The Post-Modern Post-Apocalypse

edited March 2010 in Story Games
'Ah, but Mike,' I hear you cry, 'the post-apocalyptic world genre is already post-modern by its very definition, surely you've not come here to merely spout tautologies?'

No, no, dear reader, comes my avuncular response, you are quite right in suggesting that the genre is post-modern....if , and this is a big if with bells on it, if your conception of Mordernism is comprised entirely turn-of-the-century-Paris complete with Manet's Olympia and Baudelaire slipping his halo on the way to the whorehouse; or, alternatively, a mishmash pop-culture Jackson Pollock, Reagan-era, T.V-Dinner-special where the Godfather is the Last Great Movie and Good Morning Vietnam is the heigth of satire.

Either way, you've got to let the past go. Modernity is the now, or, at least, the perceived conventions of the now and post-modernity is transgressing those conventions in a fashion that still participates to some degree the original qualities possessed by the convention transgressed. Now, holding these truths to be self-evident*, I suggest that the Post-Apocalypse is a vicious and pervasive Modernism, well due for a shift into the the 'Post-'. Had The Road or Fallout 3 been a contemporary of Mad Max, perhaps then it could be justifiable - but no! The genre needs a working over if it's not to be a tired collection of dusty landscapes and hobo-esque fashion design.

The question I put you you is how to go about this. I challenge the community to deliver a Post-Modern Post-Apocalypse.

Cheers,
Mike out.




*As all good truths should be. Holding a truth to be self-evident, by the way, seems like an awful long manner of saying 'in my opinion.'

Comments

  • edited March 2010
    There needs to be uncertainty over whether there really even has been a world-ending event, or at least what is the nature of the change.

    In the usual apocalypse, mounted travelers are important, whether we're talking Four Horsemen, wanderers on motorcycles, aliens in spaceships, or humans in rocketships. The travelers are especially significant if they act as messengers (angels, postmen, book rescuers, etc.). A postmodern post-apocalypse should disturb the message and the relationship between traveler and mount.

    Don't have any concrete ideas at the moment, though.
  • edited March 2010
    In Rome during the reign of Titus you get Pompei, fire in Rome, and Nero imposters! Might make a good basis for a Classical post-apocalypse. WW2 bombing of Rome seeps through. Young stoics try to save the works of Seneca.
  • edited March 2010
    FreeMarket, or
    Diaspora, or
    Eclipse Phase
  • Posted By: NoahTheDukeFreeMarket, or
    Diaspora, or
    Eclipse Phase
    Referencing the nadir of earth-borne civilization does not a post-apocalyptic game make.
  • Posted By: BurrThere needs to be uncertainty over whether there really even has been a world-ending event, or at least what is the nature of the change.
    I'm thinking climate change along with the after-effects of geoengineering. The rust-red oceans have drifting clouds of phytoplankton, the sun is dimmed by sulfur dioxide pumped into the atmosphere, escaping clouds of sequestrated CO2 kill populations. Offshore we see the rusted remain of the ancient coastal cities.

    Never a catastrophic event; just a slow and inexorable change that leaves the world as we know it gone.
  • So the post-apoc is like the eschatology of modernism, right? So, the post-post-apoc is the eschatology of pomo, then. Well, pomo is against metanarratives so this undermines the notion of eschatology aka final things. We take a Baudrillardian turn and say "This is the Apocalypse right now." Or, maybe: "History ended with the first nuclear blast." Then today, 2010 buttfuck USA is already the post-apoc. Like seventy years on. How does the rapture look now?
  • edited March 2010
    I like Nathan's take on things, but you could even take the idea of the Apocalypse as a kind of revision of history even further. We don't just realize that the apocalypse has already passed -- we insert the apocalypse into the past, and revise our understanding of history accordingly. The post-apocalypse is just a way of seeing things based on the premise that there has been an apocalypse of some kind. This has the added irony/relevance of mirroring the reaction to post-modernism itself in conservative academic circles -- if you somehow stop people from thinking That Way, the apocalypse will be averted through willful ignorance of it having happened.

    Other options for the Pomo Post-Apocalypse could include attacking or undermining the genre itself, or its assumptions. Maybe there was an apocalypse and civilization improved: everyone gets along much better and violence is nearly obsolete. Maybe there was an apocalypse and nothing important was lost -- and instead something important was discovered. (This is kind of the inverse of above: we claim that apocalypses are entirely superficial, consisting entirely of obvious physical disasters, rather than so subtle that we didn't even notice them.) Or you could challenge the claim of underlying human continuity present in most apocalypses -- maybe after the apocalypse everything is unrecognizeable, and no longer any sort of commentary on humanity at all.
  • I like that! The post-modern post-apocalyptic: You're living through it right now. It's Mad Max as told by Zach Braff.
  • Posted By: Nathan WilsonHow does the rapture look now?
    There's a rumor in an Unknown Armies book that the Rapture happened a long time ago. Maybe decades ago, maybe centuries ago like Jesus said it would. But no one noticed. I mean, if thirty-three nice people scattered across the entire globe disappeared in a single day, that's just a statistical blip. Everyone else wasn't good enough to ascend into Heaven, and so the world didn't notice. And went on with their lives.
  • Would that movie "The Mist" be pomo post-apocalpyse? I don't want to spoil the end, but there isn't any travelling, evil has entered the land, and they're just regular people having theological and philosophical debates (I guess this is kinda zombie-movie ish, though). What about The Stand?

    Stephen King has all kinds of Pomo genre references, I guess he was the first one I thought of.
  • edited March 2010
    Daniel:

    I'm reminded of Anathem, by Neal Stephenson. The book takes place some 3500 years after the "apocalypse". The three Harbingers (Worldwide riots, world war, and mass genocide) led to the Terrible Events (probably nuclear war). Following the Terrible Events, all of the scientists and philosophers and samelike thinkers excommunicated themselves from society into cloisters, which they denoted as Year 0 of the Reconstitution. So society was able to "survive," but the amount of change that happened as a result of the apocalypse shifted the whole world into a totally different direction. Not too exciting as a setting for a game, but totally interesting to think about.

    Mike:

    Truth. I was thinking, "If the post-apocalypse is covered in grime and sweat and grease and no food or water and so much violence and everything has gone to shit, what's a different take on the idea of "Well shit, what do we do now?"" But after writing FreeMarket, I remembered that Diaspora is kind of post-apocalypse-ish, though like Firefly, the apocalypse isn't explained or detailed. Then I remembered Eclipse Phase, and how it /is/ a post-apocalypse setting, with a lot of the transhuman stuff from FreeMarket. *ramblerambleramble*

    Noah
  • Would the setting for Shades of Grey fit the bill here? Technically it's post-post-apocalyptic, since the Something That Happened was many years ago and society has rebuilt.
  • So Post Modern Post Apocolypse is

    The Dark Tower

    I'mokaywiththis.jpg
  • Civilization, rather than destroyed, is dissipated. Technology becomes so personal and durable that survival and a basic level of material well-being no longer depend on working together. Your watergen, foodgen, and sheltergen allow a comfortable nomadic lifestyle in even the remotest desert, jungle, or sea. Your activmap displays local activity, both physical and biochemical; it also plots the safest routes for approach and escape.

    You and the other PCs are recommended holopals. You can tune each other in or out. You probably don't know anything about their real situation or location except for what they tell you, and vice versa. But it doesn't really matter where they are or what they are doing. As far as you are concerned, they are with you. What they tell you is meaningful only in how it encourages you to interpret your own situation.
  • How about instead of an environmental or technological disaster it’s more of a psychological disaster through technology.
    Maybe this has already been done Firefly comes to mind.

    A game idea I ran once was based on an unknown event, which the characters found themselves to be disembodied but able to function through robots, on a harsh landscape.
    As the story developed they found information about the event and the true nature of their being.
    Their bodies did exist but in vast body banks located on mars.
    Earth had become over populated and Mars had become an option for terra forming.
    But what exactly went wrong?
  • Like Nathan said above, in postmodernism, history is already over. There are no more events as such, no big eschatological events, no apocalypse. The post-modernity is the post-apocalypse, as post-revelation, everything is laid out, the plan is finished. It's like, a country can declare extreme circumstances, but we go on living like nothing has happened, the flu pandemic hits, and it's over before it starts, the biggest economical crisis since the 20's hits, but we still go to the movies (and Avatar makes a zillion bucks), even global warming is a fluke.
    I think the closest to a post-modern postapocalypse is something like Fight Club, maybe. The wasteland is the civilisation, the nukes are the ads, the mutants are consumers.
    "We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives."
  • Fight Club is one, yeah. Also No Country for Old Men. A world comes to a violent end, with nothing on the horizon but savagery rewarded.
  • That's probably a far better example than mine, John.
  • Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is a real postmodern post-apocalypse. A world without ambition, conflict or drama. It is postmodern in a way the traditional moralist tales of Fight Club and No Country cannot approach. Abandon the desperation and the disease that still evokes memories of modernist post-apocalypse. The death of the world is a long peace at last.

  • This might be helpful
  • PoMo often contains a large dose of irony so with PoMo Apocalypse it could happen by some bizarre series of coincidences, or be the direct result of the installation of some safety system (tsunami warning system sets of underwater landslides for example), or perhaps it happens in a way that was thought impossible (homeopathy), or even divine intervention: Jesus comes back but can only get on PBS so only those who saw the broadcast at 3pm one Sunday are saved.
  • Postapocalyptic fiction is, pretty much, defined by bleakness and lawlessness.

    To do a postmodern postapocalypse, I'd consciously flip all that. I'd keep the imagery (blasted landscape, armoured transport), but make it hopeful and lawful. People have gone back to the land. The world is a natural paradise, with ivy and flowers growing over the cities. Because there are fewer people, there are enough resources for everyone, if you live simply. Everyone is relieved the old world ended, because it showed them what living is really about.

    Graham
  • Post-modernism is a critical engagement with the modernist project and not a mere reversal or ironic pastiche. It's a loss of faith in metanarratives; that is, fundamental or essentialist assumptions about reality. Rather, the stories we tell about reality.

    What post-modern reveals is that the lawful state is always already 'bleak and lawless.' Nothing need be added.
  • I love it when people define postmodernism!

    Graham
  • "Post-apocalytic fiction" is a Dadaist embodiment of the fear of the end of the modern, and unconsiously, the modern itself. If one examines the textual paradigm of the post-apocalyptic, one is faced with a choice: either reject Lacanist obscurity or conclude that the modernist is capable of intention, but only if neocultural deconstructivist theory is invalid; otherwise, we can assume that reality is used to entrench class divisions. Marx promotes the use of Lacanist obscurity to attack hierarchy. Therefore, the subject is contextualised into a postcultural socialism that includes language as a reality.

    So, I'd start there.
  • The postmodern post-apocalypse is basically Man in a High Castle, where at the end of the action there is the realization, inside the frame of the apocalyptic narrative, that the apocalypse never happened, that it's a mad fantasy devised to escape from the world in which we live.

    It needs to end in that moment, too, frozen at the point where the 'real world' is only experienced as the immanent annihilation of the post-apocalyptic fantasy.

    Clearly, this needs to be designed as a game run by a watchful Lacanian psychoanalyst (or maybe just Slavoj Zizek) who, at the precise moment, ends the game just as the players realize the fantasy in which they are engaged is deeply embedded in their effort to seal themselves off from the Real but are simultaneously aware of their inability to approach the Real except through their fantasy of it.

    Cue faux enlightenment.
  • edited March 2010
    Posted By: TulpaYokohamaKaidashiKikouis a real postmodern post-apocalypse. A world without ambition, conflict or drama. It is postmodern in a way the traditional moralist tales of Fight Club and No Country cannot approach. Abandon the desperation and the disease that still evokes memories of modernist post-apocalypse. The death of the world is a long peace at last.
    Ah yeah, that's a good example of what I would also call PM post-apoc.

    If you happen to have a Wii or have access to borrow one for a bit, check out the new RPG "Fragile", aka "Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon". It's basically Dead Inside (the RPG), in a post-apoc setting. Your character comes across artifacts in his travels, like a coloring book or a mug or a dog collar: When you find them, you hear a little bit of prose/story about what the owner of the item was thinking when the end of the world came. Basically every item has a story, and that story is born from a people who knew the end of the world was coming, and how they dealt with it. It's basically Loneliness and Sorrow, The Role-Playing Game (another way I describe it is "Fallout 3, the Heart-Warming Anime"), with a nifty inventory management system.

    -Andy
  • Posted By: NoahTheDukeBut after writing FreeMarket, I remembered that Diaspora is kind of post-apocalypse-ish, though like Firefly, the apocalypse isn't explained or detailed.
    You wrote it? I'm guessing Luke and I owe you some royalties.

    - J
  • a watchful Lacanian psychoanalyst (or maybe just Slavoj Zizek)

    I don't mean to be insulting or anything but why is Slavoj Zizek and a resurgence in Freudian/Lacanian pseudoscience the two big art hipster things in the last year or two?

    Nathan,
    Apologies for pedantry but

    What post-modern reveals is that the lawful state is always already 'bleak and lawless.'

    Is decidedly a modernist way of looking at postmodernism; trying to glean some sort of meaning from the rejection of metanarrative. It's almost like you applied Derridean deconstruction to postmodern thought and came back to modernism. You also for some reason reject pastiche though it has been a part of postmodernism since the Waste Land. Hey! Here's the first post modern post apocalypse!

    Is the Post Apocalypse inherently Postmodern? I'm not pretentious enough to pretend Postmodernism has mattered in the last 40 years and try to answer that question.

    Andy,
    I wish I had a Wii, that game looks really interesting. I love lonely video games.

  • Posted By: TulpaI don't mean to be insulting or anything but why is Slavoj Zizek and a resurgence in Freudian/Lacanian pseudoscience the two big art hipster things in the last year or two?
    I suppose this has something to do with it: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0828154/
    And Žižek has been a sort of a philosophy superstar for a while now (also, he's my countryman), especially since the economic crisis he has resurfaced as an authority on communism and Marxism. And Žižek is big on popculture, movies and especially Freud and Lacan, so all that makes for a hip cocktail.
  • Posted By: AndyPosted By: TulpaYokohamaKaidashiKikouis a real postmodern post-apocalypse. A world without ambition, conflict or drama. It is postmodern in a way the traditional moralist tales of Fight Club and No Country cannot approach. Abandon the desperation and the disease that still evokes memories of modernist post-apocalypse. The death of the world is a long peace at last.
    Ah yeah, that's a good example of what I would also call PM post-apoc.
    One more vote for this. The world of humans is ending, and the POV character is an immortal android who runs a coffee shop. It hits pretty much every note mentioned in this thread. It's situated in history. It assumes a deterministic course of history that everyone accepts. It is orderly and understated. It's basically perfect.
  • Posted By: TulpaI don't mean to be insulting or anything but why is Slavoj Zizek and a resurgence in Freudian/Lacanian pseudoscience the two big art hipster things in the last year or two?
    You're asking the wrong guy--excepting some pieces he's written for the London Review of Books, I haven't read anything by Zizek in over 8 years. Nor am I a hipster. Though it's always good to know I can turn a few tricks at a cocktail party with some Zizek.

    Speaking of Zizek and the apocalypse: something like It's a Wonderful Life gussied up a bit, without the tidy denouement would be a pretty good postmodern post apocalypse. It would have to be cut pretty well, with a fair amount of back and forth between the happy life without the apocalypse and the parallel life in the post apocalypse. Kind of a Sliding Doors affair, but perhaps with more tightly synchronized stories so that the brightness of the wonderful life would cast a pall of cheer over the post apocalypse and the awfulness of the post apocalypse darkened the wonderful life.

    Something like: scene where things go awkwardly between two characters in wonderful life, scene where in parallel situation the awkwardness turns to something nasty and brutish. Scene where there is a huge, nasty, brutish blowout between two characters in wonderful life, scene where those characters overcome their personal differences to struggle together against the daily hardships of the post apocalypse.

    Bring the two worlds as closely together as possible, suggesting that the difference between them is not great.
  • As much as I like Zizek, it's kind of this thing I have with an anthropology friend of mine where we try to cite him as much as possible; the less academic the setting, the better.

    But yeah, I was throwing around a lot of PoMo. Mostly, Derrida and Lyotard.

    Oh, and Graham, it's has a number of definitions so mostly I work with negative category created from their common shadow - to be clear it's neither a naive relativism nor 'whatever the fuck I want it to be.'
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