In 2012, much was made of the supposed Mayan prediction of the end of the world. It never happened (obviously or I wouldn’t be writing this now) but 2013 is likely to see a whole new clutch of apocalyptic predictions. Firstly, with Pope Benedict’s unexpected abdication last week, we have suddenly been thrust into the era of the Prophesy of the Popes, also known as the Prophecy of Saint Malachy. This prophecy provides predictions of all the popes over a period of more than five hundred years, However, Pope Benedict corresponded to the penultimate prediction. If the prophecy is to be believed, this means the next pope will be the last one and will oversee both the fall of the Church of Rome and the start of the biblical apocalypse. I think a lot will be made of this in some quarters outside of the official Catholic Church, but if you examine the predictions in full, they’ve been pretty inaccurate so far, and there’s no reason to believe this one will be any better.
After the Prophesy of the Popes comes comets. From an astronomical point of view, 2013 will be a particularly interesting year as not one but two comets will enter the inner solar system this year and both promise to be clearly visible from Earth. One (Comet Ison) is predicted to become brighter than the moon and may even be visible in daylight for a brief period of time. The appearances of comets in the night sky has always inspired end of the world predictions and not just in the dim and distant past. Those of us who were around in the mid-1990s will remember Comet Hale Bopp and apocalyptic predictions it inspired. Top amongst these was the Heaven’s Gate cult who believed that there was a spaceship hiding behind the comet that was going to spirit them away to a better place. Tragically, this lead to the mass suicide of the cult’s leader, Marshall Applewhite, and 38 of his followers when the comet reached its closest point to Earth. Given the current popularity of the genre, this time round, we’re more likely to hear predictions of zombie uprisings rather than aliens, but I think there’s still going to be a lot of chatter.
Both comets are already visible to those with telescopes but the first, Comet Panstarrs, will start to become much more noticeable to anyone living in the northern hemisphere in mid-March. Whether it will be clearly visible to the naked remains to be seen and this is likely to determine exactly how many end of the world predictions it inspires. The second, Comet Ison, will be visible towards the end of the year and is likely to be much more spectacular. We’ll get to see it both as it approaches the sun and as it moves away again. It’s already being called the comet of the century by some commentators and the brightest comet in human history by others.
If it lives up to the hype (and comets don’t always do this), we’re likely to hear a lot of predictions from both religious and non-religious camps. Of the latter, I think the most common will be talk of a zombie apocalypse, possibly spawned by a disease brought to us in dust from the comet’s tale. This has always been popular in zombie lore and I think it will crop up again and again as the year progresses. The release of the movie World War Z in June, and it’s likely worldwide success, will also bring zombie uprisings further into popular culture increasing this likelihood, so this will be something to keep an eye on.
Of course, I’m not arguing here that any of the above events means that the end of the world is really coming, just that I think it’s going to be an interesting year for those who are fans of all things apocalyptic, zombie or otherwise.
If you’d like to read a short post-apocalyptic story I’ve written to mark the visits of comets Panstarrs and Ison to the inner solar system this year click here. It’s called When The Comet Came.
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in the UK, and available as an ebook and in print the US from the 21st March 2013. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.