Apocalypse now leading to academic research

Published 27 April 2012

Society’s fascination with the apocalypse has led to an abundance of high-grossing movies, popular television shows and successful novels.

Indeed, the film that is predicted to be one of the blockbusters of 2012 ‘The Hunger Games’ is set in a post-apocalyptic future.

This fascination has spilled over into academic research with Southern Cross University PhD candidate Marcos Fernandes studying science fiction and the cult of the apocalypse as his thesis.

“I will analyse apocalyptic thought but from Jewish concepts of apocalyptic imagination,” he said.

“Religion has always played a big part in apocalyptic thought. For instance, zombies signify the resurrection of the dead, a transformation. Now transformation in that case is ugly, but transformation can also be something nice.”

Mr Fernandes is particularly interested in societies of the post-apocolypse.

“It’s not often told that a post-apocalyptic future could be a type of Utopia,” he said.

“Apocalypse stories go back thousands of years and the stories have not changed that much over time and they mostly end up with the world at the same point.”

As part of his thesis, the 26-year-old is writing his own sci-fi novel based in a post-apocalyptic future.

“The protagonist is called Basil and he is the equivalent of a high priest in a society that is devoted to science and technology,” the School of Arts and Social Sciences student said.

“He sets in motion a sort of destruction forced by the failure of technology and the way it is used by that society. Technology is not the problem but the expression of the technology may be.”

Mr Fernandes believes human fascination with their own mortality is the reason behind why stories about the apocalypse remain so popular.

“It plays off the fears people have about the end of their own existence,” he said.

“It keeps people engaged, to an extent, about their own mortality and the transience of the world around them.

“Humans, particularly in the Western culture, like to live their lives thinking things will remain the same or get better, not thinking what if things get worse.”

The PhD candidate, of the School of Arts and Social Sciences, said the secret behind good sci-fi apocalyptic stories was their links with current events.

“There are topics and flashpoints around the world all the time,” Mr Fernandes said.

“Global warming is one theme, but many modern apocalyptic stories were linked to the Cold War and the use of nuclear weapons. But even after the Cold War is over you see the concern in the world over Iran and its proposed nuclear weapons program and you see that theme remains valid.”

Photo: Marcos Fernandes.

Media contact: Steve Spinks media officer, Southern Cross University Gold Coast and Tweed Heads, 07 5589 3024 or 0417 288 794.