Thursday, 7 June 2012

Why Apocalypse?

A little while ago I asked my Facebook friends for suggestions for Post-apocalyptic media to read, watch and play.  Thanks to their suggestions I compiled quite a large list (which I’ve recreated here) so that I could make my way through them and review them like the hideous reading, reviewing nerd I am.  So far I’ve made barely a dent on it, I’m still reading the books I own and the local library has remained quite unmolested by my demands for mutants, psionic powers and people generally suffering in the wake of various forms of apocalypses be they nuclear, alien, bacterial, zombie or more prosaic, like the world running out of oil or the environment changing so much that plants are difficult to propagate.

I suppose the question is why I would choose to do such a thing, especially in a world that’s pretty bleak at present.  Surely these vistas of horrific, twisted worlds are the last things that anyone would want to read especially for pleasure? 

Well yes… and no.  The chief reason for my adopting the genre wholesale as it were, is that with my growing focus on writing I’ve decided to restrict what I read, shying away from urban fantasy, steampunk and vampire literature (though in truth I don’t read that much vampire stuff anyway; and at the time I hadn’t realised how much A Fatal Thirst was a Post-apocalyptic novel and I’m reluctant to change course now, I’m far too much of a flibberty jibbet at the best of times and I’m trying to stick to my guns over something at least). 

Anyway, I found myself in a position where I was casting about for something to read and I didn’t want to go out of genre too much.  I also didn’t want to end up plumping for Medieval, high fantasy, as most a great deal of it leaves me cold these days or for space opera, which somehow I just don’t click with a lot of the time (I don’t really enjoy military SF and a lot of space opera seems to use that as its default setting).  Post-apocalypse fiction seemed to suit the sort of thing I was looking for, it is still Fantastika but at the same time it’s wildly divergent so there was no chance of getting bogged down in one vision, there doesn’t seem to be a Tolkien like figure casting their shadow over the sub-genre (if there can even be said to be genre in the first place) and as a result it feels a lot more individual. 

The last thing was that I had the mad idea that delving into one genre would allow me to be more analytical and measured in my reading, to allow me to look for trends and truisms that can be applied across the board (if such things exist) as well as reading for pleasure.

Curiously many of the novels I’ve read so far aren’t actually that depressing, there is darkness and unpleasantness but their basic premise is often that “change is good” rather than fantasy or space opera that so frequently seem to cling to a sort of orthodoxy, preserving the status quo, for fear that it will be overthrown (why else would so many dark lords be replaced by good kings, rather than by republics?).  These novels positively revel in the fact that the only constant is change, that the old world will be swept away and replaced by something new and, usually, better.  They show us that in the end the tears; the frustration are worth it and that a new life in a new world is possible.  Isn’t that an uplifting message?  Isn’t that better than “no matter what you do, the bastards will win in the end?”

One thing that I would like to do is come up with a tag for the Post-apoc reviews, a way of identifying them to the reader, especially as I’d like to crossover what I’m doing to the Hastur’s Hamster gaming blog for the gaming side of things.

The list is as follows:

Okay, as Kristi Jones said I should do the list of this, here goes...

Books I own/are owned by Eve:
  • Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (read - will review soon)
  • Greybeard by Brian Aldiss (read)
  • The Chrysalids by John Wyndham (read)
  • Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (read... well more listened to as BBC4 Extra had an unabridged version of it recently)
  • The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham (read)
  • Demon Download by Jack Yeovi (read) - these should be in the recommended section too as Ian Crichton mentioned them.
  • Krokodil Tears by Jack Yeovil (can't remember if I've read this)
  • Route 666 by Jack Yeovil
  • The Wind Up Girl by Paolo Baciglupi - this should be in the suggested by friends bit too as Mavis recommended it.
  • World War Z by Max Brooks
  • Zombie Apocalypse by Steve Jones and a bunch of other reprobates
  • The Wraeththu series by Storm Constantine - which I've not read for over 10 years (and don't remember that fondly to be honest)
  • 20th Century Boys - anime series with a constructed apocalypse, which I'm a mite obsessed with.

Books I've read but don't own:
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Books suggest be friends on Facebook:
  • Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (suggested by Eve Weaver)
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (suggested by Cara McKee) - on the strength of that I probalbly should include Maul by Tricia Sullivan as that's pretty much the flipside of Handmaid.
  • Night's Dawn by Peter F Hamilton (suggested by Mavis)
  • Zima Blue by Alistair Reynolds (suggested by Kristi Jones)
  • Pure by Julianna Baggot (suggested by Kristi Jones)
  • Reading the Stones by Sherrie Tepper (suggested by Linzi Cooke)
  • The Postman by David Brin (suggested by Kristi Jones)
  • I am Legend  by Richard Matheson (suggested by Kristi Jones)
  • The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk (suggested by Kristi Jones)
  • The Last Airship by ? (suggested by Rich Blackett)
  • Survivalist by Jerry Ahern (suggested by Rich Blackett - and yes, the cover's total cheese)
  • Brother in the Land by Robert E Swindells (suggested by Cara McKee)
  • The Bed-Sitting Room by Milligan (suggested by Martin Kingston)
  • Swan Song by Robert MacCammon (suggested by Raven Dane)
  • Domain by James Herbert
  • Under the Dome by Stephen King (both suggested by Jackie Clewlow)
  • Peshawar Lancers by S.M. Stirling (suggested by J Rob't Harrison
  • Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M Miller (suggested by Pookie UK)
  • Death of Grass by John Christopher (suggested by Pookie UK)
  • Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling (suggested by Pookie UK)
  • Nausica - anime (suggested by Kristi Jones - I own the first couple of volumes somewhere...)
Fillum and TeeVee:
  • Hardware
  • Mad Max series (Darren Chadwick seems a mite obsessed with this)
  • Escape from New York
  • Escape from LA
  • Akira
  • Nausica
  • Gilgamesh (anime series)
  • Wolf's Rain (anime series)
  • Burst Angel (anime series)
  • The Tribe (TV series from New Zealand from the '90s - I don't own it but it was defnitely post apocalypse)
  • No Escape? (Eve says that the culture on the island is post apoc even if the fillum doesn't come from that genre)
I suppose there's the Postman, Water World and the fillum version of I am Legend...

RPGs and games people have suggested
  • Dark Future (rules only)
  • Atomic Highway (I own this one)
  • Airship Pirates (I own this one too)
  • Twilight 2000
  • Dark Conspiracy
  • Fallout games for the PC
which were mostly suggested by Stu Ball, Rich Blackett and Rob Smith... I think Gamma World's meant to be classic isn't it?  I think Sarah Newton's a big fan of that world.  I'm trying to avoid Rifts - it looked fascinating when I was a kid and saw the adverts in American comicbooks but these days it fills me with fear - way too much kitchen sink.

This is the list as it stands, feel free to suggest more books, films and games for me to look at.  I fancy taking a long tour through this sort of thing and there'll probably be much in the way of d'oh moments and hopefully later on some written stuff, analysing the stuff I've seen and read (for instance comparing western and Japanese apocalypses and their aftermaths - aside from "fewer big robots in western stuff).