Our Love Affair with the Apocalypse

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A not so silent outbreak has taken the nation by storm. No, I’m not talking about some deadly virus, but rather the addiction to post-apocalyptic fiction. Whether it’s a book, movie, TV show or even a play, the notion of the end of the world has Americans captivated. But why?

I think the answer to that question relates to the very essence of what it means to be human. PA stories have been around as long as the written word. From the Epic of Gilgamesh to Noah’s Ark. We have always been fascinated by the concept of the end of the world. The ‘what ifs’ seem to strike a cord. We have nightmares of the apocalypse. We fear it. And our subconscious knows it. Most of us live in a blissful ignorance of how close our world has been to ending. These stories take us out of our routines and the safe bubbles many of us have all built. And I think that’s what makes the end of the world so scary and also, compelling.

After a long day of work, some of us can’t wait to get home to enter into these worlds. Many of us load our kindles with audiobooks and eBooks about nuclear Armageddon, solar flares and alien invasions. For an hour each night we unzip our bubbles and dive into these stories. In many ways, it’s an escape from the mundane.

Writers have been exploring the end times for centuries, but now, as we learn even more about our planet and our universe we finally realize the infinite threats our species faces.

Michael Crichton wrote that we are surrounded in a sea of bacteria and while 97 percent aren’t harmful, it’s the 3 percent that could develop into a superbug that could wipe out our species. Threats that we can’t see are sometimes the most terrifying. Deep beneath Yellowstone National Park, a super volcano sleeps. It’s not a matter of if it erupts, but just a matter of when. The result would be disastrous—six feet of ash would cover half of the United States, killing most of our crops. Yellowstone isn’t the only buried threat. Nuclear tipped missiles are scattered across the United States in installations that are supposed to be impenetrable, but with the rise of cyber attacks and the risk of an accidental launch, the threat has never been more real. Just a month ago we learned the Pentagon still uses floppy discs for some of their programs. And nuclear war isn’t even the biggest threat. In One Second After we were introduced to the terrifying aftermath of an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP). The list of world ending events goes on. And on…

We love imagining these doomsday scenarios, but we aren’t just fascinated by how they happen. We’re also fascinated by the resilience of people in the face of these enormous events. As an author of multiple PA fiction books, I’m enthralled with apocalyptic fiction because it allows me to imagine how we would react in the face of such an event. I always aim to create compelling characters that respond to these events in different ways. Some hide, some take off for the hills, but others fight for survival, and perhaps that’s what fascinates us the most. In the end, the question of how we would act is always in the back of our mind. Would we fight until the bitter end or would we give up and accept our doom?

I love exploring these questions in my own work. It’s what makes writing in this genre so fascinating. From Orbs and the Extinction Cycle to my next release, Hell Divers, every character I write faces the challenges the apocalypse would through at them. Someday, we might just be those characters.


Nick typing

Nicholas Sansbury Smith is the bestselling author of the Orbs and Extinction Cycle series. He worked for Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management in disaster mitigation before switching careers to focus on his one true passion — writing. A three-time Kindle All-Star, several of Smith's titles have reached the top 50 on the overall Kindle bestseller list and as high as #1 in the Audible store. Hell Divers, the first book in his new trilogy, will release in July 2016. When he isn't writing or daydreaming about the apocalypse, he's training for triathlons or traveling the world. He lives in Des Moines, Iowa, with his dog and a house full of books.

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You can pre-order a copy of Nicholas’s next book, Hell Divers, for a special price here.

3 replies
  1. Elizabeth Singleton
    Elizabeth Singleton says:

    Being a science fiction fan since pre-teen (over 40 years of books and film) I am fascinated by what we fear. When I was young, it was nuclear bombs destroying the world (yes, I was one of those children taught to get under the desk). What child who saw Planet of the Apes can ever forget the scene of Charlton Heston and the piece of the Statue of Liberty on the beach? In the 80s, it was aliens from space. Now, I notice that the fear that seems most common is we modify plants or people to the point of destroying our food crops or our immunity systems to the point we destroy the viability of reproducing ourselves or of feeding the population. I think science fiction has always represented our end of the world fears and the latest of how are we going to screw up ourselves and our world.

  2. Joyce Robbins
    Joyce Robbins says:

    Perhaps part of the fascination for the apocalypse is how each person envisions themselves surviving it.
    Would we escape underground? Or to the oceans? Or the treetops? Every scenario is fraught with the possibilities that we limit only with our imagination.


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