Life After People

21 Jan

A week or so ago, my wife offhandedly told me that there was a TV show she wanted to record, because it looked really interesting. Obstacles included in making this happen were 1) She couldn’t remember what it was called 2) She couldn’t remember what it was about. She only remembered she really wanted to see it. As you can imagine, this did us not a bit of good.

Tonight, as I am assembling the pieces of our oh-god-we-spent-how-much-I-feel-sick-and-happy purchase, the television was on and showed a commercial for an utterly fascinating thing that was coming on in a few hours. “Oh my god,” I said. “How cool. We have got to watch that!”

“Oh,” She said cheerfully, “That was the show I couldn’t remember!”

So we settled in to watch it.

It was called Life After People. It looked at what would happen to the world if all the people vanished. It made no mention of how they vanished, and although that would have obviously affected everything that happened, I am glad they did that. People were just Not There. What happens to the cities? The bridges? The concrete? The New York Subway system (did you know that pumps keep 13 million gallons of groundwater out of the subway lines every day? I didn’t.) And so on. What do the animals do? Both domesticated and wild?

It zipped around the world and showed us what happened after a day, a week, a year, two years, ten years, a hundred years…on and on. Until, at the end, it showed us what would happen after a hundred thousand years. It was astonishing.

I only got one short story idea out of it (it’s a good one. Bradbury would have loved it). Mostly, I spent the whole show in a state of excitement. My thoughts were coherent to the point of “Oh my god!” and not beyond. I was giddy. I still am. It was incredible, it was logical, and it had science fiction author (and astrophysicist) David Brin speaking occasionally, and I learned that when he speaks, he is a gentle sweet man, and I have vowed to dig through my collection and read his books.

It was incredible, and it makes you think. Obviously, the internet — and computers — are gone like mist in the sunlight, just in a few days, and in a few years. But what about books? CDs? What about our written legacy? It doesn’t last very long. Astonishingly little time, in fact.

I could go on and on about it. Really, I could sit here and just talk and talk and talk, ad infinitum, for thousands of words, because it has filled up my head and left me excited and full of ideas. Not story ideas. Just ideas about life, thoughts that I am dwelling over and enjoying. I am considering legacies, my own and the species, and there is nothing maudlin and depressing about this line of thought. It is exciting, and I am giddy.

(A minor point. They only spent two minutes, out of two hours, talking about the ocean. Which is logical enough. As I said to my wife, halfway through, “You know, in the depths of the ocean, where the daylight is mostly gone and a whole world exists…they haven’t even noticed our absence. They haven’t even noticed our presence yet.” And of course, it’s true.)

(See? I can’t stop talking about it. The great Pyramid of Giza will outlast us all. The writing that the Egyptians left on stone will outlast anything that we say.)

(And, it got me reading about Chernobyl again, one of my favorite subjects of study, and the basis for a short story now. I first discovered Chernobyl — I mean, as a subject for study — through Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, which is probably the best Star Trek movie, if you ask me, but that’s a whole ‘nother post. Anyway, the Klingon moon of Praxis was just an analog for Chernobyl, just like the Klingons were so much an analog for the Russians.)

I don’t really recommend stuff on this blog all that often. Partially because I got the idea in my head — with no particular supporting proof — that my recommendations might be listened to, and that made me too paranoid to suggest books and movies and music for people.

But I will make an Official Recommendation (with reverb) for this show. It is called Life After People. If you can find it in repeat on the History Channel, then if you listen to nothing else I suggest, go watch this show. Honest. You’ll thank me. You’ll think differently for at least the duration of an evening.

And if you can’t find it, then go to the web-site and buy the DVD. Hell, do both! You won’t regret it. Soon as I scrape up some money — er, that isn’t already spoken for, like sending out Jeanne’s package, which looks at me guiltily every day and to which I say, every day, “Look, I haven’t the money for you yet, nor the ability to go to the post office in this cold, with a son, but you’ll go out soon, honest,” — I fully intend to buy the DVD.

Find it. Watch it. Then come back, and we’ll giddily babble about the whole thing together.

I’m off to write a short story, and be cheerfully stunned at the world that comes after.


Posted by on January 21, 2008 in Uncategorized


22 responses to “Life After People

  1. Shadow Ferret

    January 22, 2008 at 6:58 am

    My son wanted to watch that. We DVRd it and watched it. It’s a good thing we did DVR it, because we fell asleep. Obviously I was somewhat less excited about it then you were. Not to say it wasn’t interesting. And I love the computer graphics of how the city streets will change over time with weeds in the cracks, then more cracks, more weeds, until their deaths create dirt and more plants grow on top of them until the streets are buried.

    I was a little perplexed about what happened to the people, they just disappeared. I guess I like tidy packaging. Was it a neutron bomb? Did we just evacuate? A world wide plague?

    It was a facinating show, but I was tired so nothing would have been able to keep me awake.

  2. Pete Tzinski

    January 22, 2008 at 8:13 am

    It could have gone either way. they could have shown how humanity vanished — was there radiation fallout? WHat about bodies? Which would lead to carrion eaters, etc, etc — but I like that right up front, they said “humans are Not Here,” and then just got on with it. What happened to humanity was mostly irrelevant to the 100,000 year story. It could have gone both ways, but I’m happy with how it went. Very happy.

    I wish it had been more than a two hour event. It could have been a 22-episode TV season, each episode looking at the same 100,000 year span in one city at a time across the world. Las Vegas. next week: Bejing. Next week: Holland. Next week: New YOrk. Each area reacting differently, because they would. But I’m not complaining. It was a really terrific two hours.

    And it made me want to watch “The Day After Tomorrow” again, which is my wife’s favorite-movie-ever, last I checked, and really is a pretty great movie.

  3. mymidnightmuse

    January 22, 2008 at 9:01 am

    Poop! I can’t read your blog today – I DVR’d Life Without People last night and plan to watch it tonight.

    then I’ll read the blog and have something profound to say 😀

  4. mymidnightmuse

    January 22, 2008 at 9:01 am

    I mean Life AFTER People. We’d seen a promo for it and immediately set the DVR without realizing exactly when it came on – but I saw that it was recording last night.

  5. Shadow Ferret

    January 22, 2008 at 9:07 am

    Never saw “The Day After TOmorrow.” Was that that shrill nuclear holocaust story set in Laurence, Kansas? If that’s the one, I remember all the hype about it and never watched.

  6. Pete Tzinski

    January 22, 2008 at 9:10 am

    Methinks Ed doesn’t know how to use a “Google” very well. 😉

    The Day After Tomorrow was a disaster flick a few years back. Starred Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllennhaaallllll-thingie, Emmy Rossum, and some others. Terrific, terrific movie. Sheer fun, from beginning to end. And it had Ian Holme in it (who played Bilbo Baggins, in the Lord of the Rings, for the Google-impaired), and he was really great, considering how little time he had.

    (We went to see it, excited solely by the image of a sheet of ice covering New York, with the statue of Liberty sticking up out it, as two people walked across the harbor. And it did not disappoint.)

  7. mymidnightmuse

    January 22, 2008 at 9:32 am

    Oh yeah, I caught that movie on TV last year or something. Not a bad B-movie. A little silly, but still fun.

    This thing on the History channel last night just looks amazing – like a thing we saw once, a speculative about what it might be like to use robotics to explore an alien planet. Just fun speculation.

  8. Shadow Ferret

    January 22, 2008 at 11:52 am

    OK, OK. I googled it. I was thinking of “The Day After.”

    Some of the CGI last night reminded me of Discovery Channel’s (actually I think the BBC originally made them) stories on the dinosaurs.

    I need to watch the ending, I think I fell asleep sometime after 20 years going by.

  9. carrieinpa

    January 22, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    I wanted to watch it, but I missed it. I’m sure it will be on in reruns… hopefully at a more reasonable time for us old folk who can’t stay up until 11 to watch a tv show. 🙂

    As for The Day After Tomorrow… and The Day After… I can’t stand those movies. They do bad things to my imagination and screw with my sleeping. Not good. So I avoid them at all costs.

  10. Pete Tzinski

    January 22, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    Really? Now I’m curious. What do they do to your imagination? Is it the whole disaster movie angle? (Twister? Volcano?)

    Pete = Curious.

  11. mymidnightmuse

    January 22, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    And now I’ve seen Life After People 😀

    And I’m reminded that I want Pete to watch the little-known Canadian indie filmed called: Last Night.

  12. carrieinpa

    January 23, 2008 at 6:38 am

    But – But – But – But, Kristine… you already told us the ending!

    Pete – Tornados, Volcanos, Hurricanes… meh. Don’t bother me. It’s the whole end-of-humanity-with-the-possibility-of-survivors thing that bothers me. The Twilight Zone’s “Where Is Everybody” freaks me out – I just cried and cried when the man discovered a library and, resigned to being alone, vowed to read every book… and then his glasses broke. THAT’s the stuff of nightmares, my friend. The Stand freaked me out. The Day After freaked me out. *shrug* Maybe it’s just me.

  13. carrieinpa

    January 23, 2008 at 6:43 am

    {Sorry, it’s Twilight Zone’s “Time Enough At Last”}

  14. Pete Tzinski

    January 23, 2008 at 7:35 am

    “Time Enough to Last” starring Burgess Meredith, is my all-time favorite episode, and the hardest for me to watch because every time, I want to shout, and every time, his glasses break, and it kills me. Burgess Meredith broke my heart.

    It’s so interesting that it freaks you out. (I take it you’ve never read “I am Legend” by Richard Matheson… 🙂 ). Personally, I love it. I dug The Day After, the Day After Tomorrow, I liked the Stand (after the month it took me to read), and Matheson’s work and so on.

    (Depending on how tired I am, I’ll be walking through the mall looking at idiot 15-year-olds in their emo garb, texting like crazy, and think “if the world went smash tomorrow, you lot wouldn’t survive two days…” and it cheers me up.)

  15. MidnightMuse

    January 23, 2008 at 8:50 am

    I love those scenarios – and often want to pen a novel wherein the humans lose in the end to the monsters, or whatever it is that’s invading. Just let the dragons win for a change, and take over the entire planet.

  16. Pete Tzinski

    January 23, 2008 at 9:12 am

    I have a “Life After People” sort of novel scenario (it might just be a short story. I’m not sure), which I came up with a few months back when I was reading a magazine’s “what we’re looking for” guidelines and they poo-poo’d all over the idea of “two people discovering they are Adam and Eve.”

    And I thought. “Oh. I could do a ‘two people discover they’re Adam and Eve’ story that would be original. And it would be like this and this.”

  17. Shadow Ferret

    January 23, 2008 at 10:03 am

    Many of my dreams, when I remember my dreams, are “survival fantasies” as I like to call them. Me leading a small band of survivers through a post-apocalypic world.

  18. MidnightMuse

    January 23, 2008 at 10:41 am

    So long as that party you’re leading isn’t named Donner! 😀

  19. Shadow Ferret

    January 23, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Well, now that you mention it, I am feeling a bit peckish.

  20. tjwriter

    January 23, 2008 at 11:53 am

    I have survival fantasy dreams too, Ed. Except they are like someone is out to kill me and I have to survive.

    Like Freddy Krueger is driving a big, old four wheel drive Blazer and trying to run me down. Or some crazed attacker is trying to kill me in a hospital and I’m running all up and down the floors of the building trying to stay away. But you never know who is going to be on the other side of the elevator doors when they open. Or aliens are coming to get you.

    Either I win or I wake up, but I’ve never lost. I’ve not seen most of the shows you lot are discussing either.

  21. Shadow Ferret

    January 23, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    I have cool dreams like that, too.


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