This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2015, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.
A common trope of science fiction is to show the Earth greatly transformed, or even completely destroyed, in some way. Our poor planet has been used and abused throughout the history of the genre. Here’s a brief guide to the (post-)apocalypse, or dystopian future, covering books, TV, films and video games.
In these titles, Earth is either destroyed or invaded by aliens. In the latter, it is altered to a state where it is unrecognisable: either through the collapse of society and government, or destruction of large portions of the planet. Sometimes the extra-terrestrials are aggressive, sometimes they are just inquisitive, and other times we’re not even aware of them until it is too late.
Mass Effect, The 5th Wave, Defiance, The War of the Worlds (plus the 2005 film version), Independence Day, The Day of the Triffids, The Midwich Cuckoos.
These titles show an Earth ravaged by illness, disease or plague, including technological viruses and biological warfare. In many of them, the illness transforms humankind into something else, often zombie or vampire-like creatures.
The Passage, Blindness, Oryx and Crake, Partials, Parasite, I Am Legend, The Stand, Children of Men, The Strain.
Science fiction frequently shows how humankind causes its own downfall, often through war or revolt. This is a particularly popular theme in current Young Adult dystopian fiction, although it’s not exactly a new trend in the genre. This is one of the more frightening sides of sci-fi: how we become our very own worst enemies. Occasionally, it shows a glimpse into an alternate future or past.
The Hunger Games, Divergent, The 100, The Years of Rice and Salt, Unwind, The Man in the High Castle, How I Live Now, A Canticle for Leibowitz.
This could also technically come under ‘Humankind’, because most of the time the natural disasters are caused by people, namely through global warming and climate change. This category includes these as well as other things such as asteroids/meteors, tsunamis, earthquakes etc.
2012, The Day After Tomorrow, The Maze Runner, Deep Impact, Armageddon, The Drowned World.
Another terrifying thing about science fiction is how government is often portrayed. Often it is shown as being a totalitarian or ‘Big Brother’ society, a term coined from George Orwell’s 1984. Citizens often have very little freedom, or even free will, having been brainwashed into behaving in certain ways.
Okay, maybe there’s a lot of scary things about science fiction – another one being the very thought of the Earth being overrun or overtaken by machines or artificial intelligence. Many a sci-fi tale tells of the invention of some fantastic new technology, only for it to become sentient and rise up against mankind.
I, Robot, Robopocalypse, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, Love In the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Prey, Neuromancer.
13 thoughts on “Sci-Fi Month 2015: It’s The End of the World As We Know It”
Children of Men is *such* an interesting movie! I love the way it was directed in so many ways. I think I used to have a copy of it…
i, Robot was also an interesting movie. I like that even though so much of it is about the robots and the logic, there’s that great scene with Will Smith talking about the accident and it becomes such an amazingly human story.
The thing about the scary elements of sci-fi is, as you mentioned, how many of them are caused by human beings. They are results of our choices and actions. But I see all the time around use people going down the road these fictional characters went as if we don’t learn anything from these stories.
Also, Armageddon is totally a guilty pleasure some days 🙂
I still haven’t seen it! I forgot to add that it was based on a book too, by A.S. Byatt I think…
I’ve also somehow managed to avoid ever seeing I, Robot, but I do remember when it came out, it was pretty big I think.
Exactly! We cause our own downfall in so many sci-fi stories…
I love stories about alien invasions, and I like how The Fifth Wave kinda cheats by throwing everything in this list at you, including natural disasters, diseases and human panic caused by the aliens 🙂
Ah really? I have that one on my Kindle. Now that I’m back in the UK I keep forgetting about my Kindle – I should try and read a couple of books off there, including The 5th Wave 😀
Wow, this was a very detailed post! It must have taken a long time to put together:-) I have to admit I love ANY kind of end of the world story, but I think alien invasion and plague stories are the scariest. Awesome post!
Thanks Tammy 😀 Quite a while but not as long as my Fantasy Friday Pick n’ Mix…
Alien invasion ones fascinate and terrify me! The War of the Worlds is one of my favourites, and so so clever.
I’m really enjoying these Sci-Fi Month posts. 🙂 This is probably the type of sci-fi I’ve read/seen/played the most. There are so many ways for the world to end and science fiction writers have done a fantastic job of exploring them. I don’t know that I’ll ever get enough of these type of stories. In fact, I’m playing Fallout 4 right now and loving every minute of it. I should probably get back to it, post-apocalyptic Boston isn’t going to explore itself you know.
Thanks Ty! 😀 All those writers with crazy imaginations…
I’m planning on getting Fallout 4 when it gets a little cheaper. Right now I have plenty of games to keep me going 😉 It looks more ‘colourful’ than the other games – 3 always looked too drab too keep my interest for long.
This is a fantastic list! It’s cool to see how you’ve broken them down into the different types. They are all so different, aren’t they?
I’m really enjoying these Sci-fi Month posts, too. I’m finding that Sci-fi really is my favorite genre. (With mystery a close second!) My current favorite that falls in the disease/illness category is Station Eleven; it was really well-done.
Yes, and let’s hope that none of them happen! 😮
Thanks Tami 🙂 So nice to hear that! I still need to read Station Eleven; it was one of my book group’s reads last year, and I finally managed to get myself a copy – soon!
Very comprehensive list! I always love your lists 😀 The “Humankind” category in particular appeals to me. There’s always lots of juicy social commentary to be discussed in those ones.
Thanks Sharry! 😀 It’s truly scary when we are our own worst enemy…