Pandemics And Our Love For Post-Apocalyptic Drama | The American Conservative

Not surprisingly, the sub-genre of post-apocalyptic literature boomed after the dropping of the two American atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Suddenly, megadeath seemed a possible reality. Even mainstream books—such as Nevil Shute’s On the Beach—dealt with apocalyptic horrors. Some, such as R.H. Benson’s The Lord of the World (1907) and Walter Miller’s Canticle for Leibowitz (1959), relied on the mass destruction of nuclear weaponry. Amazingly enough, Benson’s 1907 novel hypothesized the weaponry as “city crackers.”

But, there were a myriad of other ways to kill off the earth and human beings, too. In Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End (1953), humans evolve into something new. Jack Finney feared the arrival of communist, parasitic aliens in his serialized Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (1955). J.G. Ballard entertained the idea of twin killer, solar radiation and the greenhouse effect, in his The Drowned World (1962). In Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer (1977), a comet hits the earth. Douglas Adams has the interstellar public works commission bulldoze the earth as a barrier to good trade and good highways in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979). S.M. Stirling blames a hiccup in the temporal order in Dies the Fire (2004). Gordon Dickson offered simple economic collapse for Wolf and Iron (1993). Stephen King, of course, wrote his tale of “Dark Christianity,” The Stand (1978), employing the plague as the method of death. Justin Cronin unleashed vampires upon us all in The Passage (2010), and Richard Matheson let loose the zombie-vampires in I am Legend (1954). 
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