My friend Serdar talked about about his disinterest in writing post-apocalyptic fiction at his blog. I wanted to add my own thoughts on this because most apocalyptic stuff and even post-apocalyptic stuff feels boring and inaccurate. As Serdar puts it, its best to take things as Mad Max like mythology, a sort of lesson or metaphor.
As for the rest of the apocalypses . . .
Most fictional post-apocalypse tales are boring, repetitive, and the same stuff. I’ve been watching enough bad-movies that took Mad Max and gave us so many battles in tight leather pants that it’s like 80’s hair bands went to war. There’s so many Zombie movies it’s a running joke that rarely explores the implications of having zombies. Most of our fictional apocalypses have been done so over and over again there’s nothing to learn or take from it – if there ever was much in the first place.
We’ve recycled our apocalypses and our post-apocalypses, so most of them are going through the motions. Most of the apocalypses are zombies, even if they lack zombies.
In addition, real post-apocalypses don’t fictionalize well.
First, some apocalypses are boring. We’re living through a low-level apocalypses now with COVID-19, and it’s not that interesting. Disasters are often not action-packed or dramatic tales, they’re the slow grind, the surviving-enough, the unending grayness of endings. Fiction doesn’t cover that.
Other apocalypses and post-apocalypses ignore or glorify the horror. We’ve had plenty of apocalyptic bombings and and disasters, we’ve had horrors and terrible mass deaths. So much fiction either grinds our face in the blood and turns it into a show, leaving us with that queasy sense of watching apocalypse pornography. Others try to ignore the horror, because it’s so horrible, building fiction around it until it’s drained of meaning.
Good apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction exists, but it takes a person that can write, that explores, that understands the subjects. It is rare, because it is difficult.
This is why my current fiction, the Avenoth series, is what I call post-post apocalypse. I’m not interested in the end of the world (in this case, a devastating war that killed 3/4 of the planet) or the immediate post-apocalypse. Instead it’s about a rebuilt world, so we see the impact of the apocalypse and post-apocalypse, but are far enough in the future to see the meaning of it all. I want a tale of healed scars and a new society with memory, where we understand the past by looking at the present.
Besides, some of these post-post apocalypses have powerful impact. When the world is grinding away or the blood is spilling, it’s hard to see what it means in the whole.
But afterwards? Afterwards is when you can look back on the works of the past, and despair properly.