Introduction: After the World Ends, Again
Sometimes we envision the end of the world wrought by four demon riders on horseback; at other times humanity’s destruction is brought about by our own hubris, at the hands of a human—machine hybrid, through an unnamed and shockingly unexpected epidemic, or simply a random natural catastrophe. Yet despite the many and creative ways we imagine the end of the world, we also imagine that somehow some of us will survive it (although perhaps we don’t survive well—I, for one, will be a wreck after the apocalypse when the coffee runs out). After all, the story of “how we all died. The end.” does not feel very satisfying, but the story of “how most of us died, but some endured …” has a certain attraction. Even better, it has possibilities. Who survived? Why them, and not others? What did they do to ensure their survival? (Always a question with dark undertones.) And, of course, the all-important questions: Would I survive? Would my loved ones? How would I accomplish this? What would I do to save myself, or my family? Would I do the same for strangers? Would they, for me? The details of the apocalypse itself recede in importance as we wonder “what next?” because that is the question that holds our deepest hopes and most existential fears. As speculative fiction (we hope!), post-apocalyptic narratives ask us to consider what it means to be truly human, particularly in the context of survival horror and genocide, by testing not only our physical survival skills, but also our values, our morals, and our beliefs.
KeywordsPopular Culture Conservative Ideology Speculative Future Indian Child Welfare African American Single Mother
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