Imagine if you turned 0n the news on December 21 and all that end-of-the-world stuff was actually happening? What do you expect to see? Hellfire and brimstone? Earthquakes galore? Tidal waves as high as Mt. McKinley? Well, at least those are cool ways to go. Few things would be more disappointing than humanity having mere minutes left before a collective trip into The Great Unknown, and that the cause was something eyeball-rollingly stupid.
Fiction writers, mainly novelists, have come up with numerous goofy ways for the world to die over the years. If any of these scenarios actually happened, our species would be begging for a do-over.
The Greatwinter Trilogy
Drowning is an awful way to die; it’s even worse when you drown yourself due to some damn animal telling you to. In Greatwinter, humans recreate an ancient whale species, because regular whales were just so boring to look at. This particular whale turns out to be telepathic, and convinces the other whales to quit putting up with humanity’s crap.
So how do they enact their revenge? By calling humanity into the ocean. Yes, like lemmings, billions of humans just start walking into the water, and drown.
Now, we’ve all walked into the water. Have you ever gotten to the point where the water is deeper than you are tall, and try to just keep walking? Eventually, you will start to float. We’re not walking flesh anchors, bound to the ocean floor no matter how deep it may get. Now, if the whales had told us to stick a ball-and-chain on your ankles and then drag ourselves into the ocean, our near-extinction would make sense. Still stupid, but at least sensible.
And it’s not just us. These damn whales want all mammals dead, or at least the large ones. So yes, elephants and lions drown alongside humans, because whales are Highlanders and want to be the Only One out there. Ever try to get an elephant to stick a ball and chain on itself? They’re surprisingly crappy at it.
If ever there was a universe where you want to be a disgusting, sewer-dwelling, disease-riddled rat, the Greatwinter universe would have to be it. The Whale Overlords don’t give a crap about you, you’re free to eat all the garbage you desire, and you don’t have to put up with humans’ annoying obsession with killing you.
The Conqueror Worms
As you might have guessed, this tale involves humanity gets its collective asses kicked by worms. Huge worms. With big ‘ol teeth! It’s like the author went to his nine-year-old son and asked him to name a disgusting way to die. And, being a typical boy, he started gushing about how awesome it would be if there were these slimy, stinky, WORMS, man. And they were, like, 75, no A HUNDRED FEET TALL, whoa! And he just learned in school that worms actually eat meat, so these worms would definitely eat us alive. That would be so cool!
What’s even better is, they gave these worms an accurate origin story! Or tried to, anyways. Basically, a gigantic flood had destroyed much of the world. If the author had left it at that, we wouldn’t spend time picking on him. But, just to be a jerk, he decided that giant worms should rise from the soil after a giant flood. After all, little worms come out of regular rainstorms, right? It’s science!
Who told this guy he was allowed to use science?
A title like “The Snow” tells you exactly what you’re getting. The world is ending because it’s snowing hard. Not normal hard, like the kind that shows up overnight without warning and makes you late for work because you hit the snooze button ten times and now have to shovel 300 pounds of slushy crap off your car. Should’ve stopped at nine, you sloth.
No, this snow is three miles deep, and worldwide. Blisteringly hot, stupidly cold, doesn’t matter. They all get buried equally, and pretty much everyone dies equally. And yes, if this actually happened for real, much of the snow would melt away immediately. Even if the snow turned to ice in the cold, Northern parts of the world, it still wouldn’t make the rest of the world cold enough to retain any snow, much less three miles of the stuff.
But, as it turns out, this is not ordinary snow. It’s ALIEN SNOW. Yes, aliens. The author couldn’t think of a better explanation, so he went the little-green-men route. The only way he could have been lazier was if he had created an eeeeevil magician who cast an eeeeevil curse to make it snow endlessly.
The aliens are never really given a motive for burying us in snow, other than they can and that they’re really good at travelling through the stuff. Probably they want to take over the world, because everyone wants to do that. Yes, almost 30 years before this book, Tears For Fears offered a more complete motive for apocalyptic destruction than the damned author did.
Another obvious title. This is why we couldn’t be bothered to include teasers for each entry. We’d write, “In 1973, horror guru Stephen King wrote about a really dumb way for the world to end. It was just the stupidest method imaginable. You would NOT BELIEVE the utter dumb-ness of Mr. King’s idea.” And you’d stare at the book’s title, glare at the screen, and wonder how we could be possibly be this dumb.
So yes, the book’s about trucks. And no, we didn’t just pull “Stephen King” out of our ass. He really did write a story about murderous trucks who force the remaining vestiges of humanity into eternally pumping gas for them. Other than maybe some toxic waste being spilled, No real reason is given for how they came to life, or why they hate us so. Considering how stories like The Snow fumbled the Motive Ball, and considering King himself is known for crap like “the scary murder-clown was really a giant spider all along,” perhaps total mystery isn’t such a bad thing.
Of course, if the sequel to Trucks plays out like Black Monday, then our new vehicle overlords are in for a rude awakening. This story, quite simply, tells us what would happen if the world ran out of gasoline. As you might have imagined, everyone just goes bersek, because we need gas, dammit! Of course, this has only been the case for about 100 years or so. Apparently, reverting back to what we did for the first 199,900 years of our existence is simply out of the question. After all, that was in the past, and we need to quit living in the past. Now let’s get to running around like kittens frightened by the vacuum cleaner!
Admittedly, gas disappearing is a semi-legitimate scenario; oil doesn’t last forever, and we’re classically awful at embracing any fuel alternatives whatsoever. However, this story takes the idea, and veers it straight into The Land of Laughable. For you see, we didn’t run out of gas because of anything WE did. We’re all Planeteers, after all.
No, it was all the fault of an Obvious Evil Villain, who releases a deadly microbe into our oil supply. This microbe manages to infect all the oil in the world, rendering it entirely useless. Why would he do such a thing? Well, dunno. Maybe he sucked in his Fantasy Football league and snapped from the humiliation.
Our guess is, at some point in the writing process, the author realized a deadly oil virus was a fairly stupid idea. So he just decided to throw every dumb cliché against the wall: evil shadowy villain, half-baked satire, murderous hitmen, and a hero who can do everything all the same time while remaining dashing and dimple-chinned throughout.
Also, yes, it all works out in the end. Because the very best way to write an end-of-the-world novel, is for the world to not end. It’s like he realized he wasn’t able to craft a decent apocalypse, so he wrote a cheesy Hollywood screenplay instead.
Oh wait, that’s EXACTLY what he did. He wrote a Major Motion Picture novel starring, oh, probably The Rock. Luckily for us, the world’s ending in a couple days. Pretty sure this stupid movie won’t be ready by then. At least something good will come out of the Moon breaking apart and crashing into all of our most populated areas.
At some point, between reading this article and forgetting to call your Mom to say you love her one last time (you might wanna get around to that,) you might have wondered why only novels. Well, that’s where a good chunk of the stupid ideas come from. Hollywood certainly likes a good apocalypse, but they’re mostly blasé and unoriginal. Asteroids, zombies, vampires, robots, and the like. Same crap over and over, so thank God we have people like M. Night Shlubaluhbuh to churn out the first thing he thinks about at 3:30 AM, no matter how ludicrous and horrible it may be.
Back in 2008, M. Night I-Should-Just-Google-This-Guy’s-Name released The Happening. In it, our world is taken down by plants. Some of them protect themselves via chemicals and, in Shyamalan’s world, that means ALL pants release ALL chemicals that cause ALL humans to kill themselves. Probably by reminding them that this is what their acting career has come to, and how it will never get better.
After the plants kill a whole bunch of people, they just kinda stop. Yes, this is the climax. The plants get bored and stop sending suicide poison into the air. They decide to start again later on, at the very end of the film, which we assume was to whet our appetites for the sequel. Remember The Happening 2? If so, then you’re hallucinating, probably due to plant poison.
That’d be pretty bad, wouldn’t it? You’re about to die; the giant balls of flames are mere days away. A lot of people have their life flash before their eyes, as they realize that they’ve finally reached the end. Childhood memories, loved ones, your first kiss. All the things you loved and cherished, all in an effort to make your final moments as comforting as possible.
And you’ll be fantasizing about a crappy sequel to a crappy movie? A sequel that didn’t even happen? That’s almost as stupid as some moron on a computer spending his final days typing up stupid jokes about fictional apocalypses, when the real one will be right out his window any day now! Who would do something that pointless, really?
Jason Iannone is a humorist and editor for hire, unless a giant ball of flames scorches him to an unrecognizable crisp at the end of the week. Any ragtag band of survivors reading this in the future: check all his work at Cracked, TopTenz, Zug, and The Geekout. You can also pretend he’s still alive at the usual social media thises and thats.
Before The Great Reckoning, Jason helped once-powerful people deal with embarrassing falls from grace, by suggesting new gigs for 5 Celebrity Burnouts Who Need A Regular Job. Even if these celebrities were taken by the Apocalypse, anyone wanna bet Lindsay Lohan will still survive? She has to be an Immortal; it’s the only explanation by this point.