Sunday, February 23, 2014

Why I Love Disaster and Destruction

Photo courtesy of Sasha Maksymenko in Flickr
I have had a strange week. Among other negative events, I had an e-mail from my mother earlier in the day on Wednesday that she shaved her head (she is at the end of her first of six chemo treatments and the hair is already gone.) I couldn't sleep.  I stumbled across a link to a story about the protests in Ukraine, and found I could watch them on a live stream.  Loud voices, two men, I think perhaps they were broadcasters or protesters, were speaking loudly throughout.  Not speaking a word of Ukrainian, I have no idea what they were saying, which added an element of fear and chaos to what already felt unsettling.

Even though I was up until 2 AM,  I slept better than I had all week.

That's a bit disturbing, isn't it?  Maybe it's not.  I've been re-re-reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, and in the section on developing the right brain, as part of the second habit, he mentions the benefit of expanding perspective. He says that an unplanned negative experience can knock us out of our left brain. While he focuses on visualizing success as a way toward positive growth, the little bit I resonated with was what I think I was unintentionally gaining from absorbing my mind with the protests and violence in Kiev.  Oh, perspective.  There is more going on in the world than involves my small family. There is worse violence and struggle. Even with this fact, there is still the hope that revolutions bring change and violence can end. 

This, my friends, is why I am also completely absorbed by the subgenre of speculative fiction that is dystopia, post-apocalypse, disaster, destruction, etc.  Whatever name you have for it, whatever flavor it is, it really is a favorite.  It always has been, even when life is going okay. Beyond the creative ways authors develop for humanity to implode or disappear, the real magic happens in the after.  What kind of societies rise up? What religions do they have? What do politics look like and who has the power? Authors who address these questions in creative ways (positive or negative) keep my attention.  I realize most people wouldn't immediately grab a book of destruction when life is going awry, but it is worth a try! 

A few recommendations:
The Earthseed series (only two books) by Octavia Butler
MaddAddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood
Silo series by Hugh Howey (several omnibus publishings - Wool, Shift, Dust)
Wastelands edited by John Joseph Adams, for short story fans

Outside speculative fiction, which has the best destruction since there are no limitations, I can also recommend books on cults.  Usually biography and memoir, people who have lived through them and escaped them.   Hooray! I need to find more books on cults and communes to add to my GoodReads shelf

A few recommendations:
Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor's Story of Life and Death in the People's Temple by Deborah Layton (I listened to this book this week! The print is older but the audio is new.)
My Life in Orange by Tim Guest

What is your reading escape?  What expands your perspective?

1 comment:

  1. I also love the apocalypse, though not necessarily when real life seems bad. That's when I go for Agatha Christie and Alexander McCall Smith. Among my favorite apocalyptic fare is The Reapers Are the Angels, Alas Babylon (an oldie but a goodie), and The Stand.


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