Where Does Post Apocalyptic Fit In?

by Andrea Rhyner
(Fairbanks, Alaska)

Question: Where does the Post Apocalyptic genre fit in? Is it a sub genre? Is it Fantasy, Sci-Fi, or Historical-in-Reverse? Any books on writing that I have read do not include it in their list of genres. I want to give special considerations and thought to focus areas but are unsure what they are. In Sci-Fi/Fantasy I would focus on "world building." For Historical my focus would be research and setting. Your advice would be most welcome!

Thank You,
Andrea D Rhyner

Answer: Post-Apocalyptic is a for the most part a form of science fiction. It really started to boom in the 1960s after the invention of nuclear weapons, the Club of Rome's study, and the book Silent Spring. People began to seriously consider the idea that humans were capable of destroying civilization, if not all life on the planet.

Since then, other potential causes of an apocalypse have been explored, both human-driven and otherwise, such as pollution, plague, overpopulation, asteroid collision, alien attack, etc.

Admittedly, there is a Christian sub-genre that looks at Apocalypse as an act of God and prophesy rather than the result of a scientifically valid cause. At the risk of offending some people, I would classify these stories as fantasy, since they involve events with supernatural (non-physical) causes. Nonetheless, fantasy and science fiction are close cousins since they both deal with things that cannot be proven to exist today or in the past.

Regardless the cause, all Post-Apocalyptic stories speculate on what the world might look like if civilization were to fall and be re-built, usually at a lower level of technology.

If you're writing such a story, your task is world-building, since you have to decide what will have survived in the future and how, including how much knowledge and technology will be retained, what kind of culture and political system might evolve, etc. However, you can use historical research into periods before modern technology existed for ideas on how humans might cope without it.

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