In celebration of this, the editor Karen Henderson and author Aric Sundquist have put a little something together for us.
The Attraction of Post-Apocalyptic Fiction – Words Karen Henderson & Aric Sundquist
I first formed a fascination with “the end times” through the predictions of Nostradamus and Mother Shipton, but it was many years later that I was introduced to the idea of a zombie apocalypse through “Resident Evil”; a PlayStation game.
Killing zombies became one of my favourite pastimes. Reading accounts on how authors thought our world might be changed forever became another obsession.
Regardless of what might happen to end our world, I do believe most of us would be unprepared to tackle basic life skills on our own. We would not be able to light a fire without a match or lighter. Would we know which plants were safe to eat? And where would we find drinking water?
I find these questions fascinating. I ponder the responses and consider what would happen to me if I found myself in a situation where there was no electricity, no convenience stores, no food in the cupboard and I had to admit that I would not be prepared and would not easily survive such a situation.
In truth, I feel this is why I’m attracted to the genre. There are many post-apocalyptic books on the market and although “The Time Machine” by H. G. Wells isn’t officially classed as a post-apocalyptic story, it is the one that spoke to me the most. The fact that an author from over 100 years ago was able to reach out to the present and convince me he knew what our world would be like was fascinating. To then read his vision of the future, especially the part about Earth colliding with the Sun, left me with a weird feeling inside. It was like he was making his own predictions. He left me pondering those ‘predictions’ for days after finishing the book. This is a sign of great work.
Coincidentally, the other ‘end of the world’ work that resonates with me is “The War of the Worlds” also by H. G. Wells. Read on radio by Orson Welles in 1938 as a Halloween special broadcast, there was widespread panic as many listeners believed the events described in the program were real. This happened long before I was born, but the mere fact that it did happen clearly shows us what to expect if anything of this nature did occur.
Global panic is usually accompanied by lawlessness as the bad elements of our society come to the forefront. This means looting, murders and rape show their ugly head. It also means values and morals are lost as we have to attempt to survive in a strange new world.
Honestly, I don’t fully understand why this happens, but it makes for good reading. As an editor for a small independent press, I wanted to explore this further and put a call out for submissions for “Tomorrow: Apocalyptic Short Stories”.
The anthology has fifteen short stories that explore the possibilities of biohazard, intergalactic travel, chemical warfare and other situations that could change our world tomorrow. Some of the authors view this new world from a lone character’s point of view while others tackle them from a group perspective.
It is with pleasure that I introduce Aric Sundquist, author of “Beyond the Nameless City”. Aric has joined me to share his thoughts on his story in the anthology and on post-apocalyptic books in general.
Tell us about your story in the Tomorrow Anthology.
My story is called “Beyond the Nameless City.” It’s about a survivor of a deadly plague, named William, who scavenges through a ruined world by day, and hides from the undead at night. One evening he takes refuge in an abandoned fuel station and meets another survivor—a woman named Claire. She helps him prepare fortifications for the night, and the two quickly bond over a small dinner. Afterwards, Claire tells William a secret—she tells him that something is calling out to her in her dreams, beckoning to her from the dark corners of her mind like a siren song. William confides in her that he is having similar dreams, and the next morning they embark on a journey to find the source of the strange beacon haunting their collective thoughts. Unfortunately, thousands of undead stand in their way.
Since this is a zombie story (with a bit of Lovecraftian weirdness), I knew I had to approach things from a different perspective. So I asked myself one question: “How can I make zombies deadly?” From this simple question, I decided to create an inversion of the typical zombie tale. The virus in my story infects the host through parasitic spores in the brain. If the head cavity is damaged in any way, it detonates like a bomb. A single explosion is capable of infecting hundreds of potential hosts. By creating this simple twist, the story changed drastically in the writing process; it became less about action and more about survival in the purest sense—of running and hiding and hoping things will eventually return to normal. Overall, the story is about finding a sense of comfort when everything is about to end.
What attracts you to the post-apocalyptic novel?
The concept of isolation attracts me. This is a recurring theme in my own fiction; I tend to write about loners struggling to find a sense of peace in a chaotic world—of finding someone to share a last meal, or visiting a grave of a loved one. There is something poignant about an isolated character clinging to some form of sentimentality, especially when it works to humanize the character.
What is your favourite post-apocalyptic novel?
My favorite post-apocalyptic novel is Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend. Although Matheson uses familiar archetypes associated with the vampire genre, he alters them slightly. Are the creatures attacking Robert Neville really vampires? Not really—at least not in the traditional sense. But they do possess many similarities (they are killed by sunlight, for instance). Through psychological conditioning, the creatures actually believe they are vampires, and are therefore rendered powerless when confronted with certain associations within the vampire mythology, such as mirrors and garlic. I think this concept is brilliant, and shows that horror doesn’t need to be reworked from the ground up to do something unique.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, Aric.
We all have our own reasons for enjoying this genre. You know why Aric and I love the genre so now it’s time for you to tell me: What attracts you to post-apocalyptic fiction and what is your favourite book?
This guest post is part of the “Tomorrow” Virtual Book Tour starting on 6 July 2013. To find out more about the stories, the authors and the publication go to the virtual book tour schedule page at http://www.kayellepress.com/2013/06/tomorrow-virtual-book-tour-schedule/.
I am offering “Post-Apocalyptic Book Club” readers a chance to win a copy to the “Tomorrow” ebook (in the format of the winner’s choice). Just leave a comment on this post and your name will be in the draw. One name will be randomly drawn and the winner will be announced in the comments section, in a couple of days.
Before I go, I’d just like to say a big thank you to Leila for hosting this stop on the book tour. If you haven’t been here before you should take a moment to look around as you’ll find some brilliant reviews and possibly some more book titles to add to your to-read list.
About Aric Sundquist
Aric Sundquist is a graduate of Northern Michigan University and holds an MA in Creative Writing. His stories have appeared in various publications, including Evil Jester Digest Vol. 1, The Best of Dark Moon Digest, and Blood Bound Books: Blood Rites. Currently he works as an acquisitions editor/scriptwriter for Evil Jester Comics, and is helping to introduce a new line of graphic novels for late 2013. You can visit him at: http://aricsundquist.weebly.com/
About Karen Henderson
Karen Henderson is an editor at Kayelle Press, a small independent publisher of speculative fiction in Australia. Their latest release is “Tomorrow”, a post-apocalyptic anthology exploring the possible outcomes of plagues, biohazards, human error, natural disasters and intergalactic travel. The book is available in paperback and various digital formats from their website and from most online bookstores. Visit the website (www.kayellepress.com) to find out more.