Acts of God

  • Robert Crossley


It looks like the end of the world — or like any number of twentieth-century episodes in extermination. Gigantic, mobile machines of war vaporize country railway stations. Smoke rises above scorched ground where lately stood comfortable suburban houses. Refugees fill the roads and crowds of corpses lie unburied. A tranquil landscape has become a living hell. ‘What do these things mean?… Why are these things permitted? What sins have we done?’1 The questions asked by H. G. Wells’s agitated curate in The War of the Worlds are familiar human plaints in the face of unspeakable catastrophe. The curate’s desperate desire for an adequate interpretation of the initial deaths and mayhem caused by the Martian invaders in the suburbs of London, his querying of divine acquiescence in and human responsibility for the disaster are the distinctive human responses to catastrophe from the early modern era to the present.


Mobile Machine Conventional Reading Nova State Conservative Theology Living Hell 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    H. G. Wells, A Critical Edition of ‘The War of the Worlds’, ed. David Y. Hughes and Harry M. Geduld (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), p. 103.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    William H. McNeill, Plagues and Peoples (New York: Anchor, 1976), p. 162.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Quoted by Colin Nickerson, ‘A World Shaken,’ Boston Globe (30 November 1997), p. A28.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    See Hermann Loimer, ‘Accidents and Acts of God: A History of the Terms,’ American Journal of Public Health 86 (January 1996), 101–07.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 9.
    John Calvin Batchelor, The Birth of the People’s Republic of Antarctica (New York: Dial, 1983), p. 107.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959; rpt. New York: Bantam, 1976), p. 240.Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    Mary Shelley, The Last Man, 1826 (rpt. New York: Bantam, 1994), pp. 322, 323.Google Scholar
  8. See W. Warren Wagar, Terminal Visions: The Literature of Last Things (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982), p. 13.Google Scholar
  9. 16.
    Olaf Stapledon, Last and First Men (London: Methuen, 1930), p. 339.Google Scholar
  10. 20.
    Olaf Stapledon, Preface to Star Maker (London: Methuen, 1937), p. vii.Google Scholar
  11. 27.
    Arthur C. Clarke, ‘The Star’ (1955), rpt. Fantastic Worlds: Myths, Tales, and Stories, ed. Eric S. Rabkin (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 390.Google Scholar
  12. 29.
    Ingmar Bergman, Film Script of The Seventh Seal, trans. Lars Malmström and David Kushner (London, Lorrimer, 1968), p. 69.Google Scholar
  13. 30.
    Boccaccio, The Decameron, ed. and trans. Mark Musa and Peter Bondanella (NewYork: Norton, 1977), p. 7.Google Scholar
  14. 31.
    Susan Palmer, AIDS as an Apocalyptic Metaphor in North America (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), p. 26.Google Scholar
  15. See also Robert Marx, Pirate Port: The Story of the Sunken City of Port Royal (London: Pelham, 1968).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Crossley

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations