Post-Rapture Reading Suggestions

I think we can all conclude that even if the Rapture occurs as predicted by Harold Camping, (where it says, “The End off [sic] the World,” I guess spelling doesn’t count in Heaven) I’m not going anywhere. Furthermore, I refuse. I’m holding out for Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods, as any good Norsewoman would. Hand me that labrys, would you?

That said, those of us who are still going to be here (you know who you are) will still need something to read. So I started looking at post-apocalyptic books, you know, to get in the mood. I was mildly surprised to discover that post-apocalyptic lit dates back to the early 1800s, when Mary Shelley (yes, THAT Mary Shelley) wrote what is apparently the very first post-apocalyptic book all the way back in 1826. Overshadowed of course by her earlier more famous work,Frankenstein, The Last Man
is set in the year 2100, after some kind of plague has decimated the human race. The book was trashed in its day, and it wasn’t until the 1960s that it was revived.

In 1885, Richard Jefferies wrote After London: Wild England wherein an unspecified disaster of some sort wipes out most of the population and nature begins to reclaim the land.

Everyone is familiar with H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds from 1898 but unlike the movies the book is set in Victorian London. I remember how surprised I was when I first found that out, although I don’t know why I was surprised that Hollywood had moved the setting to the United States.

Another surprise was finding that Jack London had penned The Scarlet Plague in 1912. Set in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2073, again, a mysterious plague nearly obliterates the human race. More a novella at only 86 pages, it is sadly out of print.

In 1909, E. M. Forster (better known for Howard’s End, The Remains of the Day, A Room With a View) gave us The Machine Stops.

I admit I am surprised at so much dystopian, apocalyptic writing during this Victorian era. Was science advancing too quickly for comfort? The new era of mechanization also gave rise to the Arts and Crafts movement, and Art Nouveau. It must have seemed like the world was already out of control, and the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 hadn’t even hit yet.

There has been more post-apocalyptic/dystopian literature written since the 1940s than I can shake a stick at, but it’s easy to see where that came from: World Wars, the Cold War, space race, and so on. Rather than try to list it all, I refer you to David Brin’s Facebook list (you don’t need to be a member to see this) of post-apocalyptic novels, including his own The Postman from 1985 (do not be deterred by the movie that was made of it). And if you are of a science-y bent, you can follow him on Twitter @DavidBrin1 .

I’m going to go sharpen my weapons now.

28 thoughts on “Post-Rapture Reading Suggestions

  1. Might as well. I heard rumors on Twitter of a plot afoot in NY to send a flock of helium-filled blow-up dolls (y’know, sex dolls) lofting skyward at the appointed hour πŸ˜‰ I sure hope there’s a news crew there to get footage.


  2. Lng ago I went rafting on the Delaware River with some sporty friends and we drifted past a bunch of guys having a party, who had sent one of those dolls up filled with helium so their guest would be able to find ’em.

    IMO, nobody’s going to describe the end of the world better than TS Eliot:

    Haunting but beautiful.


      1. Hehe πŸ˜‰ But I thought you were ok with Twilight if it got people reading anything at all? I’m so with you on the V.C. Andrews, though. I was always appalled to see it displayed in the racks in the store like the dime-novel romances. I thought porn was supposed to be behind some counter out of sight of preschoolers.


      2. I’m on the fence w/Twilight _ I guess if I had to make the call, I’d still say it’s better than not reading at all, but when you are counting how many books you’ve read, it adds nil. In other words I will neither add nor subtract from one’s transcript for Stephanie Meyer, whereas one actually LOSES points for V.C. Andrews – a good episode of M*A*S*H is more educational than that trash.


      3. I confess I have not read any V.C. Andrews, but even reading the positive reviews on Amazon, where people are defending the thin, 2D characters as appropriate to that type of book… :::grimace::: Scary that even the supporters have to rationalize it to themselves. The subject matter was just a huge turn-off to me. Just, ick.

        I’d just like to know how those Twilight books got published without any apparent editorial review. Subject matter aside, did no one copyedit them? I wouldn’t really expect anything deep or relevant out of Stephenie Meyer, frankly.


      4. I actually read one of those V.C.A. novels and it was absolutely awful; I’ll never really complete my penance for that till I finish Finnegan’s Wake and all of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past; maybe Don Quixote as well.


      5. Oh. My. God. I can’t even imagine anything that terrible, if it makes Twilight look semi-not-horrible. Is that series franchised now? When I was looking them up on Amazon it seemed like there were an awful lot of them.

        Reminds of what Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “People do not deserve to have good writing, they are so pleased with bad.”


  3. “I admit I am surprised at so much dystopian, apocalyptic writing during this Victorian era. Was science advancing too quickly for comfort? The new era of mechanization also gave rise to the Arts and Crafts movement, and Art Nouveau. It must have seemed like the world was already out of control, and the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 hadn’t even hit yet.”

    I do think that might have been part of it. Also, they were every bit as concerned that things were moving too quickly “nowadays” as many of us are today.

    Heh, I used to love V.C. Andrews when I was a preteen. Gobbled up some of her books. Very dark and macabre tales. Unfortunately, after her death, the ghost writer just kept recycling her plots over and over again.

    I should put a clause in my will: If I should die and you find unfinished manus…burn them! Never let anyone use my name!”


  4. I didn’t even know the original author had died. Wasn’t the main storyline or at the least the one that started it centered on the incest between a brother and sister? It still makes me queasy to think about it, never had any desire to read it.

    I’m with you, my name is my name and it dies with me.


    1. Ditto – my name is not for sale, in this life or the next!

      As a preteen I was a huge fan of a series about a girl detective named Trixie Belden (she was so much more fun and sassy – especially in the early novels – than Nancy Drew, I still don’t understand why the former was more famous.) Even at that early age, I noticed that the quality dropped off noticeably in the last few books, although it was years before I learned about pen names, ghost writers, and the like.


  5. Flowers in the Attic. The author made it believable in the context of that novel. It wasn’t there for silly shock value.

    The problem was after she died, the ghost writer ended up putting in an incest plotline into just about every single book. It became a joke.

    Anyway, as famous as FITA was, I loved “Heaven” more. Or at least, eleven year-old me did. πŸ˜‰

    I just checked. She died in 1986. And they are still publishing books under her name. Gah. I can understand hiring someone to finish up a series or an almost done-novel, but using someone’s name for over twenty years?

    I’d be haunting some folk!


  6. Mary,

    It’s strange, I hadn’t even heard of Trixie Belden until I became an adult. Now I keep hearing about how much more fun she was than Nancy Drew.

    Maybe the Drew books had a better marketing plan?


  7. Maybe the Drew books had a better marketing plan?

    Looking back on it, I think the Nancy D. books were published by a bigger house. The Belden books were set in the Catskill montains in upstate NY (someplace I’d never been and had barely heard of as a kid, although years later it’s one of my favorite weekend spots) and I’m thinking that they were put out by some little low-budget regional publisher. The stories were so cute and lively and entertaining.


  8. Did they come out at the same time? Nancy Drew first appeared (I was going to say ‘came out’ but that might give the wrong impression πŸ˜‰ ) in 1930. I just looked up Trixie and she debuted some 18 years later in 1948. Maybe ND was already such a staple that Trixie had a hard time cracking the market?


    1. Both of your points make sense. I was reading Trixie as a preteen in the ’70’s, and the Trixie books did seem less dated than the Drews. I liked that Trixie ran with a whole crowd – 2 brothers, a BFF, a cute almost-boyfriend (he was the BFF’s adopted brother, who joined the family and the gang after the girls rescued him from some dangerous fate involving an abandoned mansion) – whereas Nancy just had that fuddy-duddy boyfriend and the sleek little roadster that I got tired of hearing about after one novel.


  9. Thanks, Ralfast πŸ™‚ I still find it odd that there was so much fear of it, when the World Wars were still years away, and England hadn’t actually been invaded since Henry Tudor overthrew James III.

    That’s a great page about invasion literature, I have to go back and read the rest of it later (train to catch right now!)


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