Post-Apocalyptic Fascination

Ever since I watched Maximum Overdrive when I was a kid, I have been fascinated by post-apocalyptic fiction and drama. Developed from a short story by Stephen King, Maximum Overdrive explores how a group of survivors come together after machines start turning on the humans who made them. Not your usual post-apocalyptic concept, but it still explored how a small group are left when everyone around them has perished. I remember pretending it was real when I walked my dogs around the fields where we lived. I’d pretend I was the only soul left alive in the area and I’d pretend to be grossed out by dead bodies and gruesome finds, while I plotted in my head how I would continue to survive in this new world.

Image by George Tudor from Pixabay

As a huge Stephen King fan I inevitably went on to devour The Stand – a thumping great book about an apocalypse caused by a virus. I found it so fascinating I read it twice! Everything about it intrigued me. From the outbreak of the virus and the horrific details of how quickly it spread and decimated the population, to the individual stories of the people who survived and how they came together, to the rise of good people and bad people and the ultimate battle between them.

Currently, I am watching The Walking Dead for the first time and I am almost at the end of season 10. I’m utterly addicted! A zombie apocalypse is an even more gory and frightening one, but again, it is the human stories that fascinate me – from survival of the early outbreak, to the hopes and fears of groups trying to find safe places and barricade the walkers out, to the inevitable bad humans who are arguably more revolting and dangerous than the walkers, to the fascinating survival skills the humans pick up or develop along the way. I genuinely feel like should a real end-of-the-world situation arise, I would be better prepared thanks to watching this TV show!

I am also currently writing my own post-apocalyptic series and it’s been great fun but also incredibly challenging. I have delved into dystopia before, with The Tree Of Rebels set far in the future after wars have nearly obliterated the human race, but this is the first time I have attempted post-apocalyptic fiction that starts as the tragedy unravels. It’s challenging because it’s been in my head for so long and I have read and watched so many post-apocalyptic books and films, that I feel a bit intimidated. I so want to get it right that sometimes I struggle to write it at all!

I have however written the first two books and I am half way through book three. Because there is a good chance I will want to go back and alter things I am not releasing any of them until all four books are ready. But writing it, and watching The Walking Dead got me thinking – what is it about this particular genre that fascinates us so much? It’s hugely popular – you only have to look at the various Walking Dead spin-offs in action or in the pipeline, to see that the end of the world as we know it is a big business. Here are a few reasons I think the genre is so popular:

  1. Dissatisfaction with this world – I don’t think anyone would swap this world for one over-run by walkers, deadly viruses, or rampaging robots, but even so, I do think a dissatisfaction and anxiety about the society we live in fuels our interest in post-apocalyptic fiction. Characters in post-apocalyptic dramas tend to find a new way of doing things. Once they have survived long enough to start rebuilding, they tend to rebuild in a different way as if they have learned from the mistakes of the past, and I think we are curious about this. If everything was razed to the ground and we had to start again, what kind of society would we work to build? I think most of us would opt for a kinder, fairer more environmentally friendly one and that’s interesting to think about.
  2. Curiosity about how we would react – they say you never truly know how you would react to extreme danger, pain, fear, or the threat of death. We simply have no idea whether we would die easily or become a true survivor. Would we hide away crying, or would we come out fighting? In post-apocalyptic fiction and drama, the weak don’t tend to last long. Characters make stupid mistakes and fall victim to all kinds of terrible deaths. We like to think we would do better. We would be smarter, faster, stronger and more adaptable, but would we? Wondering about this fuels our need to watch and read the genre.
  3. Fascination with survival skills – in a post-apocalyptic world, characters are forced to go back to basics. Walking instead of driving, using horses instead of cars, building shelters, hunting animals for food, fishing, setting traps, filtering water so it’s safe to drink and so on. In our modern lives we don’t need to do any of these things and we tend not to worry about food or oil running out, but maybe we should. We used to be better connected to nature and we used to do all those things to survive. Things are far too easy for us now and we are softer because of it. Watching post-apocalyptic shows and reading the genre makes us more aware of the need for such survival skills. Anyone with these skills is going to have a better chance of survival and I think we enjoy picking up a few tips, just in case!
  4. Boredom – I think to a certain extent us humans grow bored of the society we live in. Once you are in the never ending circle of work, pay bills, work, buy food, work, work, work, you wonder if a different kind of life is possible. In post-apocalyptic situations, the characters are freed from the drudgery of the work/money hamster wheel and they can do whatever they like. Life might be dangerous, but it’s certainly never boring.
  5. Disillusion with the human race – now, I would obviously never advocate population control or the mass death of humans! But like a lot of people, I am endlessly disappointed with the human race. I am frustrated and saddened that they continue to vote for selfish, rich people who continue to wreck the planet. I hate to see our wildlife being decimated, our continuous consumption pushing the planet to the brink. If we are not careful, we’ll have a post-apocalyptic situation on our hands sooner than we think. Human beings can be wonderful, but they are also frustratingly stupid and selfish. I see this more and more around me and I weep for what we are doing to Mother Nature. I can’t help thinking she would be better off without us here. I think we enjoy the genre for this reason too. In books and films where the majority of the population have perished, we get to see what the world would be like without most of here, without us wrecking and polluting, using and abusing it.
  6. The need to go back to basics – I’ve blogged before about my strange desire for a far more basic life. If I could, I would withdraw from society almost completely. If I could live in a little house or cabin far away from humanity, with woods and fields and a stream around me, I would go in a shot. I would go off-grid and get back to nature. I enjoy watching and reading this aspect in post-apocalyptic shows and books. People living basic lives, at one with nature, far away from anyone else.
  7. Preparation for the future – sadly I think this might be one of the main reasons the post-apocalyptic genre is so popular. We are faced with climate change disaster and ecological disaster, not to mention soil disaster, and the possibility of more pandemics. Wow – sometimes I wonder how any of us get up and get through the day with all that hanging over our heads! It plays on my mind constantly. I have no idea what will happen but I have very little hope that the powerful people in charge will do the right thing. I think millions of us will suffer and die as things get worse in the coming years and for young people, the situation is even more dire and depressing. Maybe we are fascinated with the genre because we are trying to prepare ourselves for what may be coming our way.

What about you? Are you a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction and drama or is it something you avoid? Do you have a favourite post-apocalyptic TV show, film or book? Let me know in the comments!

Guest Post #2; Dreaming Of Another World

Dreaming of Another World is a brand new feature on my blog, inspired by a piece I wrote a few weeks ago. Following on from my post Dreaming of Another World, I wondered if other creatives felt the same as me, that another world is possible and could just be glimpsed during lockdown. I reached out to other authors, wondering what their reactions to lockdown were in terms of the future. Has it made them want something different? Has it made them change the way they are living, for instance? Do they have daydreams, like me, about a different way of life? Each week I hope to post a response to these musings from guest authors and bloggers. This could be stories, poems, essays or personal pieces. This second piece is from author Lily Hayden. To find out more about Lily click on the link at the end of the piece.

Dreaming of another world- Lily Hayden

Headphones in and eyes down, I spent my commute dreaming of a world where I didn’t race from a school run to jam myself aboard a packed and late train that spilled us out at a hectic station. My head would be full of all the things I would do ‘if I had time’ as I was swept up in a sea of commuters like a dull, drab shoal of fish swimming past the now-familiar rough sleepers and brimming commercial bins, dodging the puddles from cleaners hosing down the pavement outside the strip of bars and restaurants until I reached my office to sit at a desk for nine hours exchanging eye rolls with my colleagues as we counted down the days to the weekend with the same lethargic lack of enthusiasm; “Ugh, Monday!”, “How is it only Tuesday?”, “Happy Hump day.”, “One more day!” and finally “Thank God it’s Friday!”.

My head, like the commuter fish around me, would be full of all the wonderful things I could do if I wasn’t a slave to the rat-race.

“I’d love to go vegan,” I’d lie to myself as I inhaled my fourth coffee before midday. “I just haven’t got the time to meal plan!”

Same for exercising. Not a chance could I fit gym time in amongst juggling work, writing and raising four children and numerous animals.

“Love the concept of zero waste!” I’d shrug as I clicked through an Eco page on Instagram in my lunchbreak. “But who’s got time to go searching for all that? I can barely manage one big shop on the weekend.”

“We should do more with the kids,” I’d say to my husband as we flopped down exhausted on the sofa on a Friday night, feeling the familiar pang of guilt as they all disappeared off to their rooms once the takeaway had been devoured. “If only we had more time!”

And then suddenly we had time.

“This is so strange,” we would repeat to various neighbours that we only ever saw in passing as we all flew from school runs to work on a never-ending hamster-wheel of rush, rush, rush.

We played games in the street at a social distance and went for walks in the woods that I’d never set foot in despite living on their doorstep for thirty-seven years. We baked, and we gardened, and we sat in the sun. We made little schedules for the children, and the big ones helped the little ones with their schoolwork. We skimmed stones in the river and explored the fields and the forests. We went from driving every day to once a week, and I thought about the carbon footprint reduction.

80,000 people commute into Cardiff every day for work with an average commute of 19 miles taking 48 minutes according to various sources. That’s 1.5 million commuter miles on train, bus and car pumping out tens of thousands of tonnes of CO2 every year.

“Did you know Cardiff is the fourth most polluted city in relation to size?”

“If half of those commuters worked from home, imagine the impact to pollution!”

Imagine! The world could start to repair the damage we’d done to it!

We had enough time to watch the news, to really watch it and talk about it, rather than scroll past on our way to work, the gym, drinks, dinner with just an apathetic ‘how awful’… And we had time to take to the streets chanting ‘no justice, no peace’ when we woke to the reality of the cycle of oppression that we had been complicit in. Strangers united to topple statues of terrible men who did terrible things in the name of profit and power.

We clapped for the nurses that work gruelling shifts putting their own lives at risk to care for others, but all they wanted was fair pay and protective equipment to keep them safe. Of all the people in powerful positions, a football player was the one to convince our Prime Minister that while schools stayed closed to the majority, children would go hungry without their free school meal. The staggering reality of poverty in our country felt like a dirty, little secret had been exposed.

But not everyone could stay home and breathe. A hotchpotch of roles were marked as essential alongside the obviously necessary ones as businesses interpreted the loose rules to suit their pockets, and instead of question the necessity we ordered takeaways, and everything from Amazon, we queued to buy paint from B & Q, and the country sold out of hot tubs.

And then we began to grow bored of entertaining ourselves. By nature, humans are sociable creatures; we missed our friends and our family, and worried that the children needed the routine of schools. By the end of June, mixed messages teased of our ‘playgrounds’ re-opening, and we craved our postponed holidays, desperate to jam a facemask on to jet off to foreign shores the minute the planes took off, or gather outside the pub to clutch that first ice-cold pint or queue to fill a basket in Primark. We were chomping at the bit to get back to ‘normal’.

The emotional need for normality was exacerbated by the very real fear that there would be economic repercussions of the wheel not turning and millions of worker bees furloughed; businesses would fold, and jobs would be lost forever. With fear in our hearts, we will jump back on the treadmill as soon as the whistle is blown. It’s likely that we’ll never have this chance to collectively stop again in this lifetime.

Imagine though if that was the last chance that the world was willing to give us.

On Monday I could be back on that train, headphones in and eyes down; the only thing that would have changed would be the facemasks we are wearing, and wouldn’t that be a horrible, horrible waste. Over forty thousand people have died, and tens of thousands are still recovering from a very serious and debilitating illness.

We cannot let this be for nothing.

I know it wasn’t just me on the train dreaming of having the time to be better, having the time to care, to educate myself, to read, to share, to connect, to donate, to question the morality of the society I live in. I don’t want to go back to seeing my own children for just a hectic hour each morning and evening, missing their lives so that I can pay to keep the roof over their head. My husband took over sixty business flights last year, we drove maybe twenty thousand miles of car journeys. I don’t want to contribute to the destruction of our planet anymore. I don’t want to be shocked when I read that over one million children in the UK rely on free school meals or scroll past news of more racial injustice because I’m too exhausted to be angry. I know that it’s not just me on the train dreaming of a slower pace, more time and deeper connections.

I dream of a world where we learn from the lessons we’ve been taught.

Thank you so much to Lily for this wonderful and thought-provoking piece. If you would like to find to find out more about Lily’s writing, please follow the links below! And if you would like to contribute to this feature with a non-fiction or a fictional piece do please get in touch!

Link to author page and bio: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lily-

Hayden/e/B07CR8KF7D%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

Poems; My Golden Son & These Streets

My Golden Son

The boy and I

Walked down the lane

with two old dogs

the lane warmed

by February sun

the sky blue

as we wandered on

in silence

every time I wanted to speak

there was nothing to say

no words

that had not been said before

I felt numb

the boy, sensing this

stayed silent, stayed gold

hope is in the snowdrops

darkness is in me

for all I see is gone

already a land of ghosts

the lane covered in litter

budweiser cans like a trail

I’d like to see that man

with a crow pecking his dead eye

I’d like to watch him die

instead of this gold land

instead of my golden son

These Streets

These streets hold dirt and grime

pigeons strut across the road

seagulls pull at black bin bags

in the back alley

litter and people discarded

rolled up in newspapers

junkies crouching on the corner

we drive on through that

see a glimpse of beauty in

red poppies on the roundabout

wild flowers on the bridge

did someone plant them?

or did they grow themselves?

Then, up up up

up and over

small cars stuttering into clouds

they rise above us

they fill the skies

the horizon is torched

and it hurts to believe in anything

to hope

is a pain in your chest

easier then to see death

in everything, to see the ending

a slow defeat, slow clapping

we hold up our hands powerless

too late to wake up now

we sleep forever

Something As Simple As Rock ‘N’ Roll Could Save Us All

Last night I went to a gig which reminded me how glorious us humans can be. How glorious most of us constantly are. It was a Frank Turner gig, which may or may not be significant to the effect it had on me, the emotions it stirred, the tears it unexpectedly brought to my eyes. But then again, it definitely needed a certain sort of singer and a certain sort of crowd for this blog post to have been inspired.

Frank Turner, for those of you who don’t know, is an English singer/songwriter, of a folk/rock tradition. This was the second time I’d seen him live and it was even better due to the smaller, more intimate venue not far from his own home town. Over the years many of his songs have gotten to me personally, but isn’t that always the way with performers we become attracted to? They write so many lyrics that could have been written just for us, making us feel like they are talking directly to us.

So come on now if we all pull togetherWe can lift up the weight of the world from your shoulders, just for a moment or two.png

 

Frank Turner invites a mixed crowd of people, which in my opinion makes for the friendliest and safest kind of gig. Young teenage couples stand and sway beside grey haired ones. Parents stand with hands on the shoulders of their children. Women in their thirties and forties, and everyone in between. It doesn’t matter what you wear or how you look, you’ll feel instantly relaxed and at home. There’s no sense of danger or threat in this mild mannered yet devoted crowd.

Not everyone grows up to be an astronautNot everyone was born to be a kingNot everyone can be Freddie MercuryBut everyone can raise a drink and sing (1).png

 

Like all great performers, Turner knows his job is to make us happy and he plays this role to perfection, making it is his sole purpose to excite, entice and invite the crowd to have fun. Like the pied piper of music lovers, if he says jump, we jump, if he says sing, we sing, and if he tells us all to hug a stranger, we hug a stranger. There were some truly wonderful and memorable moments last night, including a man who had flown in from Lithuania to see Frank, being called on stage to pick out someone who would then crowd-surf to two points in the audience in order to deliver high fives to two chosen men.

Having recently mentioned money being raised for Safe Gigs For Women, Turner asked us to prove what a safe and respectful environment his gigs provided for all. Later on, he crowd surfed himself in order to find a beautiful girl to dance with while singing I Wanna’ Dance. He found a little girl and danced with her, and I am sure it will be a moment she will never forget.

But this is not meant to be a gig review. If it was I would say that the crowd were suitably enticed into a hand clapping, feet stomping frenzy, roaring along to each and every song, dancing and hugging and kissing. I would say that Turner did a magnificent job of interacting with the audience, delivering an energetic and passionate performance while coming across as a genuinely lovely and down to earth person.

But all that aside. Something happened last night. I kept getting emotional. I kept wiping away tears. It might have been the two pints of cider. It might have been the songs (I’m not ashamed to admit I wept openly to Ten Storey Love Song and I Am The Ressurection when I saw The Stone Roses) But it was more than that. Because I’ve been feeling emotional a lot lately.

I’ve caught myself staring into space, lost in fearful thoughts. I’ve found myself breathless in the beauty of nature whilst a cold terror that everything is ending clutches at my heart. I’ve had moments of intense love with my children, which feel undeniably punctured with hopelessness. And I’m not the only one. So many people I know seem to be experiencing what can only be described as a sort of mourning. We’re grieving for a world that seems to be going backwards in so many ways, devoured by hate and division. We’re mourning for a beautiful glorious earth that cannot hang on much longer under the damage we inflict. We’re aghast at the utter demons who rule the world and who are voted in by people who should know better.

It’s been bad news followed by worse. Now you might have different political opinions to mine, and that’s fine, but these things need to be spoken about. None of us should ever have to be silent. You might have voted Conservative, for Brexit or even for Trump, but I cannot hold back from discussing the fall out from such outcomes. On the morning of the Tory election win, there were groups of mums gathered in shock at school, in tears. I cried myself. People who were already scared and dismayed at the rate at which the NHS, education and the welfare state had been cut back, rolled back and privatised for profit, were facing another five years of rule under a barely elected Government extremely lacking in compassion.

But we soldiered on. Signed petitions and even won some of the battles. Then came Brexit. And again, if you voted differently to me, that’s fine. I know plenty of people who voted for their own reasons which were not doused in selfishness and intolerance. However, it cannot be denied that Farage and the right wing press whipped up a frenzy of suspicion, hatred, selfish nationalism, not to mention the repetition of outright lies and misinformation.

The morning after I saw the same shocked faces at school and at home. It felt like the extreme right wing racists had won, and the terrifying increase of racially motivated hate crime since then would suggest they felt they had. They felt vindicated and are now proud to voice their intolerant views. It felt like everything was going backwards.

But we shouldered it and carried on. Then came the election of the most powerful man in the world and we all know how that turned out. Avoiding social commentary and political discourse as much as I possibly can here, it cannot be denied nor should it be, that the majority of people across the world right now are pretty scared. They’re either so scared they voted for a misogynistic unqualified lunatic or who doesn’t believe in climate change, or they are now terrified because of that outcome.

As Turner said himself last night, it has been a shit year and the world right now feels very unstable divided and scary.

I felt it hit me last night. The emotion, the fear, the ache of hope, the solidarity with others. With each song he sang I guess I released a little bit of what I had been holding onto. When he spoke about his song Rivers not being about nationalism, but about the beautiful rivers that carve up our land, I wanted to shout yes! I came away feeling lighter, not knowing how much I had needed a night like that.

'And when I dieI hope to beBuried in out in English seasSo all that then remains of meWill lap against the shoreUntil England is no more''Rivers'Frank Turner.png

I guess I don’t really believe any more than rock and roll can save us all. Maybe we are all too far gone, but I do still believe it can save us, if only for just one night.

And I thank Frank Turner for that.

And in his own words; ‘We can get better, because we’re not dead yet!’

and-i-still-believe-in-the-needfor-guitars-and-drums-and-desperate-poetryand-i-still-believe-that-everyone-can-find-a-song-for-every-time-theyve-lost-and-every-time-theyve-won