Apocalyptic novels are nothing new. They might be gathering momentum as a sub-genre of science fiction, dystopian or horror but they’ve been around for longer than you might think. Indeed, Mary Shelley’s The Last Man was actually published in 1826 but it wasn’t till after World War II when the possibility of global annihilation by nuclear weapons entered the public consciousness that the genre started to build a burgeoning fan base.
Today there are a host of bestsellers that readily spring to mind. Novels like The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert, Zazen by Vanessa Veselka and of course The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Amongst genre bestsellers, the quality of writing and the depth of social discourse underpinning Apocalyptic novels and post-apocalypse novels has never been better. At their best, they stun you with their visions of ultimate endings both small and catastrophic with hauntingly bleak futures, but sadly the bestsellers represent just the tip of an awfully big iceberg with a huge amount of dross below the surface.
Get beyond the simple mechanics of writing a novel and Apocalyptic fiction is not an easy sub-genre to master. Readers want to be kept on the edge of their seat, but for Apocalyptic fiction to really strike an accord with its reader it needs to penetrate their psyche. To do this an author must not only imaginatively create the externally distressing and chilling elements of the end of our world as we know it they must reach us on an emotional level and this is something very few authors truly master.
Google top tips for writing Apocalyptic Fiction and you’ll be overwhelmed by the choice. Skim through a few of those posts and you will find the same advice churned out over and over again. There would be little value in repeating it here so we wanted to leave you with just one poignant piece of advice. Be it famine, virus, genocide, natural disaster, alien invasion or hordes of rampaging Zombies the most important thing for an Apocalyptic fiction author to do, the one thing they must get right to really stand a chance of having a bestseller is to ensure they capture the human consequences. The choices, the hardships and the innermost feelings of the characters they create and it’s the authors who master this that really stand out.
As always, we write our blogs with the intent of sparking a degree of reflection. If you are currently in the process of writing an Apocalyptic Fiction novel or about to pen your opening chapter or would just like to share your favourite read your thoughts are always welcome.