2012: A Year in Fiction


Written by Jack Sharp
09 Monday 09th January 2012

2012 is the next big prediction for world annihilation. Over the years, this prediction has inspired many works of fiction, but not really until the release of Roland Emmerich’s dreadful film 2012, was the phenomenon truly popularised.

As is often the case with Emmerich’s work, 2012 made big splashes early on due to its over the top marketing campaign. Online and TV ads said little about the movie itself, and instead created a fictional group known as the "Institute for Human Continuity”, which called on people to quite literally prepare for the end of the world.

SCIENCE HAS CONFIRMED IT,” claims the movie’s official trailer, in large capital letters to make it all the more convincing. This is somewhat undermined by the trailer’s voice over, however, which attributes the supposed scientific evidence to vague references in the bible and the Mayans, an ancient Mesoamerican civilisation.

Of course, the Mayans, who lived without telescopes, and even the most rudimentary science apparatus, had very little chance of accurately predicting when the world was going to end. And while their calendar ends on what we now (using our current Western calendar) refer to as 2012, this is likely because the Mayans simply stopped making calendars for several centuries in the future, presumably because they thought a few hundred years would be more than enough time to make more calendars when the need arose. 

Still, Emmerich’s 2012 sees things a little differently. “WE WERE WARNED” reads the movie’s poster, which stupidly features a Tibetan monk standing on the top of a mountain as he watches waves engulf the land surrounding him.

Unfortunately, though, the film isn’t even the most ridiculous portrayal of 2012. In his song '2012 (It Ain't the End)', British singer Jay Sean takes an opposing view to the one shared in Emmerich’s movie. He encourages listeners to party like it’s the end of the world, evoking in me feelings that make me genuinely wish it were the end of the world. “White curls in a hot-pink Hot Wheels,” he sings, through insane amounts of auto-tune. “A lot of bottles and a lot of fruity cocktails!”

Few works of fiction inspired by the cataclysmic prediction are quite so optimistic, however. In a desperate attempt to cash in on the success of 2012, director Michael Bay is rumoured to be producing his own film on the predictions—scheduled for release in 2014, thus somewhat missing the point of producing a supposedly prophetic natural disaster movie about the year 2012.

The film is an adaptation of Whitley Strieber’s novel 2012: The War for Souls, which tells the story of three parallel earths and a change of epic proportions that’s destined to take place in 2012. Dan Brown also makes reference to the 2012 phenomenon in The Lost Symbol, as does M.G Harris in his series The Joshua Files - a thriller following the adventures of a British teenager who discovers that he's linked to an ancient prophecy about the coming events of 2012.

Another theme running through fiction set in 2012 is the idea of social and economical collapse. Although the novel I Am Legend, written in 1954 by Richard Matheson, and largely recognised as the inspiration for Night of the Living Dead, was set during the 1970s, the 2008 film adaptation takes place in a desolate version of 2012. After 90% of the human race is wiped out by a genetically engineered variant of the measles virus, survivors become cannibalistic beings and seek to kill those who are immune to the virus.

Paul W. S. Anderson’s remake of Death Race also takes place in 2012 amidst great social and economical collapse. In scenes strikingly similar to the ‘90s PC game POD (Planet of Death), street races take place where prison inmates are required to brutalise and kill one another.

Another theme that runs through 2012-inspired fiction is the idea that the earth will be colonised by extra-terrestrial beings. This appears in the X-Files episode 'The Truth', and was first alluded to in the 1994 episode 'Red Museum'. December 22, 2012 is said to be the date that the aliens are scheduled to appear, as predicted (supposedly) by the Maya calendar. The creator of the series, Chris Carter, has expressed interest in making an X-Files movie that would focus more closely on the alien invasion revealed in the episode.

In a somewhat more jovial manner, the Futurama episode 'Xmas Story' also briefly touches upon the idea of aliens coming to earth, and makes reference to the great war of 2012, in which former Simpsons writer and talk-show host Conan O'Brien is said to have lost "his freakishly long legs".

Conan, before the great war.

Good news…

If this article has got you panicking, then I apologise. Fortunately, there is an upside—kind of. If we make it through to 2012 alive, then there really aren’t any major apocalyptic predictions until psychic Jeane Dixon’s belief that the world will end somewhere between 2020 and 2037—which seems like far too large a gap to hold any credibility, surely?

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