Saturday, September 29, 2007


The End Of The World As We Know It

I've been invited to participate in a collaborative writing effort. Details of the project can be found at They asked me to help come up with the plot of the book, so here goes.

World-ending disasters can come in many shapes and forms. Here are a few that come to mind:
  • Natural Disaster - Cosmic events, impacts, dieoffs, diseases
  • Manmade Disaster - Runaway pollution, war efforts gone awry, economic collapse, bad inventions
  • War - Nuclear, biological, technological
  • Supernatural Event - Vampires, X-men, superheroes/villains
  • Religious Event - God's Wrath
  • Aliens - Gremlins, full scale invasion
Now of course all of these have been done to death. The question is, in an online collaborative environment, which scenario allows the most creativity and least amount of actual factual knowledge? I'd have to lean towards a more fantastic ending than scientific.

I kind of like the concept of mankind's arrogance and curiosity destroying the world, because I believe it's already happening. It's just that it'll take hundreds of years, but in a novel the ending can be neatly condensed.

Take the example of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. Sure, let's just create energies not seen since the first couple seconds of the Universe and see what happens. There are some scenarios that involve not just the end of the world, but the complete destruction of the entire Universe.

So, what if this novel involves some experimental find that goes horribly wrong? If we throw in a supernatural element, that adds a lot of room for creativity. What if the RHIC uncovers the "evil" particle?
It's like an infectious particle that can be used against people to turn them into bad guys with powers or something. Of course you can't have an evil particle without the coresponding "Good" particle that counters the effect. Maybe the twist of the story is that p-Good actually makes people worse than p-Evil because of course we're all evil to some degree and you can't change human nature.

Good vs Evil is one of my favorite topics. I'll have to make a whole blog post about it.

[update] I thought of another couple of possibilities. is running a series on the fresh water crisis. One solution is to increase desalinization. Now what would happen if we dumped tons of salt into the ocean? An oceanic disaster is always good. The ocean could dry up or some hidden cache of "bad water" could emerge.

Then I thought about bacteria. Some people estimate that 99% of Earth's biomass is bacteria, living all over and inside the Earth's crust. What if something bad happened to all that biomass? Think about all the people we bury 6-feet under? What if somehow all these bodies get absorbed into the biomass, and then the biomass gets sentient from it? What if their souls get absorbed? How about this biomass comes to live and invades the surface?



  1. I checked their website and found the idea quite cool.

    Although the actual **end** of the world will inevitably involve some sort of cataclysmic event, I agree that all the scenarios you mentioned (natural disaster, supernatural events, etc) have been done to death.

    I was thinking along the lines of something more subtle...

    For example, what if a character in the story one day receives an email that contains a link, and by clicking on it somehow causes the end of the world? What would the contents of that email be? Where would the link point to? Who would be able to write such an email and why? Could it be that the email was somehow put together by chance (say a bug in some computer system)?

    I believe that having a plot as above leaves a lot of room for creativity, without conforming to the standard world-ending scenarios.

  2. I always like the Had Gadya method of writing disasters...where one bad thing is topped by the next.
    And divine retribution isn't bad either.
    Now the computer-disaster scenario (which I got a little carried away with around Y2K) requires a bit of technical knowledge. There's always the War Games/SkyNet type of problems. Evil computers can do anything!
    Maybe there's a computer system that is sentient and recognizes the end of the world and starts putting subtle warnings in emails (think about the ads in gmail or spam)
    So you can start clicking on "bad ads" that tell you to seek high ground.
    Maybe there's an enemy system trying to subvert everything and cause the disaster.
    Macrosoft vs Googol ;)

    Here's a good example:

    You're About To Die
    Found out how!
    It's the End of World, be prepared!


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