What happens when the end of the world leaves room for a sequel? While we survivors will no doubt discover for ourselves, fiction can offer us some useful guidance. One of the first works of post-apocalyptic science fiction is the 1885 novel After London by Richard Jeffries, in which Victorian London is reclaimed by nature after an unspecified catastrophe wipes out most of the population. After World War II, stories set in a nuclear wasteland became a common fixture of pop culture, providing those living through the Cold War a means of exploring their fears for the future. Nowadays, plague and ecological disaster have been the settings of choice, representing contemporary concerns about the spread of disease and threat of climate change.
However, my favorite post-apocalyptic narrative is “Episode Seven: Last Stand Against the Pack in the Kingdom of the Purple Flowers,” a short story by John Langan first published in Fantasy & Science Fiction. In addition to the compelling protagonist, I was particularly captivated by the sheer strangeness of Langan’s apocalypse, which is never adequately explained but appears supernatural in origin. While this lack of plausibility might distance the reader from the action, in my case it made everything creepier by conveying in the starkest manner possible that the old rules had been completely swept away.
So, as we figure out what to do with our lives now that the End has come and gone, let’s swap stories. What are some of your favorite post-apocalyptic survival tales?