Is the End of the World Near?

Domenica invited author and illustrator Ron Miller to talk about writing and illustrating his new Fall 2011 book for TFCB, Is the End of the World Near? Below are his thoughts—and some cool artwork!


My reasons for writing Is the End of the World Near? (cover at left) were twofold. First, I had become very concerned about the number of young people who were becoming increasingly worried about all the pseudoscientific theories about the end of the world coming in 2012–Mayan prophecies and Planet X– which I believe are nonsense. I felt that young people needed a dose of real science to counter what they were seeing in the tabloids and watching on TV.

The second reason was that, well, everyone is fascinated by the subject of how the world might end. Moviemakers have known this for a long time. Disaster films—ranging from the destruction of a building to entire cities to the entire planet—have been a staple of Hollywood for decades. EOW blog black hole As a writer, I had a mission. But as an artist, I have to admit the attraction of illustrating events such as the Earth being eaten by a black hole (above) or a city being microwaved by a gamma ray burst.

I felt I was in good company, though. The end of the world has been a subject for painters since medieval and Renaissance artists began depicting the Apocalypse and Armageddon. Gustave Dore filled entire books with scenes of worldwide disaster worthy of any Hollywood production. Nineteenth-century painter John Martin (“Great Day of His Wrath” oil painting below)practically made a career of it.


Some of the subjects I would be including in the book would not be breaking new ground. Other artists had shown our world colliding with another planet, for instance. But there were scenes no one had yet undertaken, and that really appealed to me. Subjects such as the Earth encountering a black hole or a city being under siege from a solar flare.

Unlike Hollywood epics such as Armageddon and 2012, I was constrained by fact in writing the text and creating the illustrations. Perhaps “constrained” isn’t quite the right word, since it implies restrictions. On the contrary, all the research required in creating the artwork opened up possibilities I hadn’t expected going into the project. Discovering just what the effect would be of a collision with another planet or from a meteor impact (below) or what a gamma ray burst would look like in the sky was far more inspiring than limiting.
EOW blog meteor impact The resulting images are a little scary, and, in a way, they are meant to be. These are things that could really happen, and probably eventually will. But they are based on real science, not the wild theories of tabloid authors and TV producers.

What is most important is that these are all events that are hardly likely to take place tomorrow…or even within a reader’s lifetime. Worrying about them is like worrying about getting hit on the head by a fish dropped by a passing eagle…and the chances of that happening are actually better than being hit by a meteor! Nonetheless, there are things we can each do to help make our planet a safer, healthier place to live, and I concluded the book with these practical, realistic ideas.

Make sure to check in next week for more from TFCB!

[Credits: Wikimedia Commons “Great Day of His Wrath” image; original artwork courtesy of Ron Miller]