shewhohashope: A pile of books. (Books)
[personal profile] shewhohashope posting in [community profile] post_apocalypse
I'm a big fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, and an avowed hater of apocalyptic fiction (one of many reasons I won't be watching 2012)*, because there is only so much I can take of the destruction before I need to see something being built up. I recently read Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower, which has been described as post-apocalyptic, including by myself, when explaining what I'm reading to family members and passers-by but what qualifies it as such? What do we mean by apocalyptic? Parable of the Sower shows the bleak aftermath of an economic collapse in the U.S. but if an economic collapse = an apocalypse, then quite a lot of the world counts or has counted in the past? I'm a first generation immigrant myself, economic/social/political upheaval is pretty far from the realm of fiction for me. So what does an apocalypse have to feature? An environmental disaster, as in that one Captain Planet episode, where they go the the future? Nuclear war, as in Threads? The extinction of humanity, as in The Last Man? The subjugation of man by machine, as in The Terminator? Or just overcrowding, as in Soylent Green? Alien invasion, as in Xenogenesis? The actual destruction of the Earth, as in... real life, eventually, when the Sun expands? Are some of these just dystopias? Where are the lines drawn here?


ETA: I have more thoughts about this, in a way that may make me write something at some point, but I'd like to get your opinions.

* Or Threads.

cross-posted from my journal and at lj

Date: 2009-11-25 11:39 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] sock_marionette
Going back to the origin of the word, "apocalypse" was, around the time the Book of Revelation was written, a Greek word that basically meant "unveiling" (kind of like "revelation," for that matter). So if one wants to go old-school, "post-apocalypse" would, I suppose, refer to what happens after the veil has been lifted. As in, "You've got your revelation: now what are ya gonna do with it?"

I think, in a not-highly-thought-out way, that an apocalyptic event is something catastrophic and (more then likely) unwelcome that happens that causes us to completely re-evaluate our lives entirely in light of this new event. By that standard, and I've seen this argued elsewhere, "apocalyptic" events are happening every day, all the time, all over the place. Your spouse suddenly dies? Apocalypse. Your economy collapses? You're attacked out of the blue, either as an individual by another, or as one nation by another? Apocalypse. In your case, immigration to a new country? Yeah, I'd think that counts as a revelatory (apocalyptic) experience!

However, in the sense of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, bigger tends to supersede smaller. So an "apocalyptic" event has to be a plague that wipes out most of the population or a nuclear war that destroys both people and infrastructure or something equally global. So a novel about a woman coping with sudden widowhood would probably not be described as "post-apocalyptic." She may have to redefine her life radically, but the background of her world is still pretty much as it was, unless her widowhood is part of a broader societal catastrophe, like she became a widow because her husband was one of a number of victims of genocide, or her country got bombed "back to the Stone Age."

I think our expectations from fiction are that if something new is to be rebuilt on the ashes of the old, that it will only take a globally disastrous one-time event to bring about that change, to strip away all social organizations and then see what the survivors do. Recreate the old? Come up with something entirely new? Show themselves to be stock characters (hooker with a heart of gold, coward, thief without honor, opportunist, living saint, willing martyr, and so on)? In post-apocalyptic fiction, it seems that lack of electricity, running water, and a steady food supply needs to be the framework of that change.


post_apocalypse: Planet of the Apes - Statue of Liberty (Default)

April 2010

4 5678910

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Oct. 23rd, 2017 05:50 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios