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.