End of the World, Take One

by Timothy Lane12/6/18

Decades ago, I read a darkly humorous story by Robert Silverberg that seems today to be rather prophetic. Titled “When We Went to See the End of the World”, it’s set mostly in a party and involves the conversation there.

The title comes from a theme-park even purporting to show the end of the world that one couple mentions visiting recently. Naturally they get a lot of attention, which was exactly why they mentioned it. As the party goes on, other couples turn out to have taken the same ride. By an odd chance, they all experienced different supposed endings. The original couple, naturally, is a bit nettled as the discussion largely leaves them behind.

Meanwhile, of course, other things come up. It turns out that tissue-dissolving amoebas have somehow gotten out of a government research center, leading to advisories in a growing number of states to boil water. This naturally attracts a lot of discussion by people who don’t seem to be concerned that they might suffer any serious consequences from the event. One person speculates that the amoebas reproduce through aerial spores, although in fact the sporozoa include plasmodia, not amoebas.

There’s more. At one point the hosts get a call from a sister who gives them good news — she was out of town, and thus unharmed, when the unions nuked Fresno. One could consider this merely a modest development from current events. Especially if SEIU was involved in the attack, though it may not have existed yet when the story was written in 1972.

Another discussion involves the recent holiday for the funeral of the (now former) president. One person points out that this practice is seriously harming the economy. Apparently there’ve been a lot of presidential funerals lately, cutting seriously into how much work is getting done. This might call to mind certain recent events, though presidential funerals aren’t yet so frequent.

It isn’t hard to figure out the point of the story.

Timothy Lane writes from Louisville, Kentucky and publishes the FOSFAX fanzine.
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2 Responses to End of the World, Take One

  1. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I am not a big Scifi fan, but recently ran across one that would appear to be very interesting and prescient. The title is, “The Machine Stops.” It was written by E.M. Forster around 1910.

    In a nutshell, sometime in the future humanity is living underground and a huge machine keeps things going. The machine starts to break down and how that plays out is developed in the story. Apparently, Forster predicted future technologies such as the internet. I am trying to find this story as a free upload.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I think I read it a long time ago. It’s sort of the original dystopia, the progenitor of We, Brave New World, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, “Harrison Bergeron”, etc.

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