Apocalypse redux…

Redux = brought back, revived. We’re talking about the apocalypse again. Apocalypse is the event. While a dystopian society can cause it or be its aftermath, post-apocalyptic is reserved for the aftermath. There is a resurgence in these themes now. Everyone knows the reason: what’s happening in the U.S. right now as well as across the world has frightening parallels with 1930’s Germany, Italy, and Spain as well as with the darkest days of the Cold War. There’s nothing religious about this apocalypse.

Most dystopian, apocalyptic, and post-apocalyptic tales in the past were associated with the two world wars or the Communist threat. Brave New World was dystopian; Ape and Essence was post-apocalyptic. Even The Time Machine was post-apocalyptic. 1984 and Animal Farm were dystopian. Later sci-fi novels like Not This August were post-apocalyptic. Many classics can be found in these subgenres. Many soon-to-be classics like Wool are too. They all are warnings about what could happen. It’s common that interest in books and movies in these subgenres reflect troubled times in the world.

The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki changed the world. As that hand on the Doomsday Clock inches toward midnight, these sci-fi subgenres become more popular. Some readers ignore them, burying their heads in the sand by reading schmaltzy romances and fluffy adventures that avoid most serious themes of any type. Which group is right? Beats me. I just tell stories. If one of them comes out apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic, so be it. Almost all my stories have serious themes, though, but not all of them are in the aforementioned subgenres.

My apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic novels also tend to end on an optimistic note. Many don’t. Survivors of the Chaos treats both apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic situations, just not the usual ones. Soldiers of God and the more recent Rogue Planet are both dystopian in a sense, but not in the usual sense. Like Howey’s Wool, there’s some positivity at the end. More than Human: The Mensa Contagion starts out badly and ends on a high note.

Past classics in these subgenres are often bleak and depressing. For a reader or writer, Fahrenheit 451 is about as depressing as they can get, for example. By ending on a high note, I, like Howey, express the idea that no matter how bad it is, there are still enough good people around at the end to cast the light of hope for a better future. Of course, if the whole world crumbles—a nuclear holocaust, for example—that better future can’t happen. As far as we know, the Universe might be populated with failed civilizations where some demagogue unleashed the atomic genie or bio warfare ogre. We could join their number sooner than later.

More depressing for me is the idea that real human beings, not those in fiction, just can’t learn. A general theme in my books is that there is too much hell right here on Earth generated by evil, immoral people, and too many repetitive struggles by a few good, moral persons who must rise to the occasion to combat them. We continue to repeat our errors—hence that Doomsday Clock rarely goes backwards. That’s depressing and philosophically deep. Are we doomed to commit suicide? Does the human race have a death wish?

Writers in these subgenres do a great service. They show the general reading public how bad things can get. My first published book, Full Medical, predicts a current dystopian situation: how the healthcare crisis can lead to future disaster. Soldiers of God predicts how religious intolerance can lead to homegrown terrorism. Survivors of the Chaos predicts how uncontrolled capitalism can lead to the fall of governments and a worldwide oligarchy. That’s softcore apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic but still meaningful.

Bottom line? Readers don’t have to be depressed when reading in these subgenres. On the contrary, they are a safe way to experience how bad things can get. Howey’s silos in Wool are microcosmic hells, but they’re also significant warnings about how insane evil can take hold and become despotic. All these books are signposts at forks in the road—one turn leading to disaster, the other providing an alternative. We must learn to take the alternative. If these books teach us to do that, they’re not depressing at all!


The entire “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series” is now available on Smashwords in all ebook formats, with #7, Gaia and the Goliaths, the most recent addition. #2, Angels Need Not Apply, will be on sale there starting March 1. Of course, the entire ebook series is also available on Amazon. Don’t miss the adventures of these crime-fighting cops. (Reviewers can read individual novels for free in return for an honest review.)

In libris libertas….

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