I Don’t Know Why I Do This To Myself?!

I don’t watch movies that I know will make me sob (Nicholas Sparks, I’m looking at you), The news is usually depressing, so I avoid the local broadcasts and newspapers, settling for what various feeds filter through to me, knowing I’ll get the important stuff that way. I avoid people that I know frustrate, take advantage of, or otherwise cause drama whenever possible. And I don’t watch horror movies before bed so that I can sleep in the dark without having to meditate for an hour to feel semi-safe.

In other words, I guard my mental health rather carefully. It makes for far better days and nights.

And yet…

I have a penchant for end-of-the-world books and movies. Not necessarily dystopian stories, more like the actual here-comes-the-end stories. Some are tame and a degree removed from my reality–movies like Twister and Volcano feel more remote thanks to geography and small in scale, for instance. But others are decidedly less removed and send the creepy crawlies up my back and into my brain.

Case in point: my current audiobook is Cyber Storm by Matthew Mather and re-reading Life After War by Angela White. But this really started way back in the day when I read Alas, Babylon because it was on the high school reading list and I’d found a copy in the used book store by Mom’s office. I still have that same copy, though the back cover is missing and the pages are beyond worn.

Alas, Babylon was very close to home, dealing with a pocket of survivors in a Florida town, after a sudden and swift nuclear war. While the town was fictional, plenty of other things weren’t, and I think about scenes from that book almost every time we head to the central or southern parts of the state.

Back then, of course, all I could do was worry and fear. Fear was a big part of those years from one source or another. While I enjoyed the story I certainly can’t say that I enjoyed the feelings it provoked.

These days, with the “prepper” mentality becoming more and more mainstream, I admit that stories like these turn my thoughts to stocking up on dry goods and buying a rain barrel or three. When the story centers around a natural disaster it’s easier to distance myself from the fear and worry. After all, you can only do so much and worry doesn’t help. But in the case of Cyber Storm, well, that one feels a little more real.

I mean, just think about how many times someone in your circle (if not you, yourself) have had a credit card or other account compromised by low-life hackers just because they can. (And, yes, that’s a broad generalization but I think it’s justified for the havoc they wreak.) Or the data breaches going on at large retailers. Or even the DDOS attacks that are focused at any given large governmental network for any given time.

The idea that a city’s (or country’s) infrastructure could be compromised and crashed? Not so far fetched. That nuclear codes, missile launch keys, and other such systems could be triggered by a dedicated few out to cause mischief? Sobering to say the least.

But I’m really enjoying the story, too!

Part of it is the resilience of a tiny group of people banding together to survive. It lessens the fear by knowing that it’s possible to survive. But part of it is that the story has a definite, focused conflict. There’s no schmoopy romance (or very little), no time for extensive navel-gazing, and a fair amount of action to keep the story moving. Those are the things I enjoy most in almost any book, this genre just tends to supply it more consistently.

So while I debate the merits of storing rice in recycled 2L bottles, here are some of the books I’ve been both enjoying and fearing:

  • The Last Girl by Joe Hart
  • The Brilliance Trilogy by Marcus Sakey (Brilliance, A Better World, and Written in Fire)
  • The Wayward Pines Trilogy by Blake Crouch (Pines, Wayward, The Last Town)
  • The Origin Mystery series by AG Riddle (The Atlantis Gene, The Atlantis Plague, The Atlantis World)

Do you ever read books or watch movies that intentionally scare you? Why do you think you do it?

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