21 May 2011

Post apocalyptic fiction and why we love it

Well, it's May 21st and The Rapture has not happened. I bet there are a lot of shame faced uber religious types out there right about now. Be that as it may, it got me thinking about how the idea of Doomsday is such a fascinating subject, and how quite often we tend to think of what happens beyond Doomsday; when Mankind has picked itself up and dusted itself off from the aftermath of the End of Days. This is where post-apocalyptic fiction comes into play.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no connoisseur of the genre; in fact, I've only started getting into post-apocalyptic fiction in the past few months. However, I've allowed the floodgates of awesome to open before me (the floodgates of awesome is a real place, trust me) and I've found a few examples of post apocalyptic fiction in books, movies, TV and video games that show the reasons why the genre is ripe with potential.

The Fallout series (video game)

Made world famous in 2008 with Fallout 3, this series shows the bleak world after a massive nuclear war and the fractured human social structure that attempts to survive in its aftermath. Playing through the game lets you see the utter desolation of the world (known as 'The Wasteland') and how people cling to the remnants of their former civilization. Throw in giant cockroaches and mutants to do battle against, and you've a staple post apocalyptic story right there.

The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell

One of the first post apocalyptic novels I've read, Bell uses the now all too familiar trope of the zombie apocalypse as the setting for his novel. However, Bell doesn't rely on mass zombie feeding scenes or tiresome gorey deaths to show the reader the nature of the world he has created - he does so by showing everything through the eyes of a teenage girl who was born well into the post apocalyptic world. Her experiences, her loneliness and her attempts to connect with other humans are what makes this a great read.

Planet of the Apes (original movie)

I consider this to be a classic post apocalypse movie, made all the more awesome since you don't become aware that it is a post apocalyptic movie until the absolute end (you all know what bit I'm talking about). This was a very cleverly done movie in which the elements of post-apocalyptic fiction were in place desolation and wasteland, an alternate group of 'other survivors' who have to be battled against), but not overt enough to let the viewer not straight away what was really going on.

The Last Train (British TV series)

This one tells of a group of British commuters who are accidentally cryogenically frozen prior to a catastrophic asteroid collision. When they eventually thaw out, they are greeted with a Britain that is plagued by feral dogs and acid rain. This adds in the immediate feeling of unfamiliarity, much like Planet of the Apes, this very much feels like an alien world to the characters in the show. In addition to this setback, there are other survivors who attempt to kill the 'time travellers'.

What links these post apocalyptic stories together? Many themes are different, but what elements remain the same, which run through all stories in the genre? Loneliness and desolation are two of the main features. These new worlds are barren, with very limited resources, which causes a massive amount of internal conflict. Added to this, most post apocalyptic fiction has two distinct groups of 'survivors', both of which are very territorial. This opens the story for a lot of external conflict. It seems that post apocalyptic fiction is so well loved as a genre because it throws humanity into the worst situation it could possibly think of (worse than the end of the world, since they have to live in the aftermath), making their triumph all the sweeter.

If there are any post apocalyptic works you think I should read/watch/play in order to expand my horizons, please let me know. How was your Rapture Day, too?

18 May 2011

Fantasy Art Showcase: Todd Harris

Tune in next Wednesday (25th May) for a guest post by author A.J. Walker, author of Roots Run Deep, publishing by Double Dragon Publishing. A.J. will be writing about how being an archaeologist and Medievalist influences his writing.


Owl Lady
I've not done a fantasy art showcase in a little while so here's some little slices of awesome from Los Angeles based artist Todd Harris.

What strikes me most about Todd's work is the line work, which reminds me a lot of Mark Silvestri (comic artist of Wtichblade fame).  His painting style makes him well suited to the fantasy genre, and I'd love to see his work in a graphic novel or two :) Take a look at some more of his work below (click the images to go to the relevant page on Todd's blog).


Windmill Outpost