My anthology, WASTELANDS: STORIES OF THE APOCALYPSE, contains most of my favorite examples of short-form post-apocalyptic fiction. And on the occasion of the UK release of WASTELANDS (and my zombie anthology, THE LIVING DEAD), Orbit asked me to provide a guest post, so I thought I’d tell you about a curiosity of long-form post-apocalyptic fiction that I discovered during the course of my research into the genre.
Discovered in the ruins of Notting Hill at some unspecified future date, The Hopkins Manuscript is ostensibly a “day-to-day record,” written by retired school teacher/chicken breeder/amateur astronomer Edgar Hopkins, which chronicles the days immediately before and after the shocking discovery that the Moon’s decaying orbit will bring it crashing down into the Earth.
Doom is prophesized, but the world is not destroyed as expected. Instead, the Moon strikes the Earth a glancing blow to the western coast of Europe . Being nothing more than a “hollow body with a thick crust,” it collapses and forms a new landmass that bridges Europe and the Americas, like a cosmic puzzle piece settling into place. Amicable plans are made by an international council to divide up ownership of this new land, but upon discovering that the Moon is not a lifeless rock—that instead it is rich in natural resources and possesses enough minerals “to give wealth to this world undreamed of”—the specter of war raises its ugly head in the immediate aftermath of the greatest cataclysm humanity has ever seen.
R.C. Sherriff (1896-1975)—a playwright, screenwriter, and novelist—is perhaps most remembered for his filmic collaborations with legendary Frankenstein (1931) director James Whale (1889-1957); the two worked together on several films, including an adaptation of Sherriff’s best-known play, Journey’s End (1930), The Invisible Man (1933), One More River (1934), and The Road Back (1937). In The Hopkins Manuscript, Sherriff presents a dark vision that is both a reflection on humanity’s attitudes in the aftermath of The Great War and a portent of things to come when one considers its publication date of 1939—the year World War II began. Though its science is obviously laughable, the novel remains thematically relevant and is an engaging read that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in seeing an historical view of the apocalypse through the literature of its time.
THE LIVING DEAD and WASTELANDS: STORIES OF THE APOCALYPSE are both now available as to buy digital-only editions in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
Will McIntsosh is the Hugo Award-winning science fiction author of SOFT APOCALYPSE and HITCHERS (both released as digital editions this Thursday in UK and ANZ), as well as the up-and-coming LOVE MINUS EIGHTY (released worldwide in June 2013). Will tells us below about exactly what kind of apocalypse he envisages . . .
I’ve had a longstanding interest in the end of the world. I’m not a True Believer – I don’t have a six month supply of freeze-dried food and a ten year supply of ammo stored in a bunker under my house – but I do believe the likelihood of an apocalypse is greater than most people think.
In most apocalyptic literature, the apocalypses are caused by sudden, surprising, cataclysmic events, like nuclear weapons, meteors, or killer viruses. I wrote a novel about a “soft apocalypse”, where things unravel slowly, over the course of decades. Rather than one event, a series of events cause a long, slow decline, and the world population dies off gradually. If there is an apocalypse, I think this is how it will happen. Here’s why.
A social psychologist named Dan Gilbert pointed out that the human mind has evolved to react primarily to immediate threats, especially if those threats have a clearly identifiable cause, and especially if that cause is an identifiable person or group of people. In other words, we’ve evolved to react to immediate threats perpetrated by human villains. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 were exactly that kind of threat. During the cold war, the threat was nuclear annihilation, and the villains were the leaders of the Soviet Union or the United States, depending on where you lived. These sorts of threats scare the hell out of us. We sit up, pay attention, and take action if we can. Read the rest of this entry »
- - November 15th, 2012
You might have noticed a new name starring on the Orbit schedule for next year: the phenomenal talent Will McIntosh.
Why we think he’s exceptional – why we were all desperate for him to join the Orbit list – is that he writes not only ground-breaking science fiction, but also some of the most moving, touching, and simply human stories you’ll ever read. They’ve affected me deeply – and I can’t imagine how anyone could read his novels without being equally entertained and moved.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that Will already has a Hugo Award to his name, as well as nominations for the Nebula, Locus, John W. Campbell and Compton Crook awards.
Next June, Orbit is launching a worldwide release for Will’s novel LOVE MINUS EIGHTY, a spectacular full-length novel based on Will’s Hugo Award-winning short story, BRIDESICLE. It imagines love and loss 100 years into the future, in a world where technology has reached the outer limits of morality and romance. Check out the cool cover above.
However, we know that it’s a long time to wait till June to see just what kind of stunning fiction this author is producing. So this December, in the UK, Australia and New Zealand we’re releasing ebook editions of two titles previously only released in the US: SOFT APOCALYPSE and HITCHERS. They’ll both be available to buy digitally on 6th December 2012.
SOFT APOCALYPSE, which was nominated for the Locus, John W. Campbell and Compton Crook Awards, is Will’s debut novel. It asks the question: what if the world isn’t destined to end as we always imagined it – in explosive, dramatic fashion – but what if instead, humanity is set to just slowly crumble?
Following Jasper and his nomadic tribe, a group of formerly middle-class Americans, the novel sees a world going from bad to worse – and then worse still. Resources keep getting scarcer, people keep getting poorer, and the fabric of society is slowly disintegrating.
This account of a severe decline is highly intelligent and chillingly realistic. But at the heart of the tale is a very human, touching story about how a normal guy tries to make ends meet and find love in the dangerous new place his world has become.
HITCHERS is something rather different, but with an equally engrossing human story at its core. It’s a chilling supernatural thriller in which both horror and dark humour collide.
When an act of terrorism kills hundreds of thousands in Atlanta, USA, Finn Darby is lucky enough to survive the attack. But Finn soon develops a disturbing affliction – when he starts to blurt things out in a strange voice beyond his control. And it seems he’s not the only one experiencing this problem – in fact thousands of people are suffering from the same affliction.
Either all of Atlanta is having a mass psychological breakdown, or else the dead are returning to possess the living . . .
So there are many different ways to enjoy the exceptional writing of Will McIntosh. And don’t forget that Orbit fans worldwide can also get a very quick taster of what Will’s writing with his Orbit Short Fiction title THE PERIMETER. It’s a chilling tale about the planet Clay and the perimeter fence that keeps its strange creatures at bay. One unlucky woman is about to discover just what lives beyond it . . .
- - November 1st, 2012
Last weekend, along with millions of other people I’m sure, I went to see the latest Sam Mendes Bond movie, SKYFALL. I found the film highly entertaining – with some very impressive action scenes, a slickest of slick opening sequence, a surprisingly believable plot (for an action movie I mean…), and a rather irresistible performance from the easy-on-the-eye Daniel Craig.
But I also found it interesting (with my Orbit hat on) that this time, 007 wasn’t having to save the world by disarming a nuclear warhead (think MOONRAKER or THUNDERBALL) or stopping the spread of a deadly virus (think ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE) or prevent an evil communist plot (think CASINO ROYALE and a whole host of other Bonds).
This time, Bond’s role was to combat the destruction looming from the leak of confidential information – by the world’s most sophisticated cyber-terrorist. Highly believable in this age of Wikileaks and hackers being potentially extradited for infiltrating US military systems.
It seems that the disasters befalling the various James Bonds have been evolving through the years – seemingly to keep up with the ways in which our world, our technology and our political and social struggles have been constantly changing. Because it appears that as we progress as a species, the potential pitfalls waiting to bring down Western world and civilisation itself seem to be constantly evolving too – and growing dangerously more numerous by the day. Read the rest of this entry »