Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Guest post: Writing the apocalypse

Post Apocalyptic Lyric
Image by Suziwahoozi
I’m Anninyn, and I write about the Apocalypse.

Writing about the apocalypse can present many exciting challenges for an author. Of course, all writing, in all genres has its challenges – and is also a lot harder than it seems. But the particular challenges that come along with writing about the Apocalypse can be ridiculously difficult to navigate.

The first is world-building. All good authors should build the world in their books so it rings true, so it feels real. Writing the Apocalypse involves taking the world you see, and wrecking it. Destroying the buildings. Making that pond radioactive sludge. It requires an odd mindset, to be sure. I constantly look at the world with this sort of- overlay- of post apocalyptic decay. It can be strange, living with that in your head.

Most fiction requires a great deal of research. Good research gives you a base on which to build your story, makes the work feel solid. But that base is narrower and shakier for those that write worlds that don’t exist. We have very little idea of what this world would be like, as by definition we haven’t seen it. We can guess, from ghost towns and the like- how long would it take for buildings to collapse? How long would it take Tarmac to crack? But beyond that it’s a blank. An unknowable, unpredictable future that changes with every thought. 

And no matter how much you research, how ‘real’ you try to make your world, there are many hard-core post apocalyptic enthusiasts out there who will disagree with you. Vehemently. They’ll tell you it wouldn’t happen that way, and what about this consideration and HOW DARE YOU. This is true of all fiction, especially genre fiction, but as with everything with a dedicated fan base, with Post Apocalyptia it can get pretty intense. And it can certainly be exciting writing in what feels like a metaphorical firefight.

But every single frustration is worth it for the sheer joy that it brings in its wake. I enjoy writing about the apocalypse in a way I don’t enjoy writing about anything else, and I think I’ve finally pinned down why. With it, you can strip humans and human interaction down to their most basic components. You can do what fiction is supposed to do- show the reader human nature, at it’s best or worst. And you can do it without the distraction or complexity of modern life. It becomes people merely being human in a fantastic situation. You can do anything with it- explore feudalism, survival instincts, utopia and dystopia, and you can do it with relative freedom.

I’m Anninyn, and I’m ready for the end.

Anninyn writes fiction and articles for Post Apocalyptic Blog In Case Of Survival. She is working on her first novel.

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