A passion for the post-apocalyptic

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There is a simplicity, poignancy and versatility to the post-apocalyptic genre of entertainment that so often dives into the deepest, most primal parts of our brains, asking us “how would you survive if the world fell apart? Could you? Would you want to?”

If you’ve ever watched shows like The Walking Dead, The 100 and Jericho, movies like Train to Busan, The Road, Mad Max: Fury Road and I Am Legend or read books such as World War Z, The Hunger Games and The Stand, post-apocalyptic fiction tells tales that hit frighteningly close to home — especially because they’re intentionally designed to feel realistic and likely to happen.

They are most often depicting dreary, depressing dystopian situations where all hope for humanity is lost and the persistent heroes must overcome significant odds to tell the story of the strength and perseverance of the human spirit.

But they can also be told as a prophetic warning of sorts — a glaring glimpse into the potential future of humanity    a metaphorical wagging finger in the face of a defiant society who sees no wrongs in how they’re moving forward. Black Mirror, for instance, is a show that does this very well.

For example, in movies where the plot is “X (often a scientific or military blunder) goes wrong, leading to humanity’s downfall,” this is often to point out that, at the end of the day, humanity as a species has the capacity to be incredibly short-sighted, foolish and greedy, which can be incredibly chaotic in the right circumstances.

In the modern era, then, we can say that post-apocalyptic fiction takes on a similar role. Through a combination of entertainment and information, this unique kind of fiction helps inform us about crucial information that might be of use if humanity were to ever actually fall apart. A lot of it is even applicable outside of the realm of the supernatural.

But it isn’t as if our society has spontaneously erupted with interest over this kind of fiction; in reality, interest in stories that tell the tale of what happens after the collapse of humanity have existed since humans have been able to write.

In 1826, for example, Mary Shelley wrote a science-fiction novel called The Last Man, wherein the narrator comes across as series of prophetic writings left inside a cave, which tell the story of a plague that ravages the earth in the year 2073, leaving the “last man” alone to tell the story of the remains of humanity.

Some scholars believe that the story was an elaborate metaphor, as her stories often are, for the isolation that she felt after losing many of her close friends, including Lord Byron (fellow poet and author) and Percy Bysshe Shelley (poet, author and husband).

A lot of other post-apocalyptic fiction focuses on this theme as well, to really hit home the fear it evokes.

Even in the ancient period, fascination with a hypothetical apocalypse (especially involving floods), its impact on humanity and how they would react to it, was of significant importance to many cultures, whether it was the biblical story of Noah and his Ark, the Book of Revelation or the ancient Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh.

As is the case in a significant amount of religious literature, these stories would have primarily served an educational role, guiding and shaping young minds towards many of the fundamental cultural ideals of their society. They existed to be able to convey the “do’s” and “don’ts” that go into assimilating into civilized life.

In the modern era, then, we can say that post-apocalyptic fiction takes on a similar role. Through a combination of entertainment and information, this unique kind of fiction helps inform us about crucial information that might be of use if humanity were to ever actually fall apart. A lot of it is even applicable outside of the realm of the supernatural.

Though it may seem trivial or silly, learning the 33 rules of Zombieland or survival tips from The Zombie Survival Guide might come in handy in case of an apocalyptic scenario — and it doesn’t necessarily have to be the dead rising.

With the state of the world being what it is and the uncertainty of what the future may bring becoming more of a concern in the minds of the average person, it comes as no surprise that the question of “how might you deal with a potential post-apocalyptic scenario?” is becoming a more pressing preoccupation these days.

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