Doomsday Clock to the Apocalypse

The first chapter in Warren Ellis’s Global Frequency, titled “Bombhead” focuses on a man named Janos Voydan and the possibility of the nuclear destruction of San Francisco. Decaying cold war technology, completely forgotten, could be the cause for the leveling of a city and the ensuing aftermath. ­­The possibility of a nuclear apocalypse is very much related to Frank Kermode’s The Sense of an Ending.

Frank Kermode argues that humanity’s fascination with the apocalypse stem from our desire to bring about some chronological sense to the world and to the human race. He continues in arguing that it is needless to attempt to predict the end when the beginning is hidden in the stygian past and the future is just as undistinguishable. This causes eschatologists to revise their dates, repeatedly, until when the apocalypse finally does happen, they can say that their predictions were correct. The events in “Bombhead” circumvent this predictiveness by eliminating the prior events that would be used to foretell its occurrence. The happenstance that the radio receiver would begin to decay and cause a nuclear warhead to apparat into San Francisco is unpredictable on its own. How could man then, with its desire to predict its end, foretell any other event such as that? If the destruction of San Francisco in “Bombhead” occurred, would eschatologists change their predictions to correlate with the event, creating a beginning, middle, and end for a spontaneous occurrence?

Man’s desire to predict the end of the world can be seen with the Doomsday Clock, a symbolic clock used to represent how close mankind is to global catastrophe, be it natural or manmade. On January 22nd, 2015, the clock was moved two more minutes forward, to 23:57, three minutes from midnight, three minutes from destruction of the world. The doomsday clock perfectly fits into Frank Kermode’s argument of man’s obsession with applying a chronological order to the world. The clock, used for providing a chronological order to the day, is now being used to provide a structure and stability to the end of the world. The doomsday clock is set in reaction to events and cannot take into account spontaneous events such as the possible events from “Bombhead”. After the death of Janos Voydan and the realization that at any moment, by no directed act, man can instantly cause the apocalypse, could the doomsday clock accurately predict how close the world is to the apocalypse?

Doomsday clock set three minutes to midnight

In an apocalypse that has no leading signs, how would one predict its occurrence? The near destruction of San Francisco is caused by research during the Cold War. The mere fact that Janos Voydan was forgotten could’ve destroyed San Francisco and possibly lead to the destruction of the human race. There is no foretelling from the past that dictates when the apocalypse will occur, but it is possible to prevent the events from “Bombhead” from ever occurring. However, there may be a point when one such mistake is overlooked, and spontaneous destruction of a city or possibly the Earth could occur. As said by Frank Kermode, “No longer imminent, the end is immanent.”

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4 Responses to Doomsday Clock to the Apocalypse

  1. dfw1alskare says:

    I think your insight on the so-called “approaching” end is really interesting. Your post reminded me a lot about what I had been thinking about as I was reading Global Frequency. More than one time, when certain agents were called by Aleph, they had a dread swept over them, almost as if their free time when they are not on the Global Frequency is up and now they have to approach some end to something. This occurred in the episode “Invasive” with Lana Kennedy, as she felt that she was meeting her doomsday, so to speak. There’s probably nothing to this, but it ties in nicely with Kermode because the whole idea of creating this narrative of a world with an apocalypse is to give us meaning. Perhaps Global Frequency gives its agents meaning by constantly exposing them to all these potential ends.


  2. bagelbite13 says:

    This is an interesting perspective. I’m not entirely familiar with the doomsday clock and all that goes into it but I did like your point about spontaneous events. There are a handful of people in this world that hold enormous power. All it takes is one person to make the wrong decision and this world is involved in a nuclear war. If that were to happen, it’d no doubt be spontaneous and I doubt the doomsday clock would be correct.


  3. cso9 says:

    I believe you would make Kermode proud with your way of thinking! Not only are you challenging the essence of technology, but your thinking is even challenging thinking! With that said, I think you are absolutely right. Can we ever really be sure of an apocalypse, the events leading up to it, or what the actual cause was? It seems that humans almost CRAVE the idea of an apocalypse, as once one theory subsides, another arises. I think, to me, the most interesting aspect of this in Global Frequency is that every near encounter of an apocalypse is spontaneous. In our reality, humans spend days, months, even years contemplating over the end of the world. In Global Frequency, it’s just another day in the life (though, of course, that does not signify they are thrilled with the idea). Regardless, I appreciate your methods of questioning. Not only did it inspire my own sense of wonderment, but it was a knowledgeable interpretation of Kermode’s work, and the significance it has on “Bombhead”.


  4. danwillisdan says:

    The word ‘immanent’ is so slippery and multi-faceted, but Kermode employs it very well in “The End”. Bombhead plays with that definition of apocalypse in a lot of different ways. Not only is the apocalypse continually reinvigorated and contained in the present, it also is literally contained within the mind and body of a single person. It really represents within-ness of the contemporary conception of doomsday.


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