JF Ptak Science Books Post 2431
"Just as psychoanalysis reconstructs the original traumatic situation in order to release the repressed material, so we are now being plunged back into the archaeopsychic past, uncovering the ancient taboos and drives that have been dormant for epochs… Each one of us is as old as the entire biological kingdom, and our bloodstreams are tributaries of the great sea of its total memory."--The Drowned World, J.G. Ballard, Millennium 1999, p. 41.
Is there a plural of apocalypse? Is there even a need for one (plural)? There is, of course, even if it is a word that is supposed to spell out the end of times--there can be more than one apocalypse, and they can happen at the same time, although given my very limited knowledge of the scifi genre I don't know of any books addressing dual/multi-combative apocalypses. (And here I'm not talking about one apocalypse generating all manner of associated badness, but a second, completely unrelated, apocalypse.)
So in trying to understand the nature of apocalypse storytelling I decided to make a very abbreviated overview of a vast literature of the end of times/apocalypse/technocaust/end of the world themes. This is just a short working list, really, and includes only short stories or novels, and to keep it relatively crisp I've chosen the artificial delimiter of an alphabet of apocalypse types. In many cases there is just one example (where there could be hundreds, so please don't fault the list for completeness because that would take years of assembly and understanding). The same goes for the categories of apocalypse--I'm certain I not included the majority of them, though I think that this is a good start (There are no movies or television shows listed independent of a text, so Soylent Green will show up but under Harrison's Make room! Make Room!. I think that tv shows/movies etc must be enormously outnumbered and the scale of orders of magnitude by the print media.)
Evidently this list can be reproduced in the same spirit but with iterations--for example, Juvie Apocalyptic Lit (see here).
Also--the list is a little heavy with Wells, Chrisopher, Aldiss, Heinlein, and Ballard; this simply because I'm a little familiar with these writers. So, the list:
Alien Invasion: the great initiator, The War of the Worlds 1898, H. G. Wells; The Moon Men 1926, Edgar Rice Burroughs; The Puppet Masters, 1951, Robert A. Heinlein. There were other earlier incarnations of extra-terrestrial visits, especially if you considered religious/mythological aspects, though in literature it was far less common--like Swift's mathematicians of Laputa and Voltaire's titans in his Micromegas. For the modern era though it is Wells who seems to create this idea.
[Of course this could not possibly be complete by the genre-bender/creator H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds--Flavorwire has a selection of 15 different covers for this classic best-seller, here. ]
Climate Change: apart from the state of globa;l warming as we know it now, The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard 1962 is perhaps the best and most well-known adventure in this field.. In this book in 2145 solar radiation has shrunk and mostly melted the polar ice caps, which is a lot of water, and has turned most cities into architectural swamplands of vertical mangrove. Conversely Ballard wrote the novel The Drought in 1964 about all of the water on earth drying up.
Crystallization (!): this one sounds painful even when considered in a universe of pain: The Crystal World by J.G. Ballard 1966. Everyone and everything begins to turn into crystals as the result of a mis-adventure of a medical doctor innocently making his way through a jungle. (There was an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants featuring Squidward going into a future in which everything was chrome-plated--something I found cold and creepy.)
Dying Sun: The World in Winter by John Christopher 1962. (Interesting to think about the scientific equivalent of these stories--the first here being I believe the work of Hermann von Helmholtz when he figured out the life expectancy of the sun in 1859, which was a big year in the history of science.)
Earthquakes: A Wrinkle in the Skin, John Christopher, 1965. I really like the title of this one, where tectonic plate shave at one another causing vast devatation and a total change in the physical appearance of the Earth, including the raising of much of Great Britain that turns the Channel into a raised muddy plane. (I'm a fan of engineering projects that call for, say, draining part of the North Sea and lowering the Mediterranean--and in this book something like those for-real plans actually takes place...)
Environemntalism and Limbaugh's dream-come-true: The Bridge, by D. Keith Mano, (1973) envirofascists exterminate humans to save the world.
Extraterrestrial Threat: When Worlds Collide by Philip Wylie, 1933
Human general malaise, dystopia, ennui: Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End ; City (1952) by Clifford D. Simak; Friday by Robert A. Heinlein;. Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut.; Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle (the Bridge on the River Kwai guy); H. G. Wells' The Time Machine
Insect extermination: Charles Pellegrino’s Dust, 1998. The ecosystem collapses after bugs disappear.
Monsters: Skeletons, (1992) by Al Sarrantonio. The Earth is ravaged by a raised-from-the-dead society of super monsters comprising all animals that ever lived, ever, but in super-skeleton form. Yikes!
Nature’s Death: Nature's End, by Whitley Srieber and James Kunetka. (1986)
Nuclear weapons: too, too many to reckon with here. Ray Bradbury famously ends the world via an exchange in Fahrenheit 451; a few other very good examples are Mordecai Roshwald's Level 7, Nevil Shute's On the Beach and Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon,
Overpopulation and mass famine: Anthony Burgess’ The Wanting Seed, 1962. Also the 1966 Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison (made into Soylent Green). The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood, the tale of developing underpopulation caused by infertility caused by pollution.
Pollution: Children of Morrow, by H.M. Hoover.
Religious:The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke (1953), and of course Book of Revelation, the Book of Daniel, and on and on. (I said that there would be no mention of religion, but, well...)
Robot Revenge/Overlords (mostly antiquarian but the ideas can still be applicable and creepy): Erewhon (1872); The Machine Stops 1909,by E. M. Forster ; The Mind Machine (1919) by Michael Williams; R.U.R. (1921), by Karel Čapek, The Metal Giants (1926), by Edmond Hamilton ; Automata (1926) by S. Fowler Wright
Snow: The Snow by Adam Roberts (2004) everyone buried under lots and lots of building snows.
Space-based whatever (excluding comets and aliens and the normal stuff): Aftermath by Charles Sheffield, 2004, supernova does the bad work here, and causes cataclysmic climate change.
Space-based (civilization collapse):Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C. Clarke ;Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda ;The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke ; The Dragon Masters, by Jack Vance.