Every now and again, literature freaks me out.
I’ve just read John Wyndam’s (of Day of the Triffids fame) The Kraken Wakes, which was published in 1953. The whole time while reading – other than the fact that events were started by an intelligence in the deepest ocean – I felt that I was reading directly about what faces us in the present day. The point where the icebergs melted en masse is where it really started to freak me out.
First came the startling and humbling realisation that humanity has been acting the same way for quite some time now. The governments, business, stock markets and media carried on in the book in the way that they do and have for as long as, I assume, they have existed. The lead up to the crisis was uncannily reminiscent of current climate change denialism. But the vision of what would happen to Earth under that much water is terrifying.
The real terror of course as always though, is humanity, and how we respond and react under such terrible pressure. There was in the end, a glimmer of hope, but not before all of the shit went down as it did. The long and the short of it is, we were left with about a fifth of the population and getting to that number was not pretty.
It’s sci-fi version of Pandora’s tale and a magnificent book; a book worth studying as a writer for it’s most excellent construction; but mostly, it’s a look at ourselves on the deepest level.
In 1953 or earlier as he was writing, a man of some considerable imagination, which was probably triggered by some sort of science or idea of the day, imagined a world where climate change occurred on a grand scale. It was set during the Cold War so it was replete with atom bombs in the ocean and the effects of that too.
It makes me wonder how long the powers that be have really known about what’s going on and how long we, the people, are going to let them keep on keeping secrets that deeply affect us all.
On another level, it makes me realise what the role of literature really is and why when fascism comes into power the first thing it does is suppress the arts. It also showed me why, more than ever, it’s important to tell stories that tell the truth, even if it’s couched in the wildest fiction.