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Monday, December 10, 2012

Apocalyptic Trends


I often wonder where trends come from, and where they go to die. As a writer, I can’t help but be mindful of what is popular and what isn’t. Even though every book or blog or conversation dealing with writing advice says to not look at trends, as they often pass faster than writers can complete new projects to fit them, I find myself wondering whether I could write something that fits that trend, and if so, how would I do it, and how well could I do it?

For instance, the Apocalypse. This is an interesting one because it’s been around so long, that now we are looking at variations as the trends. It’s as if we have accepted that the end of the world is coming, and the only question posed in fiction is the how of it.

It may be indicative of my age, but when I think of the apocalypse, I first think of the Mad Max films, The Road Warrior in particular. In this variation, the world has endured a true “war to end all wars.” In the films it is never made clear as to the nature of the war, nor how it was fought, or why it changed the face of the world. However, given the time period the films were made (the early 80’s) it’s probably safe to assume it was a nuclear war. Either way, fuel, and thereby energy in general, is a scarcity, and the survivors are reduced to a state similar to the Dark Ages, while they search for a means of survival (ala gasoline).

One could argue that this forms the template by which all other apocalypse fiction is created: the world has irrevocably changed, and there is a single element that is key to survival, and people are forced to obtain it at all costs. Now, I will admit that I have not read much post-apocalypse fiction, and have really only seen a handful of films (though many seem to be just a variation of the Mad Max theme). But even with only a tertiary knowledge of the sub-genre, it is clear that the popularity endures. And right now, the “trend” is quite obviously the “zombiepocalypse.”

Personally, I’m kind of tired of the zombiepocalypse. From video games to movies, and now a TV show, I’m just about zombied out. I find it hard to get excited about zombie anything anymore. Were I to decide to work on an apocalypse story, it would be 100% sans zombies. So, then, what would I do?

As a Christian, my first instinct is to do some variation of The Rapture. But, first off, it’s been done (the "Left Behind" series). And second, even as a Christian, I’m not so sure it will happen like that. In fact, I’m really not even sure the “end” will happen at all. That’s just a philosophical debate, and frankly, it distracts people from the real message of the Bible. But, we’re not here to talk about that.

I think I would probably go the “natural disaster” route. However, I don’t think that the Earth is capable of creating a natural disaster of that magnitude (even with man’s help). So, it would have to be a result of something from beyond. This obviously means something from space. A meteor so big it devastates the Earth and kills most of the dominant species (hey, it happened once!). Or perhaps a meteor shower that, in itself doesn’t cause much damage, but, unbeknownst to us, those meteors that make it through the atmosphere bring something with them that causes devastation. A virus? Maybe. A new element that reacts with the ones on our planet to create some kind of new environment? Now THAT sounds like a good one.

Interestingly, a variation of this was presented in the "War Against the Chtorr" series by David Gerrold. The meteors were actually sent by aliens, and carried with them elements that would terraform the Earth for the aliens (if I recall correectly, it's been a while). I only ever read the first book, but it was good. And of course, it leads me to speculate on whether an “alien invasion apocalypse” story would be a good fit. But then we just get into alien invasion fiction, which, honestly, should be its own trend.

The cool thing is, even if you narrow it down to something like the meteor-shower scenario I present above, it opens up all kinds of possibilities. Not the least of which is, how will humans react? Will they resort to barbarism? Or will they coalesce into a more diverse, yet smaller population? Or will there be a mixture of both (like in Judge Dredd)?

So, what’s your favorite Apocalypse fiction?

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

I love post apocalyptic fiction. You should try a series called the Survivalist. Extremely good action with an apocalypse to boot.