Friday, January 29, 2010
The End is Near
The apocalypse novel is one of my favorite literary genres, and I've been thinking lately about a subgenre I'm calling the soft apocalypse. It's halfway between Noah's Arc and the Book of Revelation -- midway between "London Calling" and "Ecotopia" -- and for historical reasons has been picking up steam the last few years. It's typically rustic, sad and often ambiguous rather than ultra-violent and abrupt. Though some of these books are described as science-fiction, there is typically little science extant in the worlds these novels describe.
HERE is my week of work on the science/technology/futurism/sci-fi site io9, with the apocalypse piece as my top post. Did not have room or time for some of my almost-favorites -- LeGuin's tribal, post-apoc Napa Valley in Always Coming Home, or Denis Johnson's shattered seaside world of cargo-cult pop-cult superstition in Fiskadoro.
Apocalypse authority Justin Taylor, whose Apocalypse Reader I heartily recommend, has pointed out that Robinson Jeffers rugged West Coast poetry, in its relations of human beings to surrounding flora and fauna, in its individualistic way fits the category.
One of my most requested pieces from the LATimes -- reprinted as the lead piece in the journal The Los Angeles Review -- was a an '07 piece about apocalypse fiction and where it was going. Cormac McCarthy's The Road was one of the keystones. That piece also asked, Why this? And why now? Here it is.