What’s meaningful is the people you love and taking care of them. Always true, I think, but good times give us the luxury of letting our thoughts and feelings wander from what’s right in front of our eyes.

      Like

  20. AthensHomerDawg

    Unrestricted Warfare
    Qiao Lang, Wang Xiangsui

    Seems to fit.

    Like

  21. I’m reading “Travels With Charley” and “The Western Flyer”.

    Like

  22. tmflibrarian

    I highly recommend The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson, an alternative history a world where the Black Death killed 99% of Europeans (rather than merely 30-60%). (Spoiler: there’s still lots of war! And all war is terrible!) The vision of the Americas is bittersweet, and has really stuck with me over the years since I read it.
    It’s also the book that introduced me to the idea of the bardo realm, as the story follows characters through reincarnations over time.

    If you’re interested, throw the purchase to Avid Bookshop here in Athens: https://www.avidbookshop.com/book/9780553580075

    Like

  23. All of these are good reads. They all raise the potential for a rebirth (for better or worse) after an event of this type. I like to think of these days as the Great Reboot.

    Like

  24. Alas, Babylon is a 1959 novel by American writer Pat Frank (the pen name of Harry Hart Frank).[1] It was one of the first apocalyptic novels of the nuclear age and has remained popular more than half a century after it was first published,

    Like

  25. Easy… Stephen King. The Stand. Read it overnight when I was sixteen. A few mor times since.

    Like

  26. Mick jagger

    The Bible

    Like