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How to identify some good Apocalyptic Fiction

Post by: Kabita Sonowal

Nostradamus’ prophesies inspired and awed several writers with a penchant for apocalyptic fiction. However, the apocalyptic genre is not a new genre. It is evident from the works of the Babylonians and the Mayans. Mesoamerican literature is a rich source of history, prophesy, time, astronomy, and the apocalypse. Drawing a reference to the Mayan calendar, it has caught the fancy of several painters, writers, and film makers. The movie Apocalypto was a stark portrayal of time, death, and history. Shot in the Yucatan Peninsula, it provided a lush backdrop to a cataclysmic change in a segment of Mesoamerican society.



This genre of fiction is also evident in the Bible. The story of Noah’s ark is one such example: the flood, the death, and the societal order after survival point towards a transformational change which has become the underlying theme of apocalyptic fiction. Moving to the present times, the heart-wrenching deaths and pandemonium after the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombing led to further contribution to this genre. A lot of Japanese Manga comic illustration is inspired by apocalyptic imagery and theme. Further this genre has always become a blend of popular sci-fi literature predicting the end of the world/civilizations, nuclear disaster, and the arrival of extra-terrestrials on this planet. Although this blend sounds too cliché or an archaic offering from another era, it has evolved as a very popular and cool genre. Writers such as HG Wells, Mary Shelley, and Edgar Allen Poe were inspired by the apocalypse and wrote some of the most bewildering literature. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, Shelley’s The Last Man, and Poe’s The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion are paradigms in apocalyptic literature.



This genre of fiction has created settings of societies being destroyed by plague and nuclear armaments.  The Cold War Phase and the gloom and the uncertainty of the Iron Curtain also led to an increase in its popularity. Paul Brians’ Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction is a must-read and jots a timeline of this genre of fiction. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank, Level 7 by Mordecai Roshwald, After London by Richard Jeffries, and Caesar’s Column by Ignatius Donnelly are some other good reads on the apocalyptic genre.

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