A quote widely misattributed to Fredric Jameson goes something along the lines of: “in these postmodern times, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism” with the upsurge in the number of post-apocalyptic scenarios portrayed in films and books being a stark metaphor for the global failure of emancipatory politics.
I had thought that this communal death wish had peaked sometime in the early Noughties with the cinemas stuffed to bursting with the likes of I am Legend, 2012, The Day after Tomorrow and umpteen zombie invasion scenarios.
Well, it seems things have not quite peaked yet.
I’ve noticed quite a few bus shelter adverts recently for Horizon Zero Dawn, a new role-playing video game for the Sony PS4. HZD is set in a post-apocalyptic earth where nature has taken control of the cityscapes after the urban collapse. As I grew up in the age of ZX81s and Atari Pong I’ll not presume to know any more about it than that.
I had passed by the poster several times before I realised that it in fact shows a ruined O’Connell Street (complete with GPO and Spire) overrun with rampant tropical vegetation: presumably the result of the out-of-control climate change which triggered the collapse of civilisation. The scenario reminds me somewhat of Hothouse by Brian Aldiss (one of my favourite SF novels) although the idea that the godawful Spire will outlast civilisation pains me deeply.
In my younger days, the anxiety of nuclear holocaust was the principal driver of post-apocalyptic visions and I still have harrowing memories of being shown the BBC drama Threads in RE class at school. Indeed, who can forget Charlton Heston screaming at the ruined Statue of Liberty in the original Planet of the Apes:”You maniacs, you really did it!”
The question of whether Dublin was ever on a Russian nuclear hit list is something I’ll address in another blog entry, but the idea of Dublin being the epicentre of some earth-shattering apocalypse has never seemed to catch the Irish imagination not even at the height of cold-war paranoia or the ongoing threat from Sellafield. Surprising really, given the historical memory that the city centre was devastated twice in quick succession in 1916 and 1922.
The idea of trashing Dublin city centre to promote a video game is nothing new. In 2011, Come Here To Me highlighted another poster (of much less artistic merit) for the game Infamous 2 – which in small print at the top says ‘is not set in Dublin‘! A poor excuse really, for zapping Jim Larkin off his pedestal.
Kevin Barry’s recent novel ‘City of Bohane‘ is set in a post-collapse Irish city which is a recognisable amalgam of Cork/Limerick, but I’m not sure if Dublin has ever received the same literary treatment. A quick Google of ‘Post-apocalyptic Dublin’ did however turn up the evocative work of Owen Forsyth, a digital artist who is publishing an ongoing series of ‘after-the-Apocalypse’ images of famous Dublin City landmarks.