The world has been ending for quite a long time. Ever since the breakout success of Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel The Road, the US has been degraded, devastated, and decimated time and time again. It seems the world of post-apocalyptic fiction is having a non-dystopian future.
In the last year or so, an avalanche of books have been released that paint a very bleak future of the world we live in. This includes California by Edan Lepucki, Chang-Rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea, Monica Byrne’s The Girl in the Road, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, Sandra Newman’s The Country of Ice Cream Star, Kenneth Calhoun’s Black Moon, Laura van den Berg’s Find Me, Benjamin Percy’s The Dead Lands, and Adam Sternbergh’s Shovel Ready.
I remember having many talks with friends in the last year, about what we would do if there was a zombie apocalypse or devastating outbreak of some new super bug. We made plans on where we would meet and what type of weapons we could defend ourselves with. Investing in a bug out bag was the first thing we all did, supplies that would last us seven days, solar powered radios and binoculars. I also know enough that if something big was on the precipice of occurring to fill the bathtub with water in order to have a drinking supply once the valves were shut off. I don’t know if any of this would actually help and the best laid plans often crumble when something real happens, but its strangely cathartic.
Why do people love dystopian fiction and are enamored with authors such as Hugh Howey? The world feels more precariously perched on the lip of the abyss than ever, and facing those fears through fiction helps us deal with it. They reaffirm why we struggle to keep our world together in the first place. By imagining what it’s like to lose everything, we can value what we have.