Salem Kirban's 1970 Photos of the Apocalypse Include a Giant Christbot
Author: Salem Kirban
Publisher: Salem Kirban, Inc.
Discovered at: Community Thrift, 623 Valencia
The Cover Promises: The best way to combat the mark of the beast is to brand that mark upon the cover of a book you hope will be a best seller.
"Brother Bartholomew slipped on his robe and bright red cape, checked his Laser ring, and motioned to the steward to open the door. I remembered the old Bible pictures in my mother's Bible. He reminded me so much of Jesus. It was as though Christ himself were returning to the Mount of Olives, but not on a donkey, in a modern Year 2000 space craft." (page 117).
In the great tradition of Inferno, Left Behind, and any other fiction in which people who think differentially from the storyteller are damned for eternity, Salem Kirban's 666 is a grubby and confounding apocalyptic novel, one where a fanciful interpretation of the book of Revelation is paired with a chintzy futurism.
Writing in 1970 about the end times striking in the year 2000, Kirban dreams up -- and photo-iillustrates -- the usual anti-christ and rapture scenarios,despite the fact that neither of those appear in the actual biblical Revelation, which was an allegorical attack upon the pagan religions of Rome.
Kirban also gives us hovercrafts, pictophones, wrist radios, and this irresistible vision of our jetpacked future:
Well, one flying man, portly and in PJs, copied and arranged across the sky like the pattern on a tie. (Here's a fun prank: In health class, swap in that image for a magnified slide of sperm cells.)
Kirban's tale envisions life after the Rapture comes to a futuristic America divided not into states but six city-led regions, New York, Miami, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago,and Dallas. Besides the flying men, there's a cannibalistic plot involving Christians becoming "protein cakes"; machines that control the weather, and a deadly food shortage:
"Scarcity of land had made it impossible to graze cattle and the population explosion had placed all meat at a premium. Hardly anyone could afford it at $600 a pound ... Worms, toads, termites, and grasshoppers are now made to look and taste like ham."
By 2000, Protestants and Catholics had come together to form THE UNITED CHURCH OF THE WORLD (caps are from Kriban), so ecumenical a body that it outlawed bible study in 1975 because to choose any of the many new versions would be a limitation upon "personal freedom." Worse, as Kirban's narrator notes, the UCOW has liberalized its attitudes toward the carnal:
"The sex filth I view today openly in the streets, in specifically built communion booths in churches - they call it the communion of love - was simply too shocking for me to think further upon."
It's worth mentioning that Kirban presented himself as an expert on the world to come. He wrote over forty books in his life, most non-fiction, and many concerning the end-times. One is titled I Predict. Another belongs on any shortlist for the worst book cover ever:
Kirban's apocalyptic predictions are -- like Tim LaHaye's or even the John who is reputed to have written the original Revelation -- rooted in current events. Early in 666, he runs this photo of newspaper headlines to illustrate how far we've fallen.
(I've searched several bible concordances, but I have yet to find any reference in scripture to "monkey brains.")
This whole dipshit shebang is distinguished by a prose style that is to literature what the sound of a cat puking is to opera. More impressive is Kirban's pre-Photoshop image manipulation. You can sample both here, where several shouty paragraphs about a trip to the airport follow a terrifying photo of drag Marc Maron:
Often, Kirban simply reprinted news photographs with new captions. Doing that, he could transform a hippie be-in into a field of corpses.
The best photos, though, are the ones he seems to have staged. Here is how the United States of Europe handles its citizens post-Tribulation:
Because some of his photos are real, the book can occasionally unsettle. Below, what might be a news photo of actual human corpses is given a new caption to match the silly fiction:
Kirban's caption: "Bodies were carted to disposal centers, ground into protein cakes."
This is the first evangelical snuff book!
Let's skip over the rest of the real-looking shots of poverty and death -- what Kirban's narrator calls a "front row seat at history's holocaust of horrors" -- in favor of the hilarious fake-looking ones that predict our technological future.
Next: 1969's Vision of the Year 2000's Technology, Including Some Kind of Messiah Robot