Come on, what else would I call a blog post about post-apocalyptic fiction?
I love post-apocalyptic fiction. Books, movies, video games, even comic books, I love them. My favorites, I’ll admit, usually have the words “Fallout” and “4” in the title, though if you exchange “4” for “76”, quality drops off and I lose all interest. I can’t explain that, maybe I’m just not great at math.
Still, there are others. Mad Max, We’re Alive, The Book of Eli, and those are just a few that come to mind right away. The idea of being tested against nature, chaos, and even other humans outside the constraints of law and civilization is wildly appealing. It was that idea that pushed humanity into the widest, farthest frontiers of the earth, and it still pushes us into the farthest reaches of space and the depths of the world’s oceans. It’s human nature to test boundaries, and post-apocalyptic fiction allows us to do just that without risking our lives.
That said, I don’t think I’ll ever successfully write any. The problem isn’t that I can’t think of any challenges for characters to endure and, hopefully, overcome, it’s that I don’t know if my thoughts on the subject are interesting enough to write about. Here are some examples:
World overcome by a zombie plague? Wait a week or two. The human body can’t survive for very long without intentional water intake, and zombies aren’t known for staying hydrated.
Nuclear war? Get away from cities, get underground if you can, and I hope you packed some bottled water and canned meat.
Alien invasion? They’ll either destroy the planet or enslave us, so if it’s the latter, get to work, organize, and wait for your chance.
After that, it’s just a matter of rebuilding civilization and dealing with the conflicts that arise from that. Grumpy neighbors, bandits, betrayal, all that stuff. It’s interesting, but, these days, haven’t we seen it? With all of the post-apocalyptic fiction the world’s produced in the last few decades, I can’t think of anything I’d add to that conversation. That doesn’t however, stop me from enjoying such works from others, even if I realize that they’re not very original halfway through.
There is always the option of adding other elements, but, in my opinion, adding other elements to post-apocalyptic stories just changes the genre. I’ll argue until I’m blue in the face that “The Lord of the Rings” is just post-apocalyptic fantasy, but since it pretty much originated the genre, everyone just calls it fantasy. Same with “Ilium” and “Olympos” by Dan Simmons. The parts of the story that take place on Earth are patently post-apocalyptic, but the rest of the story is so full of robots and quantum teleportation and immortal ‘gods’ that it just becomes regular, though excellent, science fiction.
We can place more rules around it in order to explore some idea or another, but the appeal of post-apocalyptic worlds is that there are no rules, and I get overwhelmed by that idea. If the genre has no rules, other than the downfall of a previous civilization, then there’s nothing keeping me from driving it off a bridge. I love post-apocalyptic stuff, but I don’t dare write it. I do have ideas for stories, though, so if I ever do figure it out, be afraid, and pack for a long journey through the wasteland.