Inconvenient Times

seattle-sunset-instagram-chalo16          I seem to get derailed from my original goal (completing these effing Subcategories before I do anything else!) a lot by current events these days, because I guess truth is stranger (and more frightening) than fiction, lately. Postapocalyptic fiction is seeming less and less cathartic and more and more an instruction manual.

Trump-Un

  • There is a LOT of yelling back and forth between Lord Dampnut and Kim Jong Un about flexing their giant, nuclear penises at each other. I am hoping it is just a lot of flexing. But it could also result in an actual, small-scale nuclear conflict. Which is not only bad for anyone who is in the strike/fallout zone, but also bad for

 

  • Climate change, which is happening. Like, NOW. I saw Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Sequel last week. Went to the movie theatre mid-afternoon to escape the blistAl Goreering heat and smoke…Seattle, last week, which normally has some of the best air quality in the country for a big city, had unhealthy air and was compared with Beijing, due to wildfires in British Columbia and eastern Washington, and the heat wave was making it worse. Al listed fires as a direct result of global warming. We had some epic, red, nuclear-looking sunsets, though (see above). Hope it’s not a preview of things to come. What does seem to be coming, though, is

 

  • Social Apocalypse & Dystopia. Most notably, in Charlottesville, VA, but also in Seattle, on Sunday. WHAT??? In SEATTLE? But I thought Seattle was…yeah. I am proud of Seattle for lots of things, but we still have lots of work to do. If I was not subverting through art all weekend, I’d have been marching with the counter protesters. Nazis,marching freely in the streets, with full cop protCharlottesville.Nazisection. Wow, must be nice to be white dudes, eh? Also, white dudes should probably start to realize despite the fact they are in power, they are also in the numeric minority, so they might want to start taking that into account. Yes, I know, #NOTALLWHITEDUDES. Because, most of the white dudes I know are pretty awesome and empathic and actually give a crap about the planet and other people not like them, but I am seeing many on television and social media right now who do NOT. For them, I say: Look out. There are more of us than there are of you.

So, these things have been on my mind a LOT during the past week. I’ve discovered where my closest fallout shelter is, and many useful tips on what to do if you are in the fallout zone, both of which I will likely post very soon as a PSA…I mean, they’re talking Guam, but I feel a little uneasy being in a big city on the west coast of the U.S.

I also learned about “rain bombs”, or the more scientific term, microburst – global warming causes water vapor from the ocean to evaporate into the atmosphere, the water pressure builds and builds as the clouds are travelling, and it dumps a giant water bomb onto land, looking just like an inverted mushroom cloud. See one here.

And I’ve seen a LOT of ugly uncles on other people’s Facebook feeds justifying the marching Nazis and their hate. I mean: I’m a Jewish Latina, (so, basically, I’m a non-person and walls should keep me out of the US) and more importantly, an artist, and I have friends of every color, creed, gender ID & sexual orientation, we are all in their crosshairs. Democracy and freedom are in their crosshairs. Because they believe that “Some animals are more equal than others.”

I’m also optimistic that this is the burning fever before the cooling; the raging fire before the lull. This is the last gasp of the patriarchy hanging on for dear life, and good GOD they are tenacious f*ckers! But their ignorance and hatred can be defeated. The dinosaurs will die out.

I just hope we have a world left when they finally do.

End of World Subcategories: Campocalypse Now! (The Wacky Apocalypse)

Grumpy cat     Armageddon isn’t supposed to be funny…or is it? The fact that there are enough films, tv and literature to create an actual funny end-of-days category says otherwise. I mean – the end of the world is a pretty big, scary topic, and we, as humans, actively seek catharsis, so it makes pretty good sense this would be a bonafide class of its own.

My earliest example of this was Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which basically begins with the end of the world…and starts out swinging: the Dolphins leave Earth, thanking us for the fish, because they are supreme beings who know the planet is about to be blown up because it’s in the way. And wacky hijinx ensue. Also in the 80’s, we were treated to Night of the Comet, teenagers survive the tail of the comet only to have to deal with all the humans who were turned into zombies because they were outside when the comet hit. There is, of course, a mandatory scene where the teenagers go to the deserted mall and play dress up.

More recently, we’ve gotten the Simon Pegg gems Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End, (and oh my god, I would LOVELOVELOVE to see Simon tackle a mash-up dystopia of Hunger Games, Handmaid’s Tale and Divergent) parodying self-absorbed UK hipsters during a zombie apocalypse and alien invasion respectively (and hilariously) and a rash of really recent television series, such as The Last Man on Earth, No Tomorrow and You, Me and the Apocalypse.

I have to confess: though I think most of these are funny and clever, with the exception of You, Me and the Apocalypse (and maybe because, in addition to its being comedic, it was also EXTREMELY DARK), I haven’t tended to enjoy them as much alpacalypseas their more serious older sisters. What can I say? I’m attracted to dark. I’m attracted to bleak. Mostly because it makes our current life seem less so. But considering the way things are headed in contemporary society, that may just be a matter of time, (nuclear war with North Korea? Coming soon to a west coast near you! Anthrax outbreak via ISIS? Coming soon to New York City! Oh, and let’s not forget the ever-present specter of climate change, likely coming soon, period!) and another thing I enjoy about the more serious shows is they are partly instructional. And of course, there’s the gallows-humor aspect, and always another opportunity to examine ourselves as human beings, and see those things that make humanity great…and not so great. What do you think?
Books: The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaday, Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
Movies: Zombieland, This is the End, Dr. Strangelove, Wall-E, Idiocracy
TV: Aftermath, iZombie, Z Nation, The Tribe

End of World Subcategories: The Alien Invasion

Aaaaand we’re back (FINALLY)  headed for alien territory! Since I was 8 years old, I’ve looked to the sta38f9010fcda150f35cbdecf69b32c73e--chrysler-building-flying-saucerrs, hoping the extraterrestrials would come and take me away. But those early spacefolk I was exposed to were pretty benign – we’re talking Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind, E.T. and Cocoon – and of course our friends from Mork & Mindy and 3rd Rock from the SunI always loved the idea of the friendly alien who was here to teach us stuff. But this is not what I’m discussing today.

Today, it’s all about the evil aliens that just want to KILL US ALL! Get rid of the human race. Either use up all our resources and move on, or take our planet for themselves as part of our empire and enslave us/get rid of us/harvest us for food. Independence Day, for example, didn’t even want to have anything to do with us – they didn’t bother trying to enslave humanity or harvest us – they just wanted us GONE and exterminated. In Colony, we still haven’t met the actual aliens yet (after 2 seasons), but we know they’re out there and they’re actively using us against each other, thus creating a dystopia amongst humans…because, as in Animal Farm, “some animals are more equal than others”.

The particularly chilling thing about this is that I always assumed humanity would band together to find AGAINST the aliens, but in Colony, the as yet unseen aliens are using us against each other, leveraging creature comforts, hierarchy, etc. And some humans are eating it up and falling right in line. Well, Americans anyway, which shouldn’t be surprising, since all we seem to pace value on anymore is the almighty dollar. So, Colony’s take, while unnerving and disappointing (in the human race – not the series, at least so far), seems pretty realistic. Though of course, there’s also a resistance. V (from the 80’s) was similar.

Defiance did an altogether different thing which was quite interesting: different alien races from a faraway star system were hovering over the earth, seeking refuge. Humans saw the ships, decided the aliens were all evil and shot at the ships. The ships crashed to earth…but unfortunately, they all had different terraforming materials aboard corresponding to their specific planets, which, after falling to earth, completely transformed our planet into something we didn’t recognize. All the surviving aliens had nowhere else to go, so they had to stay, so the remaining survivors of ALL the races were now here in this transformed Earth that kind of belonged to no one and belonged to all, and humans were actually directly responsible for the transformation by shooting at the alien ships. And now on Earth, all the alien races plus humans had to figure out how to get along…no easy task!

What’s interesting about most of these different tales is that usually, there is one, or a faction of “friendly” aliens who actually don’t want to destroy humanity, and who are often great allies in the resistance, though the ally-ship is often fraught with cultural (speciesist?) misunder-standings & miscommunications. My favorite example of this is in Falling Skies, also with several warring species of aliens – there was one ally, Cochise, who was extremely sympathetic to humans and actively tried to persuade his own people to work with them, even confronting is higher-up father about it. He was my alien hero.

But there’s plenty more where that came from! Which books/media regarding alien apocalypse have I left out that should be here?

alien-invasion

Books: Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke,  Tripods Trilogy by John Christopher, The Settlers by Jason Gurley, Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

Movies: Independence Day, War of the Worlds, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Oblivion,

TV Series: V, Falling Skies, Colony, Defiance

 

TRAILERS! WALKERS! A Giant Tiger!

the-walking-dead-season-8-release-date

Okay, so, full disclosure for my 3 followers, this has been an INSANE week (in a good way – SO many creative projects to tend to, and even a job interview to prepare for next week with the word “artist” in its title!!!), and I don’t feel I can give a full, thoughtful post on the current End of World Subcategory I’m tackling (ALIEN INVASION!!! Stay tuned…), but didn’t want to blemish my track record of posting at least once a week by taking a complete break.

And I just watched the recent trailers (unveiled just today at San Diego Comic Con!) for The Walking Dead and its little sister, Fear the Walking Dead:

Fear The Walking Dead 3rd mid-season premiereTrailer

The Walking Dead Season 8  premiere Trailer

Suffice it to say, I’m brimming with geeky excitement and anticipation for all the upcoming post apocalyptic carnage and badassery to come. I will try to keep my commentary brief, but:

FEAR TWD:

1.) Not sure if it’s because it’s original (not based on previous source material, other than its sister show), but I love that there aren’t any comic book spoilers ever.

2.) Also because it’s original and perhaps partly due to current times, FEAR is tackling social politics waaaaay more than TWD, and it’s spot on, timely and pretty savvy. I really appreciate how sometimes, instead of going in the predictable direction we are used to from TWD, Fear does a complete 180.

3.) The snippet where Madison comes face-to-face with Daniel in the storm drain! Can’t wait for that reunion.

4.) It’s looking like, instead of a Governor/Prison scenario, the native people and survivalist compound folks will form some kind of union (that will likely be tenuous, given that Troy is a sociopath, for one) and help each other, at least for awhile.

TWD:

1.) Looks like some great heroic speeches by Rick and Maggie…I kinda want Ezekiel to RECITE Henry V’s St. Crispin’s Day speech in its entirety at some point, because he is amazing, and it would be awesome, and it would totally work, since the character was a stage actor before the zombie apocalypse!

2.) BIG badassery from all our favorite folks. Daryl returning to being badass and blowing shit up instead of weepy, emo Daryl (pleasegodplease) sorry – I am a perv for Mr. Dixon.

3.) Was looking for the beach ladies, but didn’t spy them. I have to think they’ll show up again sooner or later, because why else would they have spent two episodes on them?

4.) Jesus and Morgan getting into it? WTF? Morgan saying “I don’t die”, means he’ll probably die.

5.) And…are they trying to psych us out with that ending? Is Rick going to wake up from his coma and discover it was ALL A DREAM??? That is awesome and sucks, all at the same time.

There you have it. Some impressions. This nerd girl can’t wait for September 10 and October 22 respectively!Fear The Walking Dead Season 3B, Photo credit: Courtesy AMC

Original Post Apocalyptic Play: feed/back opens tonight!

feedback banner 2Hijacking my own blog once again and interrupting the End of World Subcategories, since my very own postapocalyptic play opens tonight on the 12th Avenue Arts stage on Capitol Hill in Seattle!

Two months ago, 6 theatre artists met for the first time at ACT theatre to start devising a new work for MAP theatre’s first-ever off-night (MAP’s Night Off) production. It was an experiment: come up with two 45-minute pieces based on the set rendering for MAP’s mainstage production Greensward, which would be playing concurrently on more traditional show nights.

Armed with nothing but that and our own thoughts and interests, we set to work. One thing we kept going back to was how we all felt we’d gone through some kind of twisted wormhole to an alternate universe after the election events of 2016. That, and this patch of grass Untitled ended up being the spine of what was to follow.

Rather than two pieces, we ended up envisioning the future as it took place in two parallel universes: one that is our current timeline, with our current U.S. president, and one where the election went in the other direction.

A thing we realized pretty quickly was that, going forward, neither of these worlds is idyllic. If you take November 8 of last year as the jumping off point where the two worlds split, there was still bad stuff happening, particularly where climate change is concerned. In predicting a future where the Democratic nominee won, yes, we decided things probably wouldn’t have gotten as bad as quickly as they do in the other future (like, probably the U.S. wouldn’t have pulled out of the Paris climate change agreement, for one). But realistically? On Nov. 8 we were already past the tipping point where global warming is concerned. We are. Now. Past the tipping point. But more on that later.

In the world where victory went to the Democrats, things were already bad, with regard to the environment, but instead of vilifying or denying scientific claims, we embraced them and actively tried to prevent…but things were (are) already too far past the point of no return to be anything but temporary Band-Aid fixes. The population continued to grow, putting even more strain on already limited resources. New scientific discoveries were being made to cope with these limited resources (my character, in fact, created a cheap and easy way to desalinate water – GO ME!) but it was all far too little too late. So, it’s not like everything was all hunky-dory.

The other world is the future of OUR timeline, where victory went to the Republicans. Things in this world went downhill much faster. Low-scale nuclear war with North Korea, paired with already-bad things getting worse: denial of climate change dumped more carbons/toxins into the air, permafrost melt spewed more noxious gasses (and also microbes that had lain dormant for thousands of years) into the air, warming the earth further, things went from bad to worse. The population was reduced drastically in this world, and as society collapsed and people were more isolated from each other and began living in smaller, tribal communities, dormant psychic abilities began to flourish, and at the time our play takes place, most surviving human beings are telepathic and have the power to control one element or another.

In both worlds, we wrote in an eruption of the supervolcano under Yellowstone that occurs in roughly 2060. So, in both timelines, things were not going too well…until this grass emerged (perhaps lying dormant under the permafrost for thousands of years?) that could metabolize ash and restore soil back to its original state, ready to seed and harvest in a few weeks. For a few decades, famine declines and crops flourish again in both worlds.

Which brings us to somewhere around the year 2135, where the play takes place in both worlds. The grass has been dying for a decade or so and our characters, prominent scientists in one world and powerful magicians in the other, have been tasked with making sure the grass doesn’t die. The play begins when our heroes are at the last patches of grass: a temple in one world, a research station in the other.

It was interesting to write something that had roots in actual science, but we did! Even more interesting to write about a possible future of our own world…we’d discuss all these horrible scenarios with excitement and gusto, and it was really sobering once we realized we were actually talking about the potential future of our own world. I was formatting the script one day, and a little girl came on some talk show and sang Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” and I burst into tears mid-edit.

Yesterday, I read this in its entirety before our dress rehearsal, which was quite depressing…and then to read some of the comments below, lots of mansplaining about how people are just being extremists and it’s not really that bad. I think to myself, “Well, if it’s not really that bad, if we just ACT as though it’s that bad, and have some kind of plan in place and start really working on fixing it in earnest, it can’t possibly hurt. But if we do nothing and it actually IS that bad, I guess the joke’s on us.” It seems as though, well, the joke IS on us. I don’t have much hope of us fixing things, and am glad I’m not leaving any kids behind to have to suffer through it…I’m sure I’ll see enough in my own lifetime as it is.

The actual set for both pieces ended up being quite different from the rendering (above), but also ended up working even better for feed\back, (9 smaller patches of grass instead of one big one!) and it’s actually QUITE stunning (as are WE in our labcoats rehearsing Act I, the “science” part of the script):

feed\back, Act I
feed\back set & rehearsal: (LtoR: Tae Phoenix as Kyt, Carolynne Wilcox as Lo, Aimee Decker as Sybil and Josh Valencia as Flint)

So, you have the backstory. I can’t divulge much of the actual plot until after it’s opened, but if you’re in town, feel free to come check it out – it runs, mostly on off-nights, through the month of July, and there will be talk-backs fol-lowing selected perfor-mances, to solicit thoughts & feedback about feed\back!

Click here for dates and tickets, and please feel free to ask me any questions, I am always happy to answer.

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End of World Subcategories: Ecotastrophe!

underwater

This subcategory is smoking hot right now, and I mean smoking…HOT…pun intended because we are quite literally in the beginnings of it RIGHT NOW, we ARE the frogs hanging out in that boiling point. Call it what you want. Climate change. Global Warming. “Cli-Fi”. I’ve also seen it lumped into the clumsy catchall of “slow apoca-lypse”. And if you google it, you’ll find more references to what’s actually happening in the natural world right now, than you will anything regarding fictional television, film or literature. Because, despite the fact the current administration is denying it, we are already in the primary stages of this right now, and though it may be slow and gradual, less immediately tangible than, say, nuclear annihilation, the threat is highly real and even probable unless we drastically and promptly change our collective behavior.

But, I digress, since I am here mostly to discuss & define the Ecotastrophe as it exists in fiction (at least for the time being…there will be plenty of opportunity to examine the reality of it in the near future). Probably the piece of ecological fiction I’ve been most influenced by in recent years is Earth 2100, a futuretrip mockumentary that aired on the ABC network back during the summer of 2009. I’ve used this fake history as the jumping off point in two plays I’ve written now, as it follows the events in the life of a fictional character, Lucy, who was born in 2009 and lived through to the next century to witness the effects of climate change and the dominoes that ensued to eventually lead to total collapse.

The thing that fascinates (and terrifies) me is that with climate change, you get several directly relevant situations that will result from this. It’s not just, “Oh, wow, summer is really hot now”. It’s the entire globe getting warmer as a whole. It’s the melting of polar ice caps, which in turn causes severe change with regard to weather patterns (Super hurricanes, anyone? Intense drought?), not to mention flooding and rising tidelines. We mention the “Seattle Archipelago” in the play (feed\back) I’ve been working on this summer, as the various hills of this city become a city of islands. And when coastlines get eaten and drought occurs, flooding ensues most beachfront property is destroyed, crops fail. Then: stagnant water often leads to new, bacterial diseases we don’t necessarily have vaccines for. People move inland. Famine and border skirmishes occur. Mass extinctions of several species of insect and animal, severely affecting the food chain. The dominoes fall, one after the other into one giant chain reaction.

polar-bear-global-_3339474bAnd then there are other things we are doing/have done that probably help this along: oil spills, meltdown of nuclear power plants (us older kids probably remember 3 Mile Island and Chernobyl – more recently, Fukushima in the 2011 earthquake/tsunami sucker punch that hit Japan and is even now contaminating the Pacific Ocean), and let’s not forget fracking, which is even NOW beginning to cause small earthquakes in historically non-seismic areas, like Oklahoma.

As fictional “what if” fodder, it’s awesome! …but I think we are getting to a place in reality where that fodder is becoming a highly possible cautionary tale I would love for us to avoid. What are your thoughts? I realize this is potentially a hot-button topic…

Books: The Death of Grass by John Christopher, New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson, Glimmering by Elizabeth Hand

Movies: The Core, The Day After Tomorrow, Interstellar, Earth 2100, Snowpiercer

TV: I can’t remember any series dealing with ecological collapse as the main catalyst for the series…not fictional ones anyway, there are several documentary-type series such as Nat Geo’s Years of Living Dangerously. There have been episodes of Star Trek that have dealt with it, as well as Black Mirror. Fringe’s alternate universe had some shades of it, as did SyFy’s Defiance, 12 Monkeys, and to a greater degree, Incorporated.

Too Close For Comfort: Current Times & The Postapocalypse

FlagI’m gonna take a little respite between End of World Subcatogories (back to that next time!) to ponder something I’ve been stewing on for a bit, particularly since a friend of mine tagged me on this particular tweet:

Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 11.26.13 AM

Whilst it specifically mentions dystopian fiction (the Societal Breakdown!), I would say I’ve had many more Disturbing Thoughts regarding postapocalyptic and disaster fiction as well since the advent of the wormhole this country seemed to collective fall into on November 8th of last year.

Depending on the day, it feels like we will either explode in some kind of nuclear conflict with North Korea, with all the unhinged tweetings of this creature who is supposed to have the best interests of every American in mind (fat chance) (I still can’t put his name after the word “president”), or plunge headlong into something resembling The Handmaid’s Tale at the hands of our current vice president. And then there is the very real and imminent threat posed by climate change/global warming. You don’t have to be a scientist to believe this…we are rapidly approaching the tipping point of no return.

I used to find this sort of fiction cathartic – not sure I can fully describe why, but it has something to do with “Oh, it’s just fiction – as bad as things might be, we’re not THERE yet”…because I don’t think I’ve ever felt this close to THERE as I have over the past few months. And thus, my interest in this type of story has shifted a little…rather than being as completely cathartic as it was before, I look to these movies, television shows and books as a means of instruction, really. What are these people doing in these simulated situations that I could learn from, in the very real possibility of the Sh*t Hitting The Fan for real.

From Walking Dead, I’ve learned not only how to kill a zombie (it’s gotta be the brain!) but which weapon tends to be better in this type of apocalypse. Guns work, of course, but they’re SO loud!Better to use something like a katana, a crossbow or a barbed wire-covered baseball bat: they’re quieter, and get confiscated less. And that the following skills are better than currency: hunting, farming, healing.

From The Stand, I learned to trust my gut – especially when it comes to my dreams. From The Last Ship, I learned that in an outbreak, one should keep one’s distance from others as much as possible.

From most dystopian fiction, I’ve learned that if something is amiss with the way things are being run, don’t ignore it, don’t go with the flow. Resist early, resist often, enlist like-minded people to your cause and fight tooth and nail to keep the freedoms and benefits you have.

From nearly ALL postapocalyptic fiction, I’ve learned one HUGE fundamental thing: other survivors can be your source of greatest strength and your biggest enemies, because the collapse of civilization brings about all sorts of opportunists who size you up according to what they can take from you. Darwinism at its most base, I suppose.

Oh. And if I start talking about what I’ve learned from speculative, climate-change scenarios, I’m going to start crying.

Would love to hear why this type of fiction appeals to you, and what, if anything, you’ve learned from your experiences of it!