Apocalypse and dystopian stories now less appealing

The dramatic “what if” possibilities for apocalypse and dystopian story lines are utterly fascinating. How did the world end? What does the landscape look like now? What does society/culture look like? How will people survive? These plots are immensely popular these days, personally I think they’re more popular now due to a number of real life things happening: between the world supposedly ending according to the Mayan calendar in 2012, difficult times in the economy with the recession making us all think a little bit harder about survival, natural disasters and the possibility of global warming, and the threats of terrorism and war.

This is all especially on my mind since I just read The Road and all the commercials for that movie, and The Book of Eli, and 2012 was out a little bit ago, I still have nightmares about my emergency plans if The Day After Tomorrow happens, there are a hundred new and old books with this theme that I keep thinking about due to the Book Smugglers constant pimpage and lastly I’m always reminded because my most googled and most read blog posts are on a YA dystopian series.

One of the issues in these storylines that really revs my engine is the survival part, I love how authors or filmmakers detail what the characters can carry, assessing how much they can fit in a backpack, or shopping cart, or the secret-hideaway-broken-shed. How the hero learns to scrounge from the land and make “something” out of nothing, taking everyday items or trash from the pre-apocalypse world and building something to survive, or getting creative with finding food. (barely related side note: i also love this in time travels. can the character bring anything with them when they time travel? if you were going back in time, what would you bring? medicine, text books, tampons? would you be able to speak Olde English or 14th century French?)

HOWEVER these storylines are much less attractive now. The pictures and news of the earthquake in Haiti is a true post-apocalyptic world. As I scrolled through these images were burned in my brain and merged with all the imaginary images from the books I had been reading. The ash that the characters in The Road had to breathe through and that covered the land is too eerily similar to the concrete dust that coats the faces and streets of Port-au-Prince.

Looking at all those pictures of  mass graves and the devastation and complete destruction of Haiti’s cathedrals, government buildings, port, homes, and water supply – just EVERYTHING – it’s all gone. So now they LITERALLY are living out of what they can carry. Suddenly it’s not an author’s imagination that designates what people save from their home or what they carry to survive, they have plastic bags of any personal items they could salvage, what wasn’t too heavy to carry, and any food or water they could find.

In The Road the man and boy found water in underground cisterns or dipped cans on super long strings underneath old gas stations for fuel for their lamp and I was obsessed with these ingenious survival methods. But seeing the pictures of the people in Haiti fighting over water, machete weilding gangs, or waiting in days long lines for gas has ruined apocalypse story lines for me.

Sorry for the depressing post, but it has been on my mind a whole lot. I just don’t see how Haiti can recover from this. Already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere the thought of rebuilding after the destruction seems an insurmountable task coupled with the fact that it’s so hard to get supplies in.

In conclusion, I am taking a break from fictional post-apocalyptic worlds and focusing on the one unfolding in real life. Check out the Charity Navigator if you’d like to donate.

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7 Responses

  1. Interesting thoughts, LR. I think the first post-apocolyptic book I ever read was Nevil Shute’s On the Beach. And I remember when Mel Gibson first burst on the scene with his Mad Max movies. Oddly, I lost interest in that type of thing around 10 years ago and then I rediscovered romance fiction. With all the real-life death and destruction around us, I can no longer spend my entertainment dollar on the same. It’s probably my age talking, but there it is. So very sad what is going on in Haiti–I hope our contributions get where they need to go.

  2. Phyl: oh i looooved Mad Max when i was little. i bonded with my dad over it. and that is my standard answer for when people ask me why i read romance, because i only want to spend my money on happy endings. i can watch the news for free.

  3. I do have been fascinated with post-apocalyptic films but I don’t know if I’d actually want to see something like that really happen.

  4. What a great post LR! You go Honey!!

  5. Dystopian fiction has always been my favorite genre. In fact, I’ve read little else in the past few years. I just finished the young adult Hunger Games, and what you wrote here is making me rethink everything. How exciting is it for me, sitting in my comfy bed with my cocoa in my jammies reading about people trying to survive when their world has been destroyed, with little food or supplies, when the real thing is happening in Haiti. I feel like an asshole. It’s a fresh perspective though. Thank you.

  6. dmbosstone: that’s why i love reading, it’s always safe to play with scenarios in your imagination!

    planet books: haha, thanks. it’s been on my mind a lot.

    SMUK: there are som many to choose from in this sub genre! Young Adult books especially. I have *got* to get around to the hunger games series!

  7. […] although I swore off apocalypse and dystopian novels as they mirrored too closely the horrible natural disasters, wars, and terrorism in real life […]

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