We've all seen the predictions — both fictional and pseudoarcheological — that the world will end in 2012. But while some of science fiction's predictions for the year 2012 are apocalyptic, some are merely disastrous — and a few are downright upbeat. Let's see what triumphs and tribulations science fiction says we can look forward to in the coming year.
An evangelical preacher will be elected President of the United States: Right now, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry are battling to become the supreme conservative Christian on the Republican Ticket, and Robert Heinlein's "If This Goes On—" (one of the short stories from his Future History series) sees an evangelical preacher elected to the US's highest office. President Nehemiah Scudder wastes no time turning America into a theocratic dictatorship, after which our leaders are referred to as "Prophets" instead of Presidents. So cast those primary votes wisely, kids.
The US economy will collapse: If this happens, Paul W. S. Anderson's Death Race remake wouldn't win many points for clairvoyance, given that it was released in 2008, when the US economy wasn't exactly taking names. But if an economic collapse leads to pay-per-view prison driving death matches, that will be an impressive feat of prognostication.
The zombie apocalypse will begin: Where better to launch a pandemic than at the 2012 Olympics? I Spit on Your Rave plants the seeds of human extinction at the Summer Games in London, and it takes just six years for every human on earth to be converted or eaten. Fortunately, zombie life is a lot like human life, just with more decomposition.
The zombie apocalypse will end: In the most recent film adaptation of I Am Legend, the zombie/vampire/CG goober apocalypse starts way back in 2009. Personally, I don't see hordes of undead out my window every night, but maybe I'm just not looking hard enough. Anyhow, we won't have to fear those pesky cannibals for much longer; Will Smith's super-smart Omega Man develops a cure for such antisocial behavior this year.
The Doctor will light the Olympic Flame: The coordinators of the 2012 Olympics should keep their eyes peeled for more than just zombies; aliens have their designs on the Summer Games as well. Fortunately, in the Doctor Who episode "Fear Her," the Doctor predictably saves the day, and runs the Olympic Torch to its final destination. Take that, zombie Olympics!
Conan O'Brien will lose his freakishly long legs: We never do find out what causes Futurama's War of 2012. Maybe it has to do with exploding pizza parlors, or the fact that gas costs $100 a gallon. But in the episode, "Xmas Story," we learn that the war was responsible for at least one pop culture casualty: Conan's blindingly white gams. No word on whether he ever gets to host the Tonight Show again.
The maximum height of all humans will be legally reduced to four feet: Corporate greed starts taking its toll on our very genetic codes in the Genesis song "Get 'Em Out by Friday." A real estate developer lobbies for a limit on human height so it can squeeze twice as many tenants in its buildings. Incidentally, basketball becomes a lot less interesting.
A proto-Martian biosphere will be completed in Indiana: Before humans in the Star Trek universe colonize Mars, they build the Millennium Gate, a prototype self-sustaining habitat in Portage Creek, Indiana, to serve as a model. The Millennium Gate is also indirectly responsible for the existence of Voyager Captain Katherine Janeway, whose ancestors meet as a result of the project (Voyager, "11:59").
Terrorists will attack the burgeoning transhumanist movement: In his novel Breakpoint, former counterterroism czar Richard A. Clarke sets 2012 as a year when a self-regulating, error-correcting AI hops around the Internet, parents have lab-grown babies spiced up with extra chromosomes, and scientists are working to integrate human and computer intelligences. It's also the year a group of bioluddites start blowing up anything and anyone associated with these shifts.
Disabled revolutionaries will rise up against the beautiful people: A very different terrorist group populates the Spanish-language black comedy Accion Mutante. In a post-apolyptic future ruled by the beautiful people, the ugly and disabled are considered mutants. In 2012, the tragically unhip make their move, kidnapping a lovely heiress on her wedding day and doing a rather poor job of collecting the ransom.
Mainland Europe will be at war with England and the US: In the 2012 of Garth Ennis and Carlos Ezquerra's comic Bloody Mary, mainland Europe has long been a fascist dictatorship at war with the Anglo-American alliance. Fortunately, the US and England have Mary Malone, an ultraviolent, alcoholic mercenary with a strange predilection for nuns' habits, on their side.
Atlantis will be rediscovered: In Stel Pavlou Deception, a 2012 oil drilling venture in Antarctica leads to the discovery of manmade diamonds inscribed with unfamiliar hieroglyphics. It turns out the lost city of Atlantis has been lurking in the Southern continent all this time, waiting beneath the ice.
Aliens will start to colonize the Earth: While some fictional futures set December 21, 2012 as the month the world ends, The X-Files suggests that, while our world won't end, our way of life will radically change. After all, that's the date set for the first wave of alien colonization, unless a pair of plucky FBI agents can halt the invasion.
The world will end: Yes, this is the big one, the most common fictional outcome for the coming year. Maybe it will end in a blockbuster-worthy series of disasters straight out of Roland Emmerich's 2012 or The Asylum's 2012 trilogy. But maybe, just maybe, the end of our world will look more like Grant Morrison's The Invisibles, where humanity moves on to the next phase of our existence. Then the world would end not with a bang, but with a transcendence.