One of the most unfortunate constants of science fiction is its humanistic optimism whether secular or mythic. The unification of planets, of empires and rebellions asserts a communitarian harmony as well as a ubiquity of civilized life. The post-apocalyptic and the dying earth subgenres offer some hope of desolation and pessimism but often relapse into pointless optimism.
Leaving the Earth and Sun behind means being open to the cosmos , beyond the possibility of being baked by the red and bloated sun as in Lovecraft’s and [so and so] Till all the Seas. From the end:
“And now at last the Earth was dead. The final pitiful survivor had perished. All the teeming billions; the slow aeons; the empires and civilizations of mankind were summed up in this poor twisted form–and how titanically meaningless it had all been! Now indeed had come and end and climax to all the efforts of humanity–how monstrous and incredible a climax in the eyes of those poor complacent fools in the prosperous days! Not ever again would the planet know the thunderous tramping of human millions–or even the crawling of lizards and the buzz of insects, for they, too, had gone. Now was come the reign of sapless branches and endless fields of tough grasses. Earth, like its cold, imperturbable moon, was given over to silence and blackness forever.
The stars whirled on; the whole careless plan would continue for infinities unknown. This trivial end of a negligible episode mattered not to distant nebulae or to suns new-born, flourishing, and dying. The race of man, too puny and momentary to have a real function or purpose, was as if it had never existed. To such a conclusion the aeons of its farcically toilsome evolution had led.”
Beyond the nihilism of Houllebecq’s The Possibility of an Island where humanity’s replacement functions plant-like under the sun, the sun must be left behind.
As Reza named it in comments on the previous post in response to my suggestion of a nihilistic sci-fi – we must cultivate a search for a new earth that ends in repeated failure but in a sense that does not re-transcendentalize the original earth. Where the distress call leads to dead and empty vessels, where signs of life turn out to be no more then deadly microbes. A tale that ends only in the gradual thinning of the self-conscious biomass called humanity.
Filed under: Brassier, Freud, Speculative Realism | 3 Comments
Tags: dying earth, lovecraft, nihilism, sci-fi, sf