Currently working on: The End is coming! (Not an apocalypse end, just The End of my Book 3)
As a child of the Cold War, I have a special place in my heart for apocalypses. Total world destruction was forever imminent — but it was survivable as long as we got under our desks in time, and meanwhile there’s still a lot of ice cream to eat when you’re 10 years old so it was hard to get too freaked out.
Of course, I planned to be a survivor (the aforementioned ice cream was motivation and I’m super quick sliding under a desk) so — thinking ahead — I even decided to study Russian. It was us or them, I figured.
Who knew, I should’ve studied Mandarin. Oh well.
Over the years, I studied apocalyptic literature and movies with great and horrified delight. Here are a few of my favorites apocalypses you might have missed the first time around. I even learned a few more tricks — besides the head under desk thing — that might help you survive the end.
ALAS, BABYLON by Pat Frank
One of the first post-apocalyptic books written in the nuclear age, ALAS, BABYLON was also one of the first post-apocalyptic books I read as a kid. Set in a small Florida town, the book chronicles the breakdown of the society — naturally — as well as the heroism of those who kept their heads and their hearts.
Apocalyptic lesson: When the bespectacled doctor’s only set of eyeglasses are destroyed, I was horrified. As a four-eyed kid myself, I understood this was a death sentence. The lesson I learned was read lots now because you never know when you won’t be able to read again.
SWAN SONG by Robert McCammon
In a post-nuclear world, two children become the leaders of opposing camps of good and evil as the rebirth of civilization hangs in the balance. Apparently the author hates being compared to Stephen King, but this story does read as a more digestible version of the themes in King’s THE STAND, another fun post-apoc — plague, this time — story.
Apocalyptic lesson: The survivors are afflicted with keloid scars that worsened through the course of the story… and then revealed the true, inner nature of the afflicted. The lesson being, you better be pure and good if you want to avoid permanent radiation burns and possession by creeping evil.
Mad Max with young, hawt, pre-crazy Mel Gibson
Because post-peak-oil is definitely post-apocalyptic as anybody who wouldn’t be able to fuel up their sweet 1973 XB GT Ford Falcon Coupe aka Max’s Interceptor would agree. You probably saw this movie when it first came out and then it got buried under layers of Tina Turner’s hair in Beyond Thunderdome. Go back to the roots where surviving the apocalypse meant being badder ass than the bad guys. Yes, I know this contradicts the earlier post-apocalypse lesson of being pure of heart, committed to humanity, and not so quick on the trigger.
Apocalyptic lesson: Invest in black leather now, before it’s too late!!!
Logan’s Run (the 1976 movie version)
Spoiler alert! This was an interesting take on post-apocalypse because… whatever bad thing had happened (some sort of environmental disaster, apparently) was over, but the people didn’t know it and had barricaded themselves inside a domed city and were euthanizing themselves to avoid any overcrowding that would force them out into the bigger world. Allegedly, a remake — in the works with various producers and directors since the mid-1990s — has been again rescheduled for 2012.
Apocalyptic lesson: The only thing worse than an apocalypse that ends the world is living as if an apocalypse has ended the world… when it hasn’t. Doh!
Apocalypse has gotten more sophisticated over the years, from the fabulous climate change pseduo-science of The Day After Tomorrow — cold air from space swirls down to freeze our heroes!!! — to the amok-running of technology in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (my fave of the franchise — girl crush!) which taught us that (contrary to the waif-like Jessica 6 in Logan’s Run) upper body strength will be vital to post-apocalypse survival and, yes, black is still THE color for Armageddon. But for all the changes since the fall of the Soviet Union, apocalypse remains full of good times in the end times.
Don’t forget to pack your Zippo.
Do you have a favorite apocalypse story? Do you think you’d be the brave assistant deputy mayor who leads the survivors to safety? Or would you be the well-armed loner who vows not to get involved? Or would you be the mutant screamer?