Posts Tagged ‘post-apocalyptic’

EP414: Knowing


by Matt Wallace
Read by Mat Weller

Links for this episode:

Matt Wallace
Author Matt Wallace

About the Author…

from Amazon.com… A screenwriter, novelist, and the award-winning author of over one hundred short stories, Matt spent a decade traveling the western hemisphere as a professional wrestler and combat instructor before retiring to write full-time. He now resides in Los Angeles and bleeds exclusively on the blank page.

He has no actual knowledge of the answer to life, the universe, and everything. But he makes sure to ask every demon he meets, just in case.

 

Knowing 
by Matt Wallace

A grey pallor hung heavy over the landscape. Heaven’s fire had long gone out, leaving the sky a cold hearth. The ashen soot that covered it might once have been the burning ember of eons, but now its livid color irradiated the early dawn. It soaked every molecule of air like a pale leaden necrosis, existing independently of the season, fostering neither cold nor heat.
A caravan of old cars rambled through the grey morning, balding tires rolling over the broken disrepair of State Highway 24. Chrysler Imperials and winged hatchback Newports, Chevy Chevelles and Novas and flatbed El Caminos, Dodge Darts and Coronets, Ford Fairlanes and Falcons, Lincoln Comets and Continentals, Olds Eighty-Eights and Cutlass Supremes; early 1960’s vintages, all. They traveled toward Oneonta, the Northern New York town whose name was taken from the Iroquois word for a place of meeting.
The Earth’s reclamation of its wilderness in post-nuclear North America continued. Lush foliage blurred as the cars headed deep into the rural upstate, creating rich green wraiths in their murky windows that danced and swooped and curved. The lead car, a Dodge Charger that outshined the rest by miles, would reach Gilboa around breakfast time.
There the wind blew warm through the world’s oldest forest. There they’d been called.
There they’d find the Answer. (Continue Reading…)

EP400: Rescue Party


by Arthur C. Clarke
Read by Norm Sherman
Performed by Graeme Dunlop as Alveron; Steve Eley as Rugon; Nathaniel Lee as Orostron; Mur Lafferty as Hansur; Paul Haring as Klarten; Alasdair Stewart as Alarkane; Dave Thompson as The Paladorian; Ben Philips as T’sinadree; Jeremiah Tolbert as Tork-a-lee

 

About the Author…

from IMDB.com

Arthur C. Clarke was born in the seaside town of Minehead, Somerset, England in December 16, 1917. In 1936 he moved to London, where he joined the British Interplanetary Society. There he started to experiment with astronautic material in the BIS, write the BIS Bulletin and science fiction. During World War II, as a RAF officer, he was in charge of the first radar talk-down equipment during its experimental trials. His only non-science-fiction novel, Glide Path, is based on this work. After the war, he returned to London and to the BIS, which he presided in 46-47 and 50-53. In 1945 he published the technical paper “Extra-terrestrial Relays” laying down the principles of the satellite com- communication with satellites in geostationary orbits – a speculation realized 25 years later. His invention has brought him numerous prestigious honors. Today, the geostationary orbit at 36,000 kilometers is named The Clarke Orbit by the International Astronomical Union. The first story Clarke sold professionally was “Rescue Party”, written in March 1945 and appearing in Astounding Science in May 1946. He obtained first class honors in Physics and Mathematics at the King’s College, London, in 1948.

In 1953 he met an American named Marilyn Torgenson, and married her less than three weeks later. They split in December 1953. As Clarke says, “The marriage was incompatible from the beginning. It was sufficient proof that I wasn’t the marrying type, although I think everybody should marry once”. Clarke first visited Colombo, Sri Lanka (at the time called Ceylon) in December 1954. In 1954 Clarke wrote to Dr Harry Wexler, then chief of the Scientific Services Division, U.S. Weather Bureau, about satellite applications for weather forecasting. Of these communications, a new branch of meteorology was born, and Dr. Wexler became the driving force in using rockets and satellites for meteorological research and operations. In 1954 Clarke started to give up space for the sea. About the reasons, he said: “I now realise that it was my interest in astronautics that led me to the ocean. Both involve exploration, of course – but that’s not the only reason. When the first skin-diving equipment started to appear in the late 1940s, I suddenly realized that here was a cheap and simple way of imitating one of the most magical aspects of spaceflight – weightessness.” In the book Profiles of the Future (1962) he looks at the probable shape of tomorrow’s world. In this book he states his three Laws: 1.”When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.” 2.”The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.” 3.”Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” In 1964, he started to work with Stanley Kubrick in a SF movie script. After 4 years, he shared an Oscar Academy Award nomination with him for the film version of 2001: A Space Odyssey. He co-broadcasted the Apollo 11 , 12 and 15 missions with Walter Cronkite and Wally Schirra for CBS. In 1985, He published a sequel to 2001 : 2010: Odyssey Two. He worked with Peter Hyams in the movie version of 2010. They work was done using a Kaypro computer and a modem, for Arthur was in Sri Lanka and Peter Hyams in Los Angeles. Their communications turned into the book The Odyssey File – The Making of 2010. His thirteen-part TV series Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World in 1981 and Arthur C. Clarke’s World of strange Powers in 1984 has now been screened in many countries. He made part of other TV series about the space, as Walter Cronkite’s Universe series in 1981. He has lived in Colombo, Sri Lanka since 1956 and has been doing underwater exploration along that coast and the Great Barrier Reef. So far it has been to over 70 books, almost as many non-fiction, as science fiction. In March 1998, his latest, and probably last, novel: 3001: The Final Odyssey was released.

Rescue Party
by Arthur C. Clarke

Who was to blame? For three days Alveron’s thoughts had come back to that question, and still he had found no answer. A creature of a less civilized or a less sensitive race would never have let it torture his mind, and would have satisfied himself with the assurance that no one could be responsible for the working of fate. But Alveron and his kind had been lords of the Universe since the dawn of history, since that far distant age when the Time Barrier  had been folded round the cosmos by the unknown powers that lay beyond the Beginning. To them had been given all knowledge–and with infinite knowledge went infinite responsibility. If there were mistakes and errors in the administration of the galaxy, the fault lay on the heads of Alveron and his people. And this was no mere mistake: it was one of the greatest tragedies in history.
The crew still knew nothing. Even Rugon, his closest friend and the ship’s deputy captain, had been told only part of the truth. But now the doomed worlds lay less than a billion miles ahead. In a few hours, they would be landing on the third planet.
Once again Alveron read the message from Base; then, with a flick of a tentacle that no human eye could have followed, he pressed the “General Attention” button. Throughout the mile-long cylinder that was the Galactic Survey Ship S9000, creatures of many races laid down their work to listen to the words of their captain.
“I know you have all been wondering,” began Alveron, “why we were ordered to abandon our survey and to proceed at such an acceleration to this region of space. Some of you may realize what this acceleration means. Our ship is on its last voyage: the generators have already been running for sixty hours at Ultimate Overload. We will be very lucky if we return to Base under our own power. (Continue Reading…)

Book Review: The Tyrant Strategy: Revenant Man by Jonathan C. Gillespie


I’m not a huge fan of military SF. But I am a fan of post-apocalyptic SF. I’m not a huge fan of augmented-humanity SF. But I am a fan of humans-aren’t-the-most-powerful-people-in-the-universe SF. So when author Jonathan C. Gillespie put out his new novel The Tyrant Strategy: Revenant Man I wasn’t sure if it was going to be my cup of post-apocalyptic, augmented humanity, military-style, humans-aren’t-so-great tea.

That’s an awfully complicated blend, by the way. Not too many people sell it.

(Continue Reading…)

EP319: Driving X


By Gwendolyn Clare
Read by Mur Lafferty
Discuss on our forums.
First appeared in Warrior Wisewoman 3
All stories by Gwendolyn Clare
All stories read by Mur Lafferty

Driving X
by Gwendolyn Clare

Carmela wouldn’t have stopped if she had known that the kid was still alive.

She spotted the body lying under a creosote bush, maybe ten yards from
the road, and she hit the brakes.  She grabbed the roll cage of the
old dune buggy and pulled herself up, standing on the driver’s seat to
scan in both directions along the unpaved road.  A dust devil twirled
a silent ballet off to the southeast, but hers was the only man-made
dust trail in evidence for miles.  She raised her hand to cover the
sun and squinted into the bleached, cloudless sky–no vultures yet,
which was good, since vultures attract attention.  Minimal risk, she
decided.

The dune buggy itself wasn’t that valuable, but the newer-model solar
panels powering it would be enough to tempt any sane person, and the
carboys of potable water were worth a small fortune out here.

Carmela swung out of the dune buggy and jogged over to check out the
body.  It was tall but skinny, with the not-yet-filled-out look of a
teenager.  Pale skin, a tint of sunburn, brown hair cropped at
chin-length.  The girl was lying face down in the dust, so Carmela
rolled the body over and checked her front pockets for anything of
interest.  A month ago, she would have felt ashamed, but scavenging
was the norm down here; after all, dead people don’t miss what you
take from them.
(Continue Reading…)

Book Review: Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresault by Genevieve Valentine


Cover for MechaniqueIn a time of thousand-page fantasy epics, a little book like Genevieve Valentine’s Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti is easy to overlook. I recommend making the effort to track it down. Mechanique is a beautifully written book. Genevieve Valentine says more with hints and suggestions than some authors can say in a thousand words of blunt narration. There is more truth in Mechanique than in other books twice its size.

Mechanique has been categorized “steampunk,” but it does not indulge in the Victorian nostalgia that marks the steampunk literature that I’m familiar with. The world of Mechanique is a post-war wasteland, where last scraps of civilization survive in walled cities. It is outside these cities that the Circus Tresaulti pitches its tents. Little George, the book’s first person narrator, is the circus’s advance scout, putting up posters and checking the mood of the inhabitants to see if they’re the kind of people who might enjoy a circus — or who would rather enjoy chasing a circus out of town.

The mechanical legs that Little George wears for these excursions are fake, but the core of the circus are its genuine half-mechanical performers. Women with metal bones, men with reinforced mechanical bodies, and, once, a man with mechanical wings. It sounds like a good deal — have your fragile and overheavy bones replaced with light, flexible copper and spend your days on a high-flying trapeze. The Boss doesn’t take just anyone, though, and being accepted by Boss and having the bones installed doesn’t mean you’ll survive being part of the act.

No one joins the Circus Tresaulti who isn’t at least a little bit broken. Valentine’s narrative is equally fractured, slipping from second person to third person, pausing in the present tense and then sliding back into the past. Little George narrates in first person. Elena and a few other characters narrate in third person. The reader also hears whispers and asides from another narrator, the voice of the storyteller, who points out when the characters aren’t quite being honest with themselves. The overall effect is strange, and could be off-putting for many readers. I found it entrancing.

Readers of Fantasy Magazine and Beneath Ceaseless Skies will already be familiar with stories about the Circus Tresaulti. All of those stories are available as podcasts: Study, for Solo Piano; The Finest Spectacle Anywhere; Bread and Circuses. If you’re unsure whether you’ll like Mechanique, give those a listen. The tone and the style of the narration does not change from the stories to the book. Valentine just pulls the curtain back a bit more in her novel, and lets her readers see things that she only hinted at in the short stories.

Mechanique steps away from traditional adult fantasy literature with its illustrations. I heartily approve of this trend. The artist who did the cover (and the promotional Tresaulti tickets) has done a handful of lovely black and white illustrations for the interior. One picture in particular that stands out in my mind is the drawing of Elena sitting alone in the big top, swinging back and forth on the trapeze and staring away into the darkness.

Mechanique is surreal. The narrative is nonlinear and the magic works because Boss says so. Readers looking for traditional fantasy narratives should probably look elsewhere. Fans of Genevieve Valentine, and those readers who are willing to take a risk, should buy a ticket for the Circus Tresaulti. They have beer in glasses, dancing girls, and mechanical marvels to shock and amaze you.

EP310: Flash Extravaganza


Another helping of flash!
Jenna’s Clocks by T. F. Davenport (narrator Jean Hilde-Fulghum)
Wetware Woes by J. J. DeBenedictis (narrator Mur Lafferty)
End of the World or Not, I Still Have Feelings by Daniel Morris (narrator- Barry Haworth)
The Best Cover Band in the Universe by Andrew Fazzari (narrator- John Anealio) – Honorable Mention for the Escape Pod 2010 Flash Contest!
Discuss on our forums.

Apocalypse now


So, you like The Walking Dead, huh? It’s neat, right? An ongoing post-apocalyptic TV series about zombies, based on an award-winning comic. What’s not to love? And fortunately, they’ve done a mighty fine job on the adaptation. This viewer is pleased. Zombies are popular at the moment, cresting at the top of one of those unpredictable waves of fashion. The Walking Dead has come at exactly the right time, whether by design or accident, and all power to it.

But this series fits into another genre, that of the post-apocalyptic. And this is where I have a confession to make.

I don’t like post-apocalyptic. Post-apocalyptic is predictable, formulaic, and easy. There, I’ve said it.

This is, of course, not true. Post-apocalyptic is also hugely popular and always has been, not just with the general public but with discerning genre fans like you and I. It seems that wiping out humanity in some global catastrophe is something that, maybe, we all secretly wish for. I mean, if we were among the lucky survivors, it’d be free reign, right? No work, no more need for money. No more cruelty and tyranny, no more pollution, overpopulation or war.

And of course no people, no family, no friends, no loved ones, and the beginning of a huge struggle for survival against impossible odds in a situation likely to psychologically traumatise even the most hardened survivalist.

So okay, not so neat.

I said I don’t like post-apocalyptic, and that bit is true. Post-apocalyptic is formulaic, simply because the scale of the situation is such that any fiction set after the disaster must follow similar plot lines. The survivors are isolated, and then eventually find each other. Cities are empty or full of the dead (or the walking dead). There is no power, no medicine. Every manmade resource is suddenly very finite indeed. And so on, and so on. Plotwise, most post-apocalyptic stories are more or less the same.

I should point out here that I’m no expert. I have friends who are very dedicated followers of end-of-the-world stories, and no doubt about now they’re ready to put their keyboards through the computer screen in frustration. But hear me out. Post-apocalyptic may suck, plotwise, but where it really shines is in characterisation. Possibly more than any other genre, post-apocalyptic depends upon strong characterisation. Because if all the plots are the same, or similar (and I’m talking pure plot here, which is different to story and situation), then all you have left are the survivors. And it is how the survivors act in their new environment that makes the story. I’m not saying that characterisation is unique to the post-apocalypse, far from it, but I am saying that if you’re about to write an epic tale of an empty world, you’ve got to be prepared to engage the reader with some very, very powerful players.

With that in mind, and as a self-confessed post-apocalyptic skeptic, here’s my list of five tales that, to me, are among the best examples of the post-apocalyptic. I’m not just going to regurgitate a list from Wikipedia (and, my heavens, there is quite a list on there), these are personal choices that I think are either great examples of either characterisation or perhaps an unusual or uncommon take on the post-apocalyptic plot. Having just slated the genre for being formulaic, let’s see if there are any stories which break the mould.

Before I continue, there’s also an important distinction to make here between those stories which are genuinely post-apocalyptic, and those which are really apocalyptic. Post-apocalypse, by definition, implies that the menace, threat, disaster, alien invasion, plague, etc, have been and gone. What we are left with is the world and the people left afterwards. Stories like the recent film Skyline, or 2012, or great classics like The War of the Worlds take place while the disaster is unfolding. While the aftermath may be considered post-apocalyptic (although probably not in the case of The War of the Worlds), we don’t see that bit. I’ll admit here I’m going to cheat on one entry in my list below, but only because I think it’s a particularly fine and relatively unknown example.

The Quiet Earth


I’m really sure how well known New Zealand cinema of the early 80s is outside of that country, but The Quiet Earth is well worth tracking down. It tells the story of a man who wakes up one morning to find the world empty − whatever the apocalypse was (I shall reveal nothing), it actually physically removed the world’s population, so our hero (played by the wonderful Bruno Lawrence) finds himself genuinely alone. With a completely deserted Earth, not even a single corpse in sight, Lawrence carries the majority of the film on his own. It’s a remarkable performance as his character goes from confusion, to exhilaration (with nobody around the world is his oyster… if he wants to drive a giant earthmover through a gas station to see what happens, why not?) and finally to total paranoia and delusion. And after all, if you were the only human being left on the planet, wouldn’t you start to think you were special? The Quiet Earth is out on DVD and I’d recommend you grab it.

The Stand


The grand-daddy of all post-apocalyptic stories, Stephen King’s 1978 tale of the survivors of a super flu which wipes out most of the human population is rightly considered a classic. At an eye-watering 1300 pages, this book is a perfect example of character over plot. Of course, King is known for this, but while the concept of a superflu (one engineered by the military as a biological weapon that is released accidentally) was old hat when King wrote it, the journey of the survivors as they find each other and come to terms with their new world is brilliant. Although the central plot eventually reveals itself − that of the survivor’s journey to Las Vegas to make their stand against an evil that has arisen − how the characters react and cope is what makes this whopping tome a real page-turner. If you haven’t read any King, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start. Afficiandos think that this is his best work; while I personally prefer ‘Salem’s Lot, if you have any doubts about the post-apocalyptic genre, this will set your mind at rest, as it did mine.

Earth Abides


Twenty-nine years before The Stand was published, academic George R. Stewart wrote his single novel which might be called “genre”. Earth Abides is another that follows the standard post-apocalyptic formula − a super-sickness kills everyone, leaving only those immune to the disease alive − but you can forgive Stewart for this given that it was probably a newer story concept back in the 1940s. Earth Abides might be that one book that I’d take to a desert island, should I be so abandoned. It’s beautiful, moving and sad, and sticks in the mind not just because of the human characters and their journey but because of Stewart’s depiction of the world itself. In Earth Abides, the Earth itself is a character. Rid of destructive humans, it begins to regenerate, reclaiming itself and returning to an earlier pre-industrial (you might even say ‘default’) state. Stewart conveys this in a striking way, with a key motif being the silence of the world. Without humans and their cars, planes, factories and technology, the Earth is mostly silent, the loudest sound being that of a thunderclap. In this quiet Earth, the survivors gather and attempt to reconstruct society but ultimately they fail, instead regressing to a more primitive level of society. This only reinforces the central theme of the book. The Earth abides; humanity does not.

The Road


I’m cheating here. I’m not talking about Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning post-apocalyptic novel, one which dominated the responses on Twitter when I put out a call for recommendations. I’m talking about Quatermass creator and master of British science fiction Nigel Kneale‘s one-off BBC television drama from 1963, now sadly lost from the archives and only surviving in script form plus, it seems, one manky photo. Also, it’s not really post-apocalyptic. In fact, it is really pre-apocalyptic. In the 18th century, the inhabitants of an English village shun the road that runs through the nearby woods, for the woods are haunted and people have heard terrible things. As the story reaches the climax, it is revealed that the manifestations on the road are the echo of people fleeing an atomic explosion in the present day, somehow riverberating back in time. The juxtaposition of modern − police sirens, recognisably modern people running in abject terror for their lives − with the old, with the 18th century characters cowering in terror, completely unable to comprehend the sound which we, the viewer, recognise all too well, must have been both brilliant and chilling when it was first shown.

Survivors


I can’t make this list, self-confessed archive television nut that I am, without mentioning Terry Nation’s BBC TV series, Survivors. Again, the scenario is pure post-apocalypse cliche. Humanity is mostly wiped out by a plague, strongly implied to be deliberately engineered and released by accident. Over three seasons between 1975 and 1979, Survivors charted the journey of the survivors as they found each other and ultimately formed a community. Critics often bemoan the transformation from gritty science fiction survival story to “soap opera”, but I think they’re confusing soap opera with character-driven drama, and this is where Survivors shows its real strength (characterisation, see?). Survivors was remade for a modern audience over two seasons in 2008 and 2010, but here the tired nature of the premise was in full effect, rendering the remake flat and pointless. Survivors should be experienced in all its 70s glory.

The Dalek Invasion of Earth


A sixth entry, mainly because Nigel Kneale’s The Road doesn’t quite count. The Dalek Invasion of Earth was the second appearance of the Daleks in Doctor Who, and was broadcast in six episodes from November 21 to December 26, 1964. Despite the title, this isn’t about an alien invasion. By the time the Doctor and company arrive in a deserted, dilapidated London, the Daleks have been the masters of the Earth for a decade or more. Here we discover that the Daleks first employed a virus to weaken society before arriving in force, and years late the surviving humans are either enslaved or gathered in disparate resistance groups.

The Dalek Invasion of Earth is Doctor Who‘s first foray into alien invasion and one of the rare occasions it featured a genuinely post-apocalyptic story. Extensive location work around London makes this story something of a small-screen epic, and to this day it is regarded as one of the best stories of the show’s early years.

There are many more that are worth of this list − as already mentioned, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, but also Wall-E, Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (perhaps a rare example of post-apocalyptic confined to a very specific place, namely the walled city of Seattle). UK genre publisher Abaddon has a entire ongoing post-apocalyptic series, The Afterblight Chronicles, which are well worth checking out. Like I said I’m not post-apocalyptic scholar so please, nominate your own prime examples of the genre in the comments and teach me a lesson.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have the next episode of The Walking Dead to watch.