“My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end” – The Doors
Okay, I’ll admit it: I love post-apocalyptic stories. I’ll never forget the first time I saw The Omega Man or Mad Max. There was something electrifying about these survivalists braving new frontiers, living by their wits, hanging onto what it meant to be human in the face of total depravity and destruction. I’d always wanted to be a cowboy—in the romantic version of the Old West. Maybe part of me hoped that one day we’d return to that invigorating man-against-the-world conflict, when all of our gadgets and technology would be kaput and we’d be human beings again—not human doings.
Last year, I read a lot of apocalyptic fiction: Wastelands, Stories of the Apocalypse (edited by John Joseph Adams, who has rejected three of my stories so far); Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which held me captive for thirty-six hours (until I finished it); Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (better than the movie); and Stephen King’s The Stand, as well as his magnum opus Dark Tower series. I justified it all as “research” for my Beyond the Fall (working title) manuscript; but really, I just couldn’t get enough.
Deep down, do I have a burning desire to rebel against established routines and strike out into the unknown? Does modern society bore me? Am I a clichéd, thirty-odd-year-old white male afflicted with ennui to the point of wishing that the world and all its problems would blow itself up already so we can start over from scratch?
I hope not.
But I appreciate the question this genre forces us to answer: What makes us human when humanity is no more?
As well as the quintessential: Could I even survive a zombie apocalypse?