What is doomsday fiction?

Imagine a world wrecked by a natural disaster, devastated by nuclear war, or destroyed by a pandemic. While this may sound all too familiar because of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, apocalypse fiction is a literary genre that has existed for many years. A subset of science fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, also known as doomsday fiction, imagines what life will be like at the end of the world.

How it began

An apocalypse is an event that results in mass destruction and change. Although apocalyptic themes exist in many religious texts, the 20th and 21st centuries have given rise to this genre. The aftermath of World War I, World War II, and the nuclear arms race proved to be fertile ground for writers and filmmakers to conjure up a world plagued by zombies, murderous robots, climate change and even a nuclear holocaust

Apocalyptic vs Post- Apocalyptic

Apocalyptic and post apocalyptic literature is set in a time period where the earth as we know it is coming to an end. An apocalyptic novel or film tells the story of the end of the world, unfolding during the timeline of the story. For example, the 2004 film, “The Day After Tomorrow shows what happens when a sudden worldwide storm plunges the entire planet into a new ice age. On the other hand, post-apocalyptic works portray life in the wake of a cataclysmic event. They focus on how the characters deal with the consequences of a disaster. A 2007 film “1 am Legend” starring Will Smith, is a good example. It follows Robert Neville, a scientist who is the last human survivor of a plague in the whole of New York, as he attempts to find a way to reverse the effects of the human-made virus.

Popular examples

Books written under this genre can be broadly classified (based on their themes) into post-disaster wastelands zombie apocalypse, nature gone wrong, machines taking over the world, and dystopian worlds. Here are a few examples.

Post-disaster wastelands

  • “The Stand” by Stephen King
  • “The Mad Max” film series by James McCausland and George Miller

Zombie Apocalypse

  • World War Z by Max Brooks
  • “The Walking Dead”, a graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard

Dystopian worlds

  • “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
  • “Divergent” by Veronica Roth

Machines taking over

  • “The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  • The Big Melt” by Ned Tillman


Picture Credit : Google

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