Uncommon Sense

March 8, 2018

I Am So Tired of Apocalyptic Science Fiction

Filed under: Entertainment — Steve Ruis @ 11:02 am
Tags: , ,

It seems that eight out of every ten science fiction and fantasy books being published is of the apocalyptic sort. Granted that many of the “new” authors are self-publishing and often try to mimic successful writing, especially through choice of topic, but still.

I have enjoyed a few such works, but really just a few. Somne of the things I have enjoyed about science fiction and fantasy is the experience of different cultures (even if fictional), how contact with completely alien species illuminates our own, the sheer adventure of traveling the stars, the technical conundrums that ensue from such risky explorations, the impact on the future of our species based upon exposure to the environmental and cultural forces of alien places, and so on.

Apocalyptic novels and stories exploit these same issues but from a standpoint that we failed massively as a species and have either nearly wiped ourselves out or are close to doing so. The protagonists are no less heroic, but the setting is depressing.

As a teacher I warned students, often, that if they look closely they will find that their best efforts as students, to date, were in digging themselves out of holes they themselves dug. I encouraged them to consider what would result if they skipped the step of digging the hole in the first place and learned to marshal those best efforts to get above where they were, rather than back to the level they started at.

Heroic actions in war-torn landscapes to me are not as interesting because the fighting is to get back to where we once were. I am more drawn to stories that extend from where we are not to where we might get. That is more inspiring to me.

Sadly, those works are being swamped by zombie and alien and human apocalypses and then people scrambling around trying to recover some of the better pieces. <sigh>

Your Friendly Neighborhood Pollyanna


  1. Aha! So, like myself, you’d rather read works by, oh, Asimov, A.C. Clark, etc.. Well, I agree on those authors as they are the ones I read back in my youth and even reread years later. They didn’t fight to “get back” after some apocalyptic event. They went off in search of something new or at least different. My brain may not be up to full operational functioning just now, but I seem to recall they held out some possibility of being better for said discoveries.
    I admit, I like the first Mad Max film, the second was OK, but then it was just mostly recycled crap. Hell, even Tina Turner couldn’t help “Thunder Dome”. As to the zombies, big damn deal. A 12 gauge shotgun will do away with those “undead” creeps, so who gives a flying?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Walter Kronkat — March 8, 2018 @ 11:26 am | Reply

  2. Two words for you: Greg Egan.


    Comment by john zande — March 8, 2018 @ 11:27 am | Reply

    • I tried, and didn’t get far. I will try again, maybe my first choice didn’t resonate.

      On Thu, Mar 8, 2018 at 11:27 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:



      Comment by Steve Ruis — March 8, 2018 @ 11:30 am | Reply

  3. My most favorite genre in books and movies is Sci-Fi … but it’s getting more and more difficult to find either one that isn’t about (1) zombies/walking dead … which I detest, or (2) fantasy adventures on other planets … which I find boring, or (3) as you suggested, apocalyptic.

    I have read/watched some apocalyptic stories that were very well done and approached the topic a bit differently, but my efforts to find others of similar quality have been fruitless. I recently started 3 or 4 general Sci-Fi books but am struggling to finish them.

    Perhaps one of these days I’ll write a post and include some of the Sci-Fi books I’ve enjoyed and ask others to add their favorites. Might give us fans some new material … yes?


    Comment by Nan — March 8, 2018 @ 12:12 pm | Reply

    • Please do; would be interesting.

      On Thu, Mar 8, 2018 at 12:12 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:



      Comment by Steve Ruis — March 8, 2018 @ 10:09 pm | Reply

  4. Will welcome any and all current sci-fi recommendations, especially for my fourteen year old daughter.


    Comment by Zach — March 9, 2018 @ 7:45 am | Reply

  5. Apocalypse gets boring very fast. I prefer dystopias, as extrapolations from where we are now, without an apocalypse in sight. No space travel or aliens, either. And character-based rather than action-based. I’ve written one, working on a couple more.

    You might enjoy Star’s Reach, by John Michael Greer. A very different approach from anything I’ve read. Post-apocalypse, with long-past events left mysterious because they aren’t really needed. I’d call the book humanistic, if anything.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Catana — March 9, 2018 @ 12:13 pm | Reply

  6. Don’t really enjoy the dystopian/apocalyptic style.

    The Helliconia Trilogy, Brian Aldiss. Sheer Brilliance.
    Marrow: Robert Reed.


    Comment by Arkenaten — March 10, 2018 @ 5:21 pm | Reply

  7. Yes! I also strongly dislike the Luddite sci-fi where the entire theme is “technology bad” (robots will kill us, space aliens will kill us, traveling into space will kill us, etc.) It entirely distorts reality to the point that we’re raising entire new generations that are scared of scientific advancement — scared of vaccines, scared of AI, scared of anything automated, etc.

    It’s entirely possible that human society will fail someday, and I don’t mind reading about it (or watching it) once in a while… I recently enjoyed the CW show “The 100”, for example. But human society isn’t going to fail because of technology and science. It’s going to fail for LACK of them. It’s going to fail because we keep electing the Donald Trumps of the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Anderson Connors — March 11, 2018 @ 5:32 pm | Reply

    • HA! That last line summed it up perfectly!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Nan — March 11, 2018 @ 5:34 pm | Reply

    • Or more succinctly, because the corporate military masters give us non choices like Hillary and Donald … as Twain, I think, said … we get the leaders we deserve.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Zach — March 11, 2018 @ 5:45 pm | Reply

      • Zach: It’s true we don’t select the candidates — and this is frustrating to no end. A friend of mine suggested adding a “none of the above” to every ballot, and if the voters choose “none of the above” as the winner, then the original candidates get removed and new ones must be added until someone gets more votes than “none of the above”. I like the idea, though practical implementation could be nightmarish.

        On the other hand even if the “non choices” are Clinton and Trump, we still need to be smart enough to choose the least bad one, and a great many of us keep voting for the MOST bad one. I’ll never be a Clinton cheerleader, but it’s clear she wouldn’t have been as bad as Trump. I’d love to put up a better third-party candidate so I don’t have to choose the “lesser of two evils”, but as long as a good number are voting for the GREATER of two evils, we’re stuck with this system.


        Comment by Anderson Connors — March 23, 2018 @ 9:58 am | Reply

        • Love your idea for a none of above option. Perfect.

          I heard Dick Gregory say something years ago: “when you vote for the lesser of two evils you wind up with the evil of the evil. Has taken me many years, but I will not cast my vote for a lesser again. I disagree that Hillary was not as bad as a Trump. In any case, doesn’t matter. She was bad in her own right. Pro Iraq war. In bed (politically) with every and any Wall Street asshole she can find. Dreadful Secretary of State, advocating for regime change by offing heads of State. The list goes on.

          By not voting for one of these dregs offered to us, we, hopefully, hasten the collapse of this corrupt system of selecting candidates…which may allow for something new. Right now, the Democratic Party is supporting centrist candidates, even if they are anti abortion, above progressive candidates actually talking about class issues.

          From where I sit, same old bullshit.

          I am not on the DNC bandwagon of impeaching Trump, either. Get rid of him, we get the first legitimate born again fascist president. Won’t that be fun.

          Anyway, to vote, I have to vote FOR someone. Not against. Not any more. After chaos and accompanying anarchy, perhaps something new can emerge.

          Hope so.

          Liked by 1 person

          Comment by Zach — March 25, 2018 @ 3:01 pm | Reply

          • I understand where you’re coming from. And I *definitely* want to see an end to the (as you say) “corrupt system of selecting candidates”. But it looks like if we abstain from voting, or vote third party, we’re just going to get Republicans. Sad face.

            I do agree with you about being against impeachment. I wrote on this a few weeks ago — we DON’T want Pence. That looney will have us in Old Testament hell in a matter of months. The best way to get rid of all of them at the same time is to defeat them in the election in 2020. And we won’t get rid of them if we scatter our votes amongst Green, Libertarian, Independent, write-ins, and other candidates.

            Liked by 1 person

            Comment by Anderson Connors — March 25, 2018 @ 5:07 pm | Reply

  8. “As a teacher I warned students, often, that if they look closely they will find that their best efforts as students, to date, were in digging themselves out of holes they themselves dug. I encouraged them to consider what would result if they skipped the step of digging the hole in the first place and learned to marshal those best efforts to get above where they were, rather than back to the level they started at.”

    Perfectly said. I have used the similar lines over and over. “If you spent as much time doing your work and you did avoiding it, you would be at the top of the class!” Don’t you miss teaching? Only three or four more years to go!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Holding the Line in Florida — March 13, 2018 @ 11:32 am | Reply

    • Hang in there! I have enjoyed being retired as much as I enjoyed teaching. A bit of advice: be sure you know what you are going to do when you retire. Going fishing doesn’t hack it, especially because teacher pensions are generous and it is way to easy to get bored. I ended up editing a magazine and writing books and have enjoyed (and still enjoy) a quite busy retirement.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — March 13, 2018 @ 1:08 pm | Reply

  9. Steve,

    I’m tired of the dystopian genre, not because it makes us seem that we have failed as a species, but that it stifles the future technological development that are bound for the future. By making the population pessimistic about AI/ robots, we claim not to trust it and who would invest in something that scares the majority of people? Although robots are gaining in replacing jobs, AI is being pushed as the “end of humanity.” I highly doubt that a West World will happen but because of the dystopian genre, I don’t think we’d ever find out.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by S.J. Lima — March 26, 2018 @ 1:58 am | Reply

  10. I guess I must be lucky, since I think in optimistic terms, my writing ends on future.


    Comment by ramblingsfromanunpavedmind — April 5, 2018 @ 11:33 am | Reply

  11. I find any genre of science fiction is best when it makes you ask a question about yourself and your role in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Tales from the Neon Beach — April 12, 2018 @ 6:23 am | Reply

  12. I have noticed this dystopian trend as well. At least 90% of it I could do without, but the best of it is pretty great.


    Comment by firewater65 — July 13, 2018 @ 6:38 pm | Reply

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