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    60 Years Of Post-Apocalyptic Fiction: A Chronological Curriculum Of The Ultimate Catastrophe
    By Michael White | May 29th 2010 03:45 PM | 41 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    Welcome to Adaptive Complexity, where I write about genomics, systems biology, evolution, and the connection between science and literature,

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    What does the Neanderthal genome have to with post-apocalyptic science fiction? It may seem like odd inspiration, but Neanderthals have aroused my interest in one of the most venerable genres of science fiction. Last summer I was awaiting the release of The Road movie, reading a piece of classic post-nuclear sci-fi (John Wyndham's 1955 The Chrysalids), and thinking about some recent news stories on the (then) forthcoming Neanderthal genome sequence.

    I was struck by the thought that the last Neanderthals lived in what could be thought of as a post-apocalyptic world. They were going extinct. Did they notice? What kind of world did the last survivors live in?

    It's doubtful that Neanderthals had any concept of extinction, of course, at least on a continent-wide or global scale. Yet you can imagine that there may have been some sense that something had gone terribly wrong, perhaps a recognition of an unyielding process that was squeezing them out, that the world was taking a new direction without them. Extinction was gradual, taking place over generations, and therefore most likely difficult to recognize.

    They were living in a post-apocalyptic world. Nature had turned against them. They were being threatened by alien invaders with new, powerful weapons. Perhaps the Neanderthals were doing each other in, resorting to cannibalism and inter-tribal violence in their desperation. Did their society begin to crumble as their numbers dwindled, or as previously predictable rhythms of nature shifted? Were there lost traditions, passed-on legends of long-gone better days? With a little imagination, it's easy to think of the Neanderthals in a classic, end of the world sci-fi context. What is it like to be a member of a self-aware, intelligent species that is dying away? What is it like to be the very last living members of that species?

    My somewhat unmoored speculation has driven me to immerse myself in post-apocalyptic science fiction. This project is not only fun, but also an interesting study of fictional takes on science. Post-apocalyptic fiction obviously isn't only (or even primarily) about science, but it is an excellent form in which to explore questions about the role of science as a mediator between humans and nature.

    Science is remarkable because it is an extremely successful method for understanding and controlling nature by intellectual effort. Neanderthals, and their modern human neighbors, lived in close proximity to nature, and were engaged in a constant battle for survival. Most of us encounter the struggle for survival remotely, listening to the unflappable British voice of David Attenborough as we watch kangaroo rats, lions, elephant seals, and wildebeest relentlessly pursuing food and mates in a world where small, careless errors and weaknesses are punished with casual brutality. Neanderthals and other early humans lived in that world.

    Science and technology have proven the most effective means to "turn the tide" in our battle with nature (as Aldous Huxley put it, with some bitterness, in his post-nuclear novel, Ape and Essence). Science is a mediator between humans and nature. This mediating role rests on the ability science gives us to predict, control and manipulate nature. Even science done out of pure curiosity is based on control: in order to obtain scientific knowledge, we manipulate nature by doing experiments. The prime test of our scientific theories is how predictive they are, how well they enable us to manipulate nature with predictable results. From a scientific perspective, is impossible to understand nature without controlling it.

    Post-apocalyptic science fiction describes situations in which our ability to predict and control fails catastrophically. Nature escapes our control, through world-wide plagues, collisions with asteroids, or invasions by alien species; or else we're done in by our own efforts at control, by nuclear war or human-induced ecological catastrophe.

    Thus End of the World science fiction is a fine setting for fiction writers to explore the relationship between science and society. To what extent does civilization depend on the ability to control nature, i.e., depend on technology? How do our relationships with each other depend on the security of scientific control? Are there dark (animal?) elements of human nature, kept normally under wraps by civilization, that surface when science fails and civilization cracks up? In other words, how much does being human depend on how we relate to nature? What are the negative side-effects of our scientific quest to render nature tame and predictable? Have we deluded ourselves into believing we have more control than we really possess? Extinction is what happens when a species loses the battle for survival, and the Neanderthals lost. Is it possible that we could lose as well?

    Intentionally or not, most post-apocalyptic sci-fi touches on these themes to some degree, and so, to commemorate both the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome and the release of The Road, I'm going to embark on a post-apocalyptic sci-fi project: The road to The Road, 60 years of End of the World fiction.

    Inspired by this excellent series of blog posts on 50 years of Hugo awards, I'm going to blog about one End of the World novel for each year from 1947 to 2006. 60 years, 60 novels. Why 60? There are excellent apocalypse novels in the first half of the 20th century (like these and these), but after 1947, there are enough choices out there in this genre to make it feasible to choose one book for each year.

    And now for the inevitable genre definition: my criteria for inclusion are shaped by my Neanderthal speculations. I'm interested in books that deal with the possible extinction of humanity, or a large portion thereof - whether by alien invasion, ecological ruin, plague, nuclear war, or some other destructive force. I'm including pre- and post-apocalypse scenarios. Books about post-catastrophe survival, or civilization coming unraveled in the face of an overwhelming threat are in, books about stable dystopias (such as 1984) are not. A holocaust that occurred deep in the past doesn't count if it's merely a setting for fantasy novel - the end of civilization, even hundreds of years in the past, has to be central to the book. The threat of extinction however isn't absolutely necessary; a destabilizing interaction with other intelligent life forms also works (as in Philip Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?). Generally, I'm also sticking to stand-alone novels, although it should be noted that some excellent post-apocalyptic series exist.

    And so, below is my proposed chronological curriculum for 60 years of End of the World Sci-Fi, based on when a work was first published in book form. I've listed the books I propose to read, and, in some years, other great books worth checking out. Availability may be a problem for some of these books, and so I'm still looking for suggestions for books first published in 1970, 1979, 1981.

    I'm drawing a complete blank for the year 2000 (it can't be possible that no good End of the World sci-fi was published in Y2K!!).

    I could also use some alternate suggestions for 1996, 1998, 2001, 2002, and 2005.

    Inevitably, this is primarily a list of works in English. I'm not familiar with recent post-apocalyptic works in other languages, but I'm open to suggestions. I have no idea whether post-apocalyptic novels are most popular in English, or if I've just missed a huge literature outside of the US and the UK. The Russians seem to have a fairly strong post-apocalyptic tradition, but I'm only familiar with a handful of Russian sci-fi books.

    Read along, comment about a different book for a given year, and offer your insights into these books about the apocalyptic future.


    1947 - Greener Than You Think, Ward Moore

    1948 - Ape and Essence, Aldous Huxley

    1949 - Earth Abides, George Stewart

    1950 - Genus Homo, L. Sprague de Camp and P. Schuyler Miller (Also noteworthy is Judith Miller's Shadow on the Hearth, and Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles were published in book form this year.)

    1951 - The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham

    1952 - The Long Loud Silence, Wilson Tucker (Also Star Man's Son, Andre Alice Norton, and Vault of the Ages, Poul Anderson.)

    1953 - Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke (Also noteworthy are Henry Kuttner's Mutant and John Wyndham's The Kraken Wakes.)

    1954 - I Am Legend, Richard Matheson (See also The Dark Millennium, by A.J. Merak.)

    1955 - The Long Tomorrow, Leigh Brackett (See also The Chrysalids, John Wyndham.)

    1956 - No Blade of Grass, John Christopher

    1957 - On The Beach, Nevil Shute

    1958 - The Tide Went Out, Charles Eric Maine

    1959 - Alas, Babylon, Pat Frank (See also We Who Survived, Stirling Noel.)

    1960 - A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter Miller (And Dark December, Alfred Coppel.)

    1961 - The Wind From Nowhere, J.G. Ballard

    1962 - Hothouse, Brian Aldiss (See also The Drowned World, J.G. Ballard)

    1963 - Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut

    1964 - The Burning World, J.G. Ballard (See also The Penultimate Truth, Philip Dick, The Wanderer, Fritz Leiber, and Greybeard, Brian Aldiss)

    1965 - The Genocides, Thomas Disch (Also Dr. Bloodmoney or: How We Got Along After The Bomb, Philip Dick.)

    1966 - This Immortal, Roger Zelazny (See also Edgar Pangborn's The Judgment of Eve and The Crystal World, J.G. Ballard)

    1967 - The Einstein Intersection, Samuel Delany (See also Ice, Anna Kavan)

    1968 - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick

    1969 - Damnation Alley, Roger Zelazny

    1970 - The Day After Doomsday, Rena Vale (Also The Incredible Tide, Alexander Key)

    1971 - The Day After Judgment, James Blish

    1972 - The Sheep Look Up, John Brunner (And Roadside Picnic, by the Strugatsky brothers.)

    1973 - Hiero's Journey, Sterling Lanier (And Edmund Cooper, The Cloud Walker.)

    1974 - Inverted World, Christopher Priest

    1975 - Dhalgren, Samuel Delany

    1976 - Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang, Kate Wilhelm  (Also Deus Irae, Philip Dick and Roger Zelazny.)

    1977 - Lucifer's Hammer, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

    1978 - Dreamsnake, Vonda McIntyre (See also The Stand, Stephen King)

    1979 - Down to a Sunless Sea, David Graham (See also, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, Engine Summer, John Crowley, and Shikasta, by Doris Lessing.)

    1980 - Riddley Walker, Russell Hoban

    1981 - Starship and Haiku, Somtow Sucharitkul (See also The Quiet Earth, Craig Harrison.)

    1982 - A Rose for Armageddon, Hilbert Schenk

    1983 - Orion Shall Rise, Poul Anderson

    1984 - The Wild Shore, Kim Stanley Robinson  (And Emergence, David Palmer.)

    1985 - Fiskadoro, Denis Johnson (See also The Postman, David Brin, This Is The Way The World Ends, James Morrow, and The World Ends in Hickory Hollow, Ardath Mayhar)

    1986 - Nature's End, Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka (See also, Watchmen, Alan Moore and David Gibbons)

    1987 - The Forge of God, Greg Bear (See also Swan Song, Robert McCammon)

    1988 - At Winter's End, Robert Silverberg (See also The Last Ship, William Brinkley)

    1989 - Lilith's Brood (Xenogenesis), Octavia Butler

    1990 - Wolf and Iron, Gordon Dickson (See also, A Gift Upon The Shore, M.K. Wren)

    1991 - Fallen Angels, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Michael Flynn

    1992 - Children of Men, P.D. James

    1993 - The Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler

    1994 - Queen City Jazz, Kathleen Ann Goonan

    1995 - Amnesia Moon, Jonathan Lethem

    1996 - The Killing Star, Charles Pellegrino and George Zebrowski

    1997 - Eternity Road, Jack McDevitt (Also In The Country of Last Things, Paul Auster.)

    1998 - Aftermath, Charles Sheffield

    1999 - Mara and Dann, Doris Lessing

    2000 - The Slynx, Tatyana Tolstaya  (original Russian publication was in 2000)

    2001 - The Night of the Triffids, Simon Clark, or possibly The Aftermath, Samuel Florman

    2002 - The Tain, China Mieville or The Year Zero, Jeff Long (See also, Y: The Last Man, Brian Vaughn and Pia Guerra)

    2003 - Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood

    2004 - Dies the Fire, S.M. Stirling

    2005 - It's only Temporary, Eric Shapiro

    2006 - The Road, Cormac McCarthy (Also Max Brooks, World War Z.)


    As I write about each book, I will put the links here, so check back.

    First up: The end of the world as farce, in Ward Moore's 1947 Greener Than You Think.




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    Comments

    AdamRetchless
    Thanks for the list Michael. I'm glad you got "A Canticle for Leibowitz". It's a great book, and I think it's the only one on the list that I've read (even though I've read a lot of Niven's and Vonnegut's stuff). I'll have to check out the others.

    1968 - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick

    That's the basis for Blade Runner, right? I guess they dropped a lot of the post-apocalyptic stuff from the movie then.

    I recall a few sci-fi books that focus on a failed inter-planetary colony. I don't know if that counts for "apocalyptic". Also, I recall "the Hitchhiker's guide" having a number of apocalyptic themes, but it doesn't seem like it would really count in your category.

    Regarding the collapse of Neanderthal culture, a similar process was documented for the native American cultures as European settlement expanded into their territories.
    adaptivecomplexity
    I've seen Blade Runner but haven't read the book yet. My understanding is that it takes place in a post-nuclear future. Based on the plot summary, I thought this fit with my Neanderthal inspiration, since the book is about the interaction between two different types of intelligent creatures.
    It's hard to draw really clear lines about what counts and what doesn't in this genre. It's possible to focus on just mass extinction, but that leaves out a few favorites that capture the spirit of the genre, like Inverted World and Dhalgren.  Since I'm doing this gimmicky year by year thing, there are a few years where the pickins are slim and some choices are a bit of a stretch.
    Mike
    logicman
    May I recommend an alternative for 1973?

    The Cloud Walker, by Edmund Cooper.
    Set in a post-apocalyptic world in which machines have been banned, this is the story of a Da Vinci - like hero who wants to fly.  The descriptions in the book of a medieval type society are brought to life by the real-world location: the medieval town of Arundel, Sussex.
    adaptivecomplexity
    This looks like a good one, and it sounds like it deals with some classic themes in the genre.  I'll have to keep an eye out for it when I'm at the local used bookstores.
    Mike
    I think that it would also be interesting if someone were to do a study on the psychological effect reading all of these books will have on you. If any.

    This is one of my favorite sub-genre's so I might try and join you on a few of these books too.

    Thanks,
    Barry

    adaptivecomplexity
    I think that it would also be interesting if someone were to do a study on the psychological effect reading all of these books will have on you.
    It's surprising how upbeat many of these books are, at least the ~25% that I've already read. Really bleak, depressing ones, like On the Beach and The Road seem to be a minority. I'm sure some of the authors are trying to go for shock and horror, but the result is usually just a regular thriller or adventure tale. If each of these were as depressing and brutal as The Road, it would be a different matter...
    Mike
    I wouldn't include Childhood's End. Most of the novel is not even pre-Apocalyptic, as no (human) character has an inkling of what is coming.

    (SPOILER ALERT!)

    It's really about a jarring discontinuity leading to a higher level in human evolution.

    adaptivecomplexity
    This is one I haven't read yet. Alien invasion and a new stage in human evolution make it seem like it fits with my Neanderthal inspiration, but if it doesn't really fit the genre, I'm open for alternate suggestions.  I couldn't find any other options for 1953, which is odd because 1952 produced a bumper crop of post-apocalyptic fiction.
    Mike
    lchircus
    I haven't read it yet, but World War Z (Max Brooks, 2007) is on my summer reading list.  Though I suppose that is slightly out of your 60 year range.
    adaptivecomplexity
    I've been eyeing that one eagerly in the bookstore. It's easy to keep going after 2006.
    Mike
    Michael - Thanks for making this effort! With all the stuff happening in the world of 2010, one does get concerned, yes? Reading your list of books will at least give a perspective on what might lie ahead. I do think you should squeeze Edgar Pangborn in there someplace. Here is what Wikipedia says: "Edgar's best-known book, the Hugo-nominated Davy of 1964, describes a post-apocalyptic future, a picaresque bildungsroman set in a repressive theocratic society which developed out of the ruins of the destroyed old world. This post-apocalyptic world eventually became the backdrop for most of Edgar's stories, including his Hugo-nominated "Longtooth," his Nebula finalist "Mount Charity," and his last novel, The Company of Glory."

    adaptivecomplexity
    I have read Davy - a post-apocalyptic, free-thinking Huck Finn with sex.  It was fun to read, although Pangborn was a little heavy-handed with Davy's philosophical musings.  I'll put it up on the list - 1964 was another really good year for post-apocalyptic sci-fi.
    Mike
    Great Posting. Regarding post apocalyptic novels in other languages, my favorite in Spanish (originally in Catalan) is "Second origin typescript" by Manuel de Pedrolo .

    adaptivecomplexity
    Thanks for the recommendation. That looks like a great book, and I'm trying to find an English translation.  Apparently there is a movie version on the way.
    Mike
    There is also a tv series from the 1980's.

    Yago
    Really well articulated formulation of your interest and of the project, Mike.  I'd add a more obvious reason/rationale for beginning in 1947.  1945 is obviously a watershed year in the contemporary history of apocalypse.  Two years later seems about right for the experience of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and of living with the possibility of total annihilation to begin to make its way through the pipeline and into quality fiction.
    adaptivecomplexity
    Two years later seems about right for the experience of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and of living with the possibility of total annihilation to begin to make its way through the pipeline and into quality fiction.
    This is especially clear in the second book in the series - Huxley's 1948 Ape and Essence, which was clearly written in response to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Huxley and other writers responded quickly and amazing prescience - well before a publicly known arms race developed and before the Soviets detonated their first nuke.
    Mike
    Hi Mike, a noble endeavour and great list of post-apocalyptic science-fiction! I have written several short po-ap sci-fi works, and of all them I really enjoyed writing this piece, The Last Wave, and thought you might like it too, as it deals with the total demise of humanity, and what might replace it.

    adaptivecomplexity
    Thanks for the link. It doesn't seem to work, but I'm interested in checking out your story if you can fix the url (or just paste the url text in your comment).
    Mike
    Gerhard Adam
    There's an interesting contradiction in some of your points and certainly those surrounding post-apocalyptic scenarios.  In the first place the fundamental premise is that humans are the central (and only) species that matters, so the use of the term apocalypse is a bit biased.  Even the Discovery Channel series about life after humans presumes that humans are the only thing that matters in defining life on this planet.
    Science and technology have proven the most effective means to "turn the tide" in our battle with nature ...
    What battle?  Is there no starvation?  no disease?  no natural disasters?  Everything our ancestors experienced is still present and still fundamentally uncontrollable.
    Science is a mediator between humans and nature. This mediating role rests on the ability science gives us to predict, control and manipulate nature.
    While it has certainly promoted our understanding in many ways, to suggest control is stretching the point.  Science has sometimes enabled us to direct nature, but more often we've used natural principles to develop and exploit our own technologies (which is not a trivial achievement).  However, the problem is that a consequence of such scientific effort is to circumvent the laws of nature so that they don't apply to humans (i.e. population limits, etc.).  So many of the stories you're referring to attempt to show that such efforts may be misguided, or more importantly, how our efforts have created the circumstances for human civilization to have a precarious existence.  After all, the point of post-apocalyptic stories is to reflect on the demise of human civilization.  This is something that would've made no sense to the Neanderthals you're referring to, since they would've only existed in small groups, only too aware of how readily such groups could die off.

    In effect, if we supposed that all the predictions of global warming are absolutely true and that the future consequences would be dire .... is there any reason to believe that humans would behave any differently than they do now?  In fact, the point in most of these stories is to demonstrate a certain level of regret in that we didn't take warnings and limits more seriously.

    I realize your point wasn't to create a philosophical argument, but it is interesting to speculate on whether a species going extinct recognizes that fact.  The obvious answer is that such a question would never arise, since the only thing that matters are local consequences.  If I'm starving I don't consider those outside my world of experience, just as when we're well-fed we don't have any sense of a dire existence for those that are starving.

    Mundus vult decipi
    adaptivecomplexity
    I don't see the relevance of your point about bias. Science fiction, and fiction in general is primarily about humans.

    'Turning the tide' against nature doesn't mean winning the battle. However, most of us live lives that aren't even remotely close to the daily struggle our ancestors experienced 30,000 years ago. Also, in today's crowded world, when there is a struggle for survival, it's not so much a struggle against the dangers in nature - it's a struggle to survive in a world with billions of other humans.




    but more often we've used natural principles to develop and exploit our own technologies
    Technology is an example of our control over nature. We manipulate materials obtained from the natural world, to produce stuff devices, drugs, etc. that we then use to control natural processes. "Our own technologies" are not separate from nature. And finally, don't take my Neanderthal speculations too literally. Even if some of them are reasonable, most of them will never be demonstrable. As I explained, the Neanderthal angle was primarily an inspiration for thinking about post-apocalyptic fiction and it's take on the role of science in society.
    Mike
    Gerhard Adam
    'Turning the tide' against nature doesn't mean winning the battle. However, most of us live lives that aren't even remotely close to the daily struggle our ancestors experienced 30,000 years ago. Also, in today's crowded world, when there is a struggle for survival, it's not so much a struggle against the dangers in nature - it's a struggle to survive in a world with billions of other humans.
    I'm not sure I completely agree.  There are many people around the world that live precisely as their ancestors have done for thousands of years and in most cases, it isn't any more of a "struggle" than our own existence is.  In fact, it could be argued that many of our struggles are due to our civilization, rather than letting the natural world take its course. 

    Probably the biggest change in the 30,000 years since Neanderthals has been the relationship of human groups to each other, and that the evolved interdependencies have made the most significant differences in human survival.  

    My problem stems from the comment regarding nature as dangerous.  It is certainly far less so than the daily commute most people make to their jobs each day.  While the majority of us are fundamentally ignorant of the requirements for such survival, it doesn't mean that it was a "struggle".  While it may certainly be perceived that way by someone unfamiliar with the "rules", it simply doesn't follow that humans have had a precarious existence without science (since this is what is suggested by your comment about science being a mediator between humans and nature).  While you could certainly argue that humans are, by definition, "scientific" since everything they develop follows some of those fundamental principles whether it be a spear or an airplane.
     
    I enjoy science and the insights it provides into the natural world, but I have been and continue to be opposed to the notion that nature is the "enemy" and something to be controlled or avoided.  The biggest struggle that humans have faced and continue to face is their interactions with other humans, and on that front we have made significant progress but we still retain many of the same old problems as well.
    Mundus vult decipi
    adaptivecomplexity
    My problem stems from the comment regarding nature as dangerous. It is certainly far less so than the daily commute most people make to their jobs each day
    You can't be serious. If you dropped most commuters from their current, technology encased lives into the Alaskan wilderness, few of them would likely survive a month without an expert guide, even in the summer. Nature is unquestionably dangerous, especially if you can't rely on others to provide your shelter, food, and medical care. Furthermore, just because in some discussion we use a battle metaphor with nature, that doesn't mean this is the only appropriate metaphor for our relationship with nature. It's a fruitful one for exploring some aspects of science fiction, that's all.
    Mike
    Gerhard Adam
    You can't be serious. If you dropped most commuters from their current, technology encased lives into the Alaskan wilderness, few of them would likely survive a month without an expert guide, even in the summer. Nature is unquestionably dangerous, especially if you can't rely on others to provide your shelter, food, and medical care.
    Of course I'm serious.  You're simply arguing that nature is "dangerous" because we're ignorant.  That's no argument.  The truth is that many people with little or no "wilderness" experience successfully survive under extreme circumstances. 

    The problem with your argument is that humans successfully lived in those environments without technology for thousands of years.  To use modern "commuters" for your example, is as irrelevant as wondering how Neanderthals would handle flying an airplane.

    Ultimately nature is no more "dangerous" to the ignorant, that driving is to the ignorant driver (i.e. someone that's never driven before).  Both tend to be unforgiving environments for those lacking experience.  In fact, most activities are "dangerous" when engaged in by ignorant individuals. 
    Furthermore, just because in some discussion we use a battle metaphor with nature, that doesn't mean this is the only appropriate metaphor for our relationship with nature.

    Perhaps not, but it seems to be a common one.  It's inappropriate since nature is not the enemy.  There is nothing that humans can do or have done that is possible without nature, so such a metaphor is completely inappropriate for something we are so unequivocally dependent on.
    Mundus vult decipi
    While it may certainly be perceived that way by someone unfamiliar with the "rules", it simply doesn't follow that humans have had a precarious existence without science (since this is what is suggested by your comment about science being a mediator between humans and nature)

    What? Are you for real? Why don't you have a look at infant mortality rates, past and present, for starters?

    Gerhard Adam
    Why don't you have a look at infant mortality rates, past and present, for starters?
    OK, why don't you get real?  How long have humans been on this planet, versus how long has medical science been around to impact infant mortality rates?  If you're suggesting that human existence was precarious until the past century, you're not paying attention.
    Mundus vult decipi
    No Postman?

    adaptivecomplexity
    1985 was a great year for this subgenre - I might do Fiskodoro and Postman. I like Denis Johnson and Brin.
    Mike
    I'd say that Half Past Human by T J Bass (1971) deserves at least an honorable mention

    adaptivecomplexity
    I haven't stumbled across that one yet, but it looks good. Thanks for the recommendation.
    Mike
    A good apocalyptic fantasy novel is "The Children of Hurin"...written by the J.R.R. Tolkien estate.

    Basically, it is set at the end of the first age of Middle Earth (LoTR is the end of the third age), and it looks like the devil-guy will finally defeat/enslave all of the elves and men. Hurin's son carries on a fatalistic struggle against evil.

    adaptivecomplexity
    Fantasy is something I've basically neglected in my survey of this genre - it deserves its own list. Thanks for the recommendation.
    Mike
    I have another suggestion for 1972 - Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. It's a classic!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roadside_Picnic

    adaptivecomplexity
    I hear that's a great one. I've been scouring used bookstores for it, but I'll probably have to go pick it up online.
    Mike
    Hey!

    My friend sent me a link to your blog. Great effort to make a list for this amazing genre!
    I'm doing culture studies and writing my Masters thesis on British 1950s post-disaster fiction. Mainly looking at the eco-disasters by Wyndham and Christopher but also a number of lesser known authors. I'm focusing on the role of nature as well as the way in which the British fiction often seems to express concerns quite different from the American Cold War ones.
    I'd be happy to send it to you when it's done if you're interested!

    /N

    adaptivecomplexity
    That sounds cool - I'd be very interested if you're wiling to send it.  (Send me a message via my contact form here and I can give you my email address.)
    I would also be interested in hearing what your favorite 1950's British post-disaster stories and novels are.  Thanks!

    Mike
    Mike
    May I start your list of post-apocalyptic sci-fi novels a little earlier?

    How about George Allen England's Darkness and Dawn (1912)? M. P. Shiel's The Purple Cloud (1901)? Jack London's The Scarlet Plague (1912)? Mary Shelley's The Last Man (1826)? Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer When Worlds Collide (1933)?

    All but the last have the advantage of being available online.

    Hello Michael,

    I am doing research for my dissertation in which I am writing a novella to accompany The Stand (1978) which I have decided to call England's Last Stand. In my research I have come across the genre of the apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic novel and I have discovered that the first novel we are aware of is The Last Man by Mary Shelley (1826), it could be argued that all of the later authors have taken the idea from this book, although this is unproven of course. I'm sure aware of this but just wanted to point it out as I found it very interesting. My academic tutor also mentioned the TV series Survivors which aired in the UK in 1975, before the stand was written but with a suspiciously similar plot synopsis, and the predicatability of this genre. (She hasn't read it though and i'm sure she will find King's knack of killing everyone off extremely unpredictable and perhaps a little disappointing).

    Hank
    This article is in the popular list today, the way articles sometimes catch on again, but seeing it is a reminder that ...
    It's doubtful that Neanderthals had any concept of extinction, of course, at least on a continent-wide or global scale. Yet you can imagine that there may have been some sense that something had gone terribly wrong, perhaps a recognition of an unyielding process that was squeezing them out, that the world was taking a new direction without them. Extinction was gradual, taking place over generations, and therefore most likely difficult to recognize.

    They were living in a post-apocalyptic world. Nature had turned against them. They were being threatened by alien invaders with new, powerful weapons.
    ...was an extremely powerful piece of writing.
    adaptivecomplexity
    I think it could make for an exciting story... one which I've been playing around with a bit.
    Mike