It's the End of the World As We Know It, And We Feel Fine

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"It's the End of the World As We Know It, And We Feel Fine" is a post apocalyptic tale by Harry Turtledove, that evokes the R.E.M. song of similar name. Hundreds of years after, "The Big Fracas," a war that killed nearly all of humanity, the "(mostly animated) Powers That Be" have taken steps to prevent another war. Because humanity would not survive another one, you see.

The people are therefore for the most part more relaxed, more trusting and more guileless than the people of today. They always feel fine. They have no choice in the matter. Mr. Turtledove really drives home that fact. He also drives home the fact that the way people were before the Big Fracas was very bad. He compares the transformation of human nature to the taming of the foxes many people keep as pets. Both transformations/tamings were accomplished by modifying a gene common to foxes and humans so that both humans and foxes are best described as really cute (or tame). The gene modified (WBSCR17) is, in humans, associated with Williams-Beuren syndrome. Mr Turtledove asserts the "feel fineness" was accomplished without adverse affects like mental retardation and heart disease.

The example and main character of the story is Willie. Willie does not sweat the petty stuff or much of anything else. Mr. Turtledove offers a foil to those who "feel fine" in a "throwback" who is more like what people are today by the name of Fritz. Fritz is a conman and a sociopath who is (shudder) selfish and who attempts to con Willie. Voice, one of the Powers, stops and sanctions him. Willie expresses disbelief that Fritz meant any harm. The Voice assures Wilie that that is why it is watching and that it will allow no harm to befall. The Voice says, "That's why I am here. Nothing's going to hurt you while I'm around and I am." Not quite, "I am that I am." Not quite a deus ex machina, but it serves. The Powers have been and will continue to protect humanity from themselves. Along comes Keiko with her pet fox, Daisey Mae, and Keiko similarly expresses disbelief. They put the matter behind them and go to Willie's house where the critters can play in the back yard while Willie and Keiko engage in sexual congress. ("Selfish" is an obscenity; "fuck" is not.)

So, Mr. Turtledove shows us this less than perfect brave new world, though I'm not sure he is happy with it as a future. It's a world with values inverted to our own in many ways. There is then a cost to the transformation if only in the subtext. It's just better than the alternative. But I shouldn't worry about it. And neither should you. Willie and Keiko aren't going to.

Mr. Turtledove has been around a very long time, and I have always enjoyed his work. He is a gem of great price.

Dramatis personae

in order of appearance


  • Analog Science Fiction and Fact, March 2013. editor, Stanley Schmidt. "It's the End of the World As We Know It, And We Feel Fine." Harry Turtledove.