Much has been written about the end of the world. Since ancient times, the human race has seemed more preoccupied with the end than with the current. It is as though we are pre-wired to wonder about what comes next or how it will all fall apart, be that by our own hand, or by the hand of God. Regardless of how advanced we become as a society or how intellectual we all like to think ourselves, thoughts of the apocalypse still fascinate.
For those of my generation, the first real TV generation, born in the 60s, our childhoods were filled with frightening films like 1977’s Damnation Alley, based on the book by the same name published in 1967. By then, we were also watching the edited for television versions of Omega Man from 1971, based on the book, I Am Legend, from 1954. We were imagining the taste of people once we were exposed to Soilent Green, a 1973 film loosely based on the 1966 novel, Make Room! Make Room! The 70s saw the publication of Lucifer’s Hammer, arguably one of the most influential among the forest of post-apocalyptic works. Older still, Alas Babylon – my personal favorite although I did not read it until recently – was brought to market in 1959.
Today, the collection of works about the end of the world as we know it is massive, and growing every day. Much of it is utter garbage, to be honest. I don’t know any other way to put it. It seems everyone with an interest in “prepping” or preparedness in general has decided they too could be an author. Unfortunately, many of those books spend more time trying to teach you about prepping – and much of it wrong – instead of building a fascinating and entertaining story. For the most part, many of the new apocalypse authors are interchangeable.
See, the thing is, no one has ever seen the end of the world. It is one of the few genres that are completely open to speculation and imagination. Science fiction certainly isn’t. As soon as some MIT geek gets a look at your futuristic propulsion system, he’s going to rip it apart and prove that it can’t work. Romance? Well, we all know that entire genre is nothing but wishful thinking. Certainly there are aspects to the apocalypse that are open to criticism. Government, for one thing. They can’t build a website but we are supposed to believe they have the capability of instituting a police state, à la Fahrenheit 451? Perhaps in some far off future but not now. Writing about the end of the world becomes freeing in many ways. There are no ‘written in stone’ rules. I enjoyed my foray into the apocalypse and I will certainly write more about my own futuristic visions of it.
If you are going to read the genre, might I suggest reading the classics first? Eventually, you will see that many of the modern interpretations of the apocalypse are influenced, and sometimes stolen directly, from those works. Change the cause of the apocalypse in Alas Babylon from nuclear war to an EMP attack and you have One Second After, a book that has been wildly popular among preppers and even some government agencies. It angered me when I figured that out. Perhaps you will take it more in stride than I did. I’m surprised the author got away with it. In some cases, even the dialogue seems to be taken directly from the classic. In the follow-up book, One Year After, even the name given to the precipitating event is taken directly from Alas Babylon.
It helps if the author has seen a world where the people are desperate and have nothing; no resources, fresh water, jobs, food, or hope. You get a pretty good picture of what happens to a society following a collapse. It is rarely as described in popular fiction, however. The majority of Afghanistan comes to mind. As an American, I had never witnessed such utter poverty. I suppose those who have spent any time in much of Africa have seen the same. Most just get it wrong. And yet, those people live. They scrape by, wondering if this is their last day, and somehow waking up to do it again the following morning. They survive. Sometimes they cooperate.
We’ve been discussing these topics on my Facebook page recently so I thought I would compile these thoughts and share them with those not currently a part of my Facebook and Twitter experience. Feel free to come on over and join in. Most of my posts are public and anyone can participate in the comments. I will see you there!