Some writers write because they have a conscience. Scholastique Mukasonga, a Tutsi, who lost many family members to Hutu violence, believes that she started writing because of what she had witnessed. Genocide. She is not a political writer; she just writes what she sees though what a writer sees sometimes is political. Svetlana Alexievich, Nadine Gordimer and Elena Poniatowska are other writers who speak about political events through the lens of human suffering.
I believe this is a literary task. At the dawn of the modern age, James Joyce wrote that we strive to wake from the nightmare of history, which I take to mean that our societies strive to escape from a world that exists on a tribal, imagistic, mythic sort of order—to leave that world and enter into one that is grounded in peace, justice, and rationality. I do not believe we have yet so escaped, and so long as we continue in this nightmare of history, we will only be able to fully comprehend what is happening with the blessings of art. Writers must help document and explain the endemic forces that have gained momentum and are now drawing us along on their path. They must be witnesses to these deeds for our own sake, so that we can have some meaning and common understanding in this era of confusion, and also so that the future generations will learn from the mistakes we have committed.
Read From Mukasonga to Alexievich, We Need Writers who Bear Witness by Scott Esposito
While some writers bear witness, others foresee the apocalyptic end. There are many ways the world can come to an end. The narrative of climate change, nuclear explosions and dangerous technology are all ways that writers explore to describe what seems inevitable according to the Doomsday Clock. Sometimes reading fiction can tell you more about a particular time period than a history book. J. G. Ballard and Rachel Carson wrote about the detrimental effects of climate change. Max Brooks, Emily St.John Mandel and Margaret Atwood have spoken about the dangers posed by biotechnology. And now with a wave of populism in politics, the Doomsday Clock is closer to the doom of the world. The threats keep changing but, either way, the end seems near.
Let’s hope these are just writers who are writing from their imagination and not scripting a true story. Read this: Writing the end of the world: Charting trends in apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction.