A Fascination with Post Apocalyptic Stories
First, I’d like to thank Tanisha for inviting me to guest blog this week on her site. Whether you write divinely dark romance like Tanisha, or dark dystopian tales like me, Heinlein’s quote relates to us both. If you haven’t read Serenity, her short story posted on this site, be prepared for the forebodingly exotic.
“There is no safety this side of the grave.” Robert A. Heinlein – Stranger in a Strange Land
I read a wide variety of fiction genres, but lately I’ve been revisiting a favorite from my youth, stories of future societies disrupted by natural calamity, or the excesses of mankind. I thank Robert A. Heinlein and H.G. Wells for hooking me into post apocalyptic and dystopian tales, my introduction by way of Heinlein’s “Tunnel in the Sky”. The genre became popular after World War II, with the advent of the nuclear age, but you might find it surprising that it has a long history in literature. From Wikipedia, “Numerous societies, including the Babylonian and Judaic, had produced apocalyptic literature and mythology, which dealt with the end of the world and of human society”. Apparently, we’re fascinated (or scared) of a possible end to human existence, like dinosaurs that disappeared millions of years ago from a one-two punch of cosmic shrapnel and resultant atmospheric degradation. At least that’s the going theory. As humans, we’ve added options to radically change our existence.
“It has become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity.” Albert Einstein
As Professor Einstein so eloquently points out, unlike the dinosaurs, we can engineer our own demise. Dystopian settings, whether it’s the classic “1984”, by George Orwell, or the newer “Hunger Games”, by Suzanne Collins, we deal less with the method of man’s ruin, and more with the resultant society created when the dust finally settles (or perhaps, chokes our skies). It’s what draws us in, like mosquitoes to a bug zapper. Characters make a story, and they don’t go quietly in the night, like our oversized, reptilian predecessors.
“Man is the unnatural animal, the rebel child of nature, and more and more does he turn himself against the harsh and fitful hand that reared him.” H.G. Wells – A Modern Utopia
Humankind has a long history of snubbing a nose at the natural order of things and repeat past misdeeds when it comes to social order. The archetypal premise for post-apocalyptic culture is an autocratic regime, a small privileged class, and an oppressed population mired in want.
“As all historians know, the past is a great darkness, and filled with echoes.” ― Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
The rap sheet of despotic behaviors through the eons is a ponderous tome of darkness. Thankfully, we have slightly higher legacy of overcoming human heinousness. Heroism and love eventually wins the day, though we may have to slog through a maze of atrocity to get there.
Oppression in dystopia doesn’t always manifest with organized tyranny. To paraphrase a line from the first Star Wars movie, “you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy,” than a surviving populace in which there is no sheriff, and tribal fiefdom exists in a futuristic version of our Wild West days.
“Most post-holocaust novels are little-boy wish fantasies about running amok in
a world without rules. In fact, such lonely ‘heroes’ would vanish like soot after a real apocalypse.” David Brin – The Postman
In the early days of world collapse, Darwin’s theory of natural selection often becomes a dark truth. It takes time to nurture a hero. They arise from the ashes of desperation, flaring the best trait of human spirit … hope and determination.
“There is never a disaster so devastating that a determined person cannot pull something out of the ashes—by risking all that he or she has left…Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a desperate man.” David Brin – The Postman
It’s what we hope for when we read stories of a future gone awry … that point of desperation in which our characters crawl out from a chasm of darkness and into the light.
I’ve just finished a dystopian science fiction that poses a premise that is both enthralling and cautionary at the same time.
A human endogenous retrovirus has wiped out 95% of the human population and rendered survivors unable to bear children. The end of the anthropogenic era is near. Two years after the virus has run its course, a tiny number of women became pregnant … and give birth on the same day. Raised within the strict confines of his religious mother, Ryan Townsend is fed up with the notoriety of his mysterious birth. No one will tell him why the watchful eye of the Directorate monitors his every move. An outcast in his home town, his only desire is to escape to the solitude of recovering woodlands.
It all changes when on a winter hike, he stumbles on a wolf pack about to tear a girl to shreds. Life-hardened and on the run from Australia, trouble follows Penny McGuire wherever she goes and Ryan’s feelings for Penny drag him along for the ride. Ryan struggles to overcome years of repressed angst to save Penny when a militant gang of rovers kidnaps her. His world implodes when he learns that Penny is pregnant.
Please follow D.T.
Searching For Light in the Darkness