Saturday, June 11, 2011

Guest Blog: Brandy Hunt, I love the smell of Apocalypse in the morning

Me Want Food welcomes author Brandy Hunt! If you are interested in guest blogging, drop me a line at kspatwriter at yahoo dot com. 

I love the smell of Apocalypse in the morning, by Brandy Hunt

When I first mentioned writing an entry about post-apocalyptic (PA) literature with a little blurb about dystopias, Kat emailed me back and said yes. And I'm kind of glad she did, because I think I've come to a better understanding of why I enjoy this type of literature. These are all my own opinions, so feel free to disagree about anything I'm about to say.

So where does the need to see an apocalypse, survive a PA scenario, and watch the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI) come from? I have no idea. I love it though. Give me climate changes, zombies, bioterrorism, monsters – big or small; just give it to me larger than life and terrorizing the eastern seaboard.

My fascination started early. Most people don't look back on their favorite movies and cartoons from childhood, and see the beginning of life long obsession, but I do. Cartoons like The ThunderCats and movies like Mad Max cemented my predilections.

Flip forward thirty years, and now I write mostly what I like to read. This almost always includes TEOTWAWKI or dystopia in some way. And I'm not the only one. There are lists dedicated to PA on and several groups, including one just on Young Adult PA, on After wracking my brain for a few days trying to decide what I was going to write here, I finally think I have the main reason why PA literature seems to be increasing in popularity.

Somewhere in the world, someone’s world is ending. There are earthquakes, volcano eruptions, tornados, and tsunamis. This is just since January 2011, and the networks broadcast that information to you every time you tune into a news broadcast. We see all of the experts giving us reasons why our lives are changing for the worse, and how it won’t get any better.

In essence, PA literature is a way of processing how we feel about all these changes and disasters the daily news brings into our lives. For some, these changes don’t bother them, but for others, they need a way of processing their fears. Then there are those of us who kind of revel in it.

For those of us who revel in TEOTWAWKI, there is something of a frontier feel to some of those novels. We use the intellectual challenge of preparing for the zombie apocalypse as a way of preparing for whatever disaster is most common for where we live. The reader thinks about what he might do if caught in the plot of the novel he is reading, while writer thinks about what kind of characters are going to make it in their frontier-like worlds.

In a way, the old dime store Western tropes are beginning to appear in the PA subgenre. Mad Max wouldn’t have been a stranger in an old dime store novel. A lone family on the prairie wouldn’t be that out of place in a novel about rebuilding after an apocalypse. It could be that writers and directors are trying to rebuild those tropes in new ways, but we can’t ignore the dystopia that usually accompanies PA literature.

Very few PA novels end or begin happily, or at least the kind of happy we are used to finding in most novels. Instead, the future is dark, the society is mean, and the distribution of goods is rarely fair. In other words, most PA novels either start or end with the world in a state of dystopia, the opposite of utopia. Why is this trope so often used?

It is a ready-made conflict. It gives something for characters to fight against and a goal for characters to strive for. We’d all like to believe that in the end we would fight for justice and the American Way. It allows us to examine our feelings for a society where 1% of the population holds 90% of the wealth without feeling unfaithful to the American dream. And sometimes, you need an outlet for the frustration involved in everyday life. After all, everyone has a list of those who would be first against the wall after the revolution.

In the end, I write what I love. I love bumps in a night made dark by the lack of electricity, fever bright eyes staring from a thin face, the swell of the tsunami as it comes into shore, and most of all, the zombie horde pushing against mall doors. And some people will never understand it, but those of you who do, come on by and crouch down by the fire and let’s tell some scary stories about how the world might end while it crashes down around our ears.


Leslie said...

Great discussion. I believe many people like this type of genre because it is about survival, not just of the strong but of the smart. Well maybe not even the smart, but survival nevertheless.
Thanks for sharing.

Sheila from Goodreads Apocalyptic Group said...

Had to LOL at the title of your post, since my DH just watched Apocalypse Now for the first time two nights ago. :o)

For me, PA stories have been growing in facination for me since childhood. My DH thinks it is because I grew up in the shadow of the eruption of Mt St. Helens (my first, first-hand apocalyptic experience). Then reading the book On The Beach hooked me to PA stories. And now, 20+ years later, I am still a huge fan of the genre.

Thanks for the guest post Brandy. :o)

Writing In Laton said...

Great topic Brandy! In the end as long as we're doing what we love that's all that matters. Keep it up :-D

Derek said...

I'm not entirely sure I agree "In a way, the old dime store Western tropes are beginning to appear in the PA subgenre. Mad Max wouldn’t have been a stranger in an old dime store novel.", though Cormac MacArthy would suggest a clear link!

More like, I think, that the dime-store Westerns and apocalyptic SF explore the same themes. But those are the same themes that other forms of SF have always explored too - one man (ahem! or woman) or a small group, against the wild, the universe, the future...

gertie said...

Great post Brandy.
I remember discussing this once in a Goodreads group and finding everyone's different reasons for enjoying PA fiction interesting and sometimes surprising. I know people who like to picture how they would react in certain scenarios; I personally like the sense of relief after I've read a book - "whew! I have air conditioning, indoor plumbing, and don't have to sleep with a gun under my pillow." :-)