This Is the End of the World
A few months ago a coworker of mine was complaining about the television series The Walking Dead. In all the stories we have about the end of the world, he said, why can’t we have a story about smart people doing the right thing? Why do all the stories have to be dramatic and center on bad choices? His question was rhetorical, but I could not resist a reply.
My current favorite book about the apocalypse is John Kelly’s non–fiction work, The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death. Kelly describes the mid–1300s using the diaries, letters, official documents, and journals of the people living through and dying from the plague. Those people repeatedly asserted that this was the end of the world. Some chose courage and honor and sacrifice in their last days, caring for the sick or defending the unjustly accused. Others murdered and stole, placing their own lives above anyone else, until the Black Death swept them away.
Throughout history, I told my coworker, humans have always made bad decisions at the end of the world. Why should our fiction be any different?
This issue of Apex Magazine takes a look at our humanity after the world ends. Lucy Snyder’s “Antumbra” is, frankly, one of the most disturbing stories I’ve had the pleasure to read. The complicatedly poor decisions made by its characters center on sex, family, and legacy — historically sound reasons for terrible choices. Just ask any royal family.
Rich Larson’s “Maria and the Pilgrim” is also concerned with family in the post–apocalyptic future. Both of these stories feature sisters, scientists, and the salvation of the world. Yet each story works so differently, I felt compelled to give them to you together.
Our essay this month is from Wen Spencer. She provides a meditation on a variety of apocalypse, from fictions past and science present. The world, she tells us, ends in ignorance and flood.
New poetry editor Elise Matthesen brings us a new work from Gillian Daniels, “Sleep Lives Inside the Bed.” Water brings trouble in this poem, water and sleep entwined. And our reprint, “Home By the Sea,” from Élisabeth Vonarburg, continues the theme.
Our cover art, “Social Hunt,” is by Karla Ortiz. Maggie Slater interviews Lucy Snyder about “Antumbra” and her work in general. Windy Bowlsby provides us with the month’s podcast, Rich Larson’s “Maria and the Pilgrim.”
This month in Apex, the world ends. It isn’t the first time. Current historical estimates believe that a third of the population of Europe died as a result of the Black Death. European civilization fundamentally changed as a result, change as disturbing to the people who lived through it as the changes in the stories herein.
The world is always ending. This time won’t be the last.