Monday, December 17, 2007

Post-Apocalyptic Musings

Friday’s story X Factory was what’s often called post-Apocalyptic fiction. You may have noticed though that there’s no mention in my little tale of why the remnants of humanity are forced to live in underground caves. They’re circulating air from somewhere, so there’s presumably not radioactive or biological contamination to worry about. There’s also a low level of technology, so presumably there wasn’t time to set up much infrastructure.

The fact is, I don’t know what happened, and for this story it doesn’t really matter. In flash fiction there’s only time to make one point. This week’s story will also be post-Apocalyptic, by coincidence. This time the world is frozen and there’s mention of a dust-laden atmosphere. Was that caused by nuclear fallout? Meteor impact? Volcanic eruption? Again, that’s not the point of the story so it doesn’t really matter.

I’ve read a couple of short stories in recent months where the author likes to go into detail about how man ravaged the environment and brought disaster on himself. Global warming, extinct animals, atmospheric pollution, general gloom and doom. The problem is, it’s often irrelevant to the plot and I can watch the news if I want to be depressed. I like my fiction to be a diversion. If your story is based around the melting of the arctic ice caps, I don’t need a moralistic lecture thrown in too.

The Postman is one of my favourite novels. I’m pretty sure David Brin does explain what led to the post-apocalyptic setting of the story, but in a novel you’ve got plenty of room to do that without making it too blatant. Interestingly though, I don’t remember what the explanation was. I just remember what a brilliant story it was. The exploits of the Postman didn’t depend on why it had happened, he was just coping with the consequences.

I may try some apocalyptic fiction next. They’re the stories where you get to describe and explain the end of the world. I just need to think of some totally bizarre way of destroying the Earth…

1 comment:

Guy Hogan said...

Yes, you're right. Flash fiction has very little room or time for explanations; and the power of fash fiction comes from its short trajectory.