Thursday, June 25, 2009

Some stories about disasters

List below was seeded from written fiction mentions in Aris Mousoutzanis' non-fiction article "Apocalyptic SF" in "The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction" (2009). Presumably genre-defining works, but I've not read many. List is almost entirely of novels; short fiction is generally absent.

I wasn't paying a lot of attention to things other than fiction mentions, but here is an incomplete list of common formulae the article mentions:

  1. "Viral" sf - a plague causes apocalypse.
  2. Insensitivity of society to environment causes disaster.
  3. "Resurgence of a pre-modern, pre-industrial past".
  4. "Invasion scare".
Download links are mine, as is some commentary. Links on title go to my post on story, if there is one. Links on author or year yield more matching fiction.

List of stories.

List is not in order of mentions in the article, but by publication year.
  1. Anonymous' "Reign of King George VI"; 1763.
  2. Louis Sebastien Mercier's "The Year 2440: A Dream If Ever There Was One"; 1771: Google search lists many articles that call this story a utopia, instead!
  3. Mary Shelley's "The Last Man"; download; 1826: Original "viral" sf novel where the disaster is caused buy a plague. 'Based on Jean-Baptiste Cousin de Grainville's poem "The Last Man" (1805)'.
  4. Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death"; download as part of a larger package; 1842.
  5. George Chesney's "The Battle of Dorking"; download Harvard University version or University of California Libraries version; 1871: Original "invasion scare" story.
  6. Richard Jefferies' "After London, Or, Wild England"; download; 1885: "Introduces a mode of writing that would later evolve into the post-holocaust novel of survival, as well as later narratives of natural disaster".
  7. Robert Cromie's "The Crack of Doom"; download; 1895.
  8. H G Wells' "The Time Machine"; download text/MP3, or George Pal's 1960 movie based on this; 1895: Speculating trends in human evolution based social organizations of industrial society.
  9. H G Wells' "The War of the Worlds"; download text/audio; 1898: First work with "almost sadistic fascination with representing massive destruction in minute detail."
  10. Jack London's "The Scarlet Plague"; download; 1912.
  11. H G Wells' "The World Set Free"; download; 1914: 'First novel to mention an "atomic bomb"'.
  12. Olaf Stapledon's "Last and First Men"; 1930.
  13. Olaf Stapledon's "Last Men in London"; 1932.
  14. Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend"; 1954.
  15. Nevil Shute's "On the Beach"; 1957.
  16. Walter M Miller, Jr's "A Canticle for Leibowitz"; 1959: Post nuclear apocalypse, Catholic monks preserve what little of previous knowledge they can - via a religious cult.
  17. J G Ballard's "The Drowned World"; 1962.
  18. Michael Crichton's "The Andromeda Strain"; 1969.
  19. Angela Carter's "Heroes & Villains"; 1969.
  20. John Christopher's "The Prince in Waiting"; 1970.
  21. Doris Lessing's "Memoirs of a Survivor"; 1974.
  22. Marge Piercy's "Woman on the Edge of Time"; 1976.
  23. Angela Carter's "The Passion of New Eve"; 1977.
  24. Russell Hoban's "Riddley Walker"; 1980.
  25. Greg Bear's "Blood Music"; 1983.
  26. William Gibson's "Neuromancer"; 1984: "For cyberpunks, the catastrophe had already happened, after the advent of cyberculture & consumer culture".

    I could not finish more than 20% of this obviously very influential novel about cyborgs & AIs - going by the number of stories that have copied its plot elements. I found it utterly unreadable.
  27. Kim Stanley Robinson's Three Californias trilogy; 1984-1990.
  28. Denis Johnson's "Fiskadoro"; 1985.
  29. Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis trilogy; 1987-1989.
  30. Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash"; 1992.
  31. Margaret Atwood's "Oryx & Crake"; 2003.
  32. Kim Stanley Robinson's Science in the Capital trilogy; 2004-2007.
  33. Cormac McCarthy's "The Road"; 2006.
Related: "best of" lists.