Mark Sykes’s Sixth Sense of Humour

From Issue 14 (Oct 2011)

I have a secret fantasy. Actually, I have many, but only one of them is actually fit for the pages of this magazine: I actually want the end of the world to happen. Why? Well, there are a couple of reasons, the most superficial of which is that the six-year-old that’s still alive and well inside me simply wants to see what happens. But the other, more far-reaching reason is so that I can be there for the aftermath – because even though we all go on about the end of the world, I find this to be a rather ‘glass half empty’ view of things.

You know the old adage: as one door closes another one opens. Is the end ever really the end? Or could Armageddon, in whichever form it takes, simply be nothing more than a global cleaning of the slate? The sudden deletion of 99.9% of the world’s population (leaving about seven million people, which sounds like quite a lot, but trust me, it ain’t) is just about the biggest turning over of a new leaf you can get, and we’d be remiss not to take the opportunity with both hands and run with it.

I’m not going to bore you (unless that job’s already done, of course) with my idea of what kind of perfect society should rise from the ashes, but what I think I should do is a) offer possible pre-emptive solutions that may actually prevent the destruction of the planet altogether (which, despite my aforementioned fantasy, I’d have to admit is probably the better option) and b) point out a few of the possible pitfalls that await the survivors, should disaster strike, as they plan the rebirth of mankind, thereby giving them the very best chance at creating a true utopia.

And from where, exactly, am I getting this priceless information? Little do most people know that we actually have at our fingertips a wealth of information – nay, even foreknowledge – of what could go wrong, what will go wrong, who’s going to go wrong, why they’ll go wrong, how they’ll go about going wrong, and what we can do about it if it should ever get to that point. I’m talking, of course, about movies.

If we look to science fiction movies, particularly those that deal with both pre- and post-apocalyptic situations, we can take from them a few key pointers that will allow us to nip certain problems in the bud.

Before I go into specifics, let me clarify two types of global calamity (both of which I’ll term ‘The Event’): there’s either going to be a single cataclysmic Event that wipes everyone out, or something more intelligent that us will take over, and mankind will not only take a drastic hit in the population department, but will also no longer be the dominant species on the planet.

When it comes to the former, there are only two things to remember:

One: Bruce Willis must live. This is the sole reason that cryogenics was invented.  Both the films Armageddon and Twelve Monkeys have proved that whether it’s a flying mountain aimed at Earth or a vicious virus that’s gonna wipe us out, he’ll gladly give his life to save us.  I say put the man on ice now, and wake him up when the shit hits the eschatological fan. While we’re at it, best make sure we’ve at least a perfunctory handle on time travel before that happens.

Two: Kevin Costner must die. Pretty self-explanatory, really. If Waterworld and The Postman taught us anything, it’s that Costner is no action-man hero. Who the fuck is going to follow him in an uprising, for Christ’s sake? With Costner trying to save us, we’re boned. And how, by any stretch of the imagination, can he compare to the mighty Bruce? So while we’re in the process of preserving Willis, we should entice Costner to a certain spot (tell him that a new supermarket needs a celebrity for the grand opening, he’ll come running) and when he’s in position, crush him between two steamrollers. Why steamrollers? Because it’ll be about as painful to him as watching his box-office bombs was to us.

Now as far as the ‘Things Taking Over’ type of Event is concerned, we can again whittle everything down to just a couple of lessons, gleaned from a small handful of movie franchises:

The Terminator and Matrix series.

Don’t let machines run everything. Sorry, did I say ‘everything’? I meant ANYTHING. We can wash our own clothes, make our own coffee, work out our own problems and wipe our own asses in the brave new world, thank you very much.

Planet of the Apes / Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

If you must piss around with evolution, and artificially enhance the intelligence of a specific species of animal so much that they manage take over the world and become the dominant species, make sure it’s something like koalas. At the very least, ensure that they don’t have prehensile extremities, or opposable thumbs. Cows, for instance. Planet of the Cows… see? Who could be scared of that? We’d be fine.

Coming back to my original point of creating a utopia in the wake of disaster, let’s not forget that there are movies where, regardless of whether or not a cataclysm has occurred, the future is distinctly dystopian. Movies such as Logan’s Run, THX 1138 and Demolition Man show that when there are pieces to be picked up, the first hands to do so are usually attached to complete tossers. All I’m going to say, then, is this: if you find yourself still alive after The Event and you don’t want to go back to the way it was, follow the advice of Gandhi, and be the change you want to see in the world. Pick up the damn pieces yourself, and who knows? You could become the next Big Brother – only with you in charge, everyone would really be happy… right? I guess you’ll cross that bridge when you come to it; first, there’s the small issue of that new ‘flu going round at the moment…

Image from Deep Impact © 1998 by Paramount Pictures

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Mark Sykes

What can be said about Mark Sykes?

Film actor, world traveller, model, novel writer, piano and violin player, ballroom dancer, deep-sea diver – he is none of these things.

Actual achievements include the odd play or musical, avoiding death by starvation through singing to people around London, and completing all three Halo games on ‘legendary’ level.

Literary influences include Philip Pullman, Carl Hiaasen and Iain M. Banks. Favourite activities include vacuuming, buying stationery, applying sun lotion to total strangers, catoptromancy, going to Paris to see his brother, getting lost in Derbyshire, and trying hard to tell the truth at all.

After being Something Wicked’s “Man In London” he now lives in Cape Town and is enjoying the sun.

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