Tristan SturmGeography, School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, UKCorrespondencet.sturm
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Hal Lindsey & Carlson’s, 1970 book, The Late Great Planet Earth, was the best-selling non-fiction book of the 1970s. In it, using the eschatology of premillennial dispensationalism commonly believed by American evangelicals, he conflates biblical prophecy with current geopolitical conflicts. He exploits the uncertainty of the nuclear age, civil rights movement, and ‘wars and rumours of wars’ in Asia by giving readers a certain explanation: Christ will soon return. Within his book, Lindsey provides two maps depicting his narrative for the battle of Armageddon. The maps are devoid of borders, and only show troop movement via thick black arrows. This article focuses on these arrows and their geopolitical function. The article argues, beyond symbolizing mobility, that arrows on maps also symbolize future anticipatory cartographic temporalities. It is theorized that Lindsey’s arrows potentiate and help actualize a narrow geopolitical future.
Arrows on mapsHal Lindseythe Late Great Planet Earthgeopolitical futuresArmageddonanticipatory geographies
Lindsey and Carlson’s (1970) The Late Great Planet Earth sold over 35 million copies and was the ‘number one non-fiction best-seller of the decade’ according to the New York Times (Harding, 1994, p. 33). As is a common practice among the evangelical community, the book was ghost-written by Carole C. Carlson although little is known about her. Initially published by a small theological press, the book was reissued by Bantam Books in 1971. In 1979, the book was made into a film narrated by Orson Wells that appeared in theatres across the USA. The Late Great Planet Earth (henceforth Late Great) includes two geopolitical maps of future events. Using arrows, the Main maps graphically depict the narrative of the battle of Armageddon. The arrows indicate an anticipatory geopolitics and prognosticates the end of the world through the prism of an evangelical Christian eschatology called premillennial dispensationalism (henceforth ‘premillennialism’): a field of thought about future prophetic events shared by approximately 20 million Americans (Weber, 2004, p. 9; cf. Sweetnam, 2011).1 Premillennialism and Hal Lindsey have been the discussion of geopolitical scholarship (Sturm & Dittmer, 2010), but there has been no engagement with Lindsey’s cartography of Armageddon. In all other fields, the maps are largely ignored. Spector’s (2004) detailed writing on Late Great mentions the maps in passing and an MA thesis on the book mentions the maps only once: Lindsey ‘even includes maps of the Soviet battle plans for its European takeover’ (Basham, 2012, p. 23).
In this article, I ask how we might theorize, specifically from Lindsey’s unique temporality, geopolitical apocalyptic narratives and cartographic arrows as anticipatory cartographic strategies. Focusing on Lindsey’s book, Late Great, I engage with: (1) Lindsey’s apocalyptic geopolitical imagination and (2) his cartographies of the future, specifically the cartographic technique of arrows used to actualize the future in the present (see Figures 1 and 2). Here I illustrate how the cartographic arrow more generally replaces time with space. I first give a brief background to Hal Lindsey and outline his geopolitics in relation to the maps. I then review the cartographic literature on arrows, for which scant attention has been paid in cartography and geography literatures. In the conclusion, I suggest that such cartographic arrows can foreclose possible futures and actualize a future.