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Post-Apocalypse and our Fear of the Unknown

WolfenA brief announcement before I begin this week’s post: Wolfen is well on the way with edits, and doing great! I should have a release date to share in the coming weeks, so stay tuned! =)

Having said that, and on counsel of my editor and betas, I have amended the genre classification for Wolfen from Horror to Post-Apocalypse (which, at least on one storefront is filed under Horror, so I’m not sure how much difference it will make, but there you have it). This is because as shudder-worthy as many scenes in the book are, none of us felt it was frightening enough as a whole to warrant a full horror standing. I blame Aiden’s relentless sense of humor. The guy just can’t take anything seriously for most of the book…

Anyway, this got me thinking, because Post-Apocalypse seems to be all the rage these days, especially in YA fiction, and often combined with dystopian themes, and it kind of begs the question why? Contrary to the bandwagon theory which suggests authors hop on to make a buck, I don’t think that is the case. I think the theme is one that is on everyone’s mind these days, world wide, at least in some subconscious capacity. Again, why? Well, in my humble opinion…

It’s because we fear the unknown.

Burying_Plague_Victims_of_TournaiHave you ever heard of the Malthusian Limit (or catastrophe)? It’s a theory which suggests that population can only grow so far before it surpasses the environment’s ability to sustain it. When it reaches that limit, some external or internal force, be it war, famine, natural disaster or act of God, will summarily shut it down and beat it back to manageable numbers. Historians have suggested this was what happened in medieval Europe, when the Great Famine, 100 Years War, and Black Plague struck almost simultaneously, wiping out something like two thirds of the population.

So why am I giving you a history lesson? Because there are currently over seven billion people on this little blue marble we call home. That makes Europe’s population at its zenith in the middle ages a laughable number. As a fun homework project, go turn on the TV and listen to the news for a few minutes. What are they talking about? Wars, disease, epidemics, violence, massive storms, global warming, disappearing bees… do you see what I’m getting at? We’re growing as a species at such an amazing rate, we have got to be feeling the pressure on some level already. It could very well be that we are approaching another catastrophe that will check our numbers, and this subconscious unease shows through in our creations.

It began with disaster movies. Armageddon, Deep Impact, Day After Tomorrow, 2012, and many more. We have already imagined and presented every possible scenario on how the world could end, from extraterrestrial to viral, even religious. We have mentally, emotionally, and imaginatively prepared ourselves for watching our world fall apart and taking that final breath. I doubt there is anyone who doesn’t have at least a rudimentary plan of what to do when their neighbor turns into the walking dead, or when Yellowstone goes kablooey. But the end is never the end. Even the worst disaster always leaves some survivors. The lucky ones, the prepared ones, those who happened to be in the right place at the right time. For them, the question is no longer how did this happen, it’s what happens now?

We don’t know. Until that disaster strikes, we can’t know what impact it will have on us as a species, and because the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t, our minds fill that terrifying blank to provide some small comfort of knowledge, even if it’s false. We recreate society from its own ashes, give it new breath, new flaws, and new battles to fight–because the idea of nothing is not something we can grasp. Why do you think every religion on the planet has some form of eternal afterlife in its makeup?


And because of our personal underlying fears, we embrace such visions with enthusiasm. It’s kind of contagious that way. I know from personal experience that reading one post-apocalyptic book has infected my mind and turned into a fictional (in every sense of the word) disease that would not let up until it has run its course and purged from me in the form of a novel. That is how Wolfen came to be. And how it inspired another author friend of mine to write her own version of What Comes After, as I’m sure hers will inspire others to do the same.

Post-Apocalypse, therefore, is not a hype or a fad. It is something much more powerful, because it touches on the one fear we all share, and comes at a time when it is very much relevant. We are creatures of higher intelligence and imagination, but in our flawed state, our thoughts and imaginings tend toward the dark. The instinct of self-preservation makes it easier for us to think up disasters, demons, and death. It is our way of preparing ourselves to overcome them.

That very preparedness is why we continue to survive, and why preparation for that survival is a necessity. As the tagline for Wolfen says, at some point, there will be a new world order in place, and our choice will be simple: Adapt, or die.

Until next time… if there is one… 😉

Wolfen Stain

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