Sunday, November 29, 2009

British Books Offer A "Cosy" Antidote To Apocalyptic Horror. Let's Be Civilized, Shall We?

Looking for an alternative to the horrific scenarios of 2012 and The Road? Try the "cosy catastrophe" genre, the Guardian suggests: Stories like Day Of The Triffids and The World In Winter feature a less violent version of the end.

In the "cosy catastrophe" genre, the end of civilization happens more gently, or is passed over altogether, and there's often some hope for the rebuilding of the world. The Guardian explains:
The phrase is attributed to the British author Brian Aldiss, who mentions it in his fascinating history of science fiction, Billion Year Spree, while talking about the author of Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham. While Triffids, with its blinded populace and sinister, stalking plants, could hardly be described as "cosy", it is an example of a largely non-violent, non-destructive doom. Wyndham also wrote The Kraken Wakes, in which an alien invasion gradually destroys civilisation by way of melting the ice caps rather than with death rays and war machines. The book chronicles the rebuilding of a massively de-populated world once the aliens have been despatched.
John Christopher is another British author who embraced the idea of a cosy catastrophe. While his novel, The Death of Grass – which so worried Sam Jordison when he was younger – does feature an ecological disaster that causes often violent social breakdown, Christopher (real name Sam Youd) also wrote The World in Winter, a very much more British version of Emmerich's movie The Day After Tomorrow, in which increasingly harsh winters drive the population of western Europe towards the suddenly more temperate African regions. And then there's JG Ballard, who employed ecological apocalypse in his debut novel The Wind from Nowhere, as well as in his more famous works The Drowned World, The Burning World, and many of his short stories.
Of course, there may be a bit of wish-fulfillment on the part of these authors, as the Guardian quotes author Jo Walton suggesting. The survivors of these catastrophes are often very middle class, and they get to wander around a suddenly depopulated world, with the working class wiped out in a guilt-free way. And then they get to rebuild the world along more civilised lines.

But leaving aside the classist undertones of the genre, who's to say that a collapse of civilization wouldn't be slow and relatively non-violent? And that we wouldn't pull together to rebuild afterwards?

No comments:

Post a Comment