Post apocalyptic writing – The rise of dystopian sci-fi #amwriting #scifi

As readers we seem to have developed a fixation with dark future worlds. Are we purposely casting a sinister slant onto human destiny? Is it a desire for sensationalism, or simply realism that colours our apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic science fiction trends? Are we heading rapidly towards disaster? Or is it a slow unfurling of all that we hold dear? Love it or loath it, dark future sci-fi is here to stay. Here is my pick of common themes in the post-apocalyptic / dark future world.

There are always survivors

No matter how bad, no matter how much decimation, no matter what we do to our world, there is always the residual hope of the survivors the book is based around.

apocolypse survivor

They don’t always tell you how it happens

Often there is just an indication that life changed, but no one actually knows the cause. Much of the book may be dedicated to understanding the trigger event, fitting the pieces of the puzzle together in an attempt to rectify or resolve the damage done.

Sometimes they just move on to dealing with the consequence. It all comes down to whether the trigger to change life in this new dark direction was fast or slow.

A slow trigger such as climate change could provide people with plenty of warning.

A fast trigger such as a natural disaster could keep people in the dark.

And many triggers can be applied in different ways depending on how you pitch the book. For example a war could be swift or take decades to tear society down. The same with diseases, and even an alien invasion could be pitched from multiple directions.


The search for a better place

The book can often be themed around a journey or search. Always seeking to find a safe zone or utopia homeland that is just around the corner, over the hill, or a hidden message away.

apocolyptic journey

It brings out the best and worst in people

Even a localised natural disaster can bring out the hero…and the criminal who wants to prey on the weak. An apocalyptic event just does this exponentially more. Dark, lawless futures, likewise set a grim backdrop that provides plenty of scope for the scourge of society to step into. There is a big difference between an opportunist criminal that knows he has a few days or hours to take advantage of his fellow men, and the far more profound knowledge that the law and order we have come to rely on is never coming back.

apocalyptic world

Awesome character arcs

Dark places and events can change people, but perhaps more dramatically it can leave them the same. I love the way this genre is often centred around the character arc. Some characters change significantly as their survival instinct kicks in and they adapt. They become something more, or worse, or better, than they were. My favourite is when they stay exactly the same, for example the person who doggedly retains their innocent, hopeful, and caring ways, no matter what hardship or horror comes their way.


Best bad guys

It’s not just about surviving against the evil humans in these dark future worlds. Zombies, mutations, diseases, out of control robots, rabid dogs, and alien attack! So much creative scope when it comes to the bad guys.


Divided Serenity out now on all Amazon stores, and free with Kindle Unlimited.

Divided Serenity Book Cover

15 thoughts on “Post apocalyptic writing – The rise of dystopian sci-fi #amwriting #scifi

  1. In the Resident Evil films, pretty much all of these themes emerge. The underlying driving force is that corporations will risk the viability of the planet in search of greater profits.

    Good thing that wouldn’t ever happen in the real world, huh?

    And, yes, people get tested, and some will help others, even at great risk, and some will try to find ways to help themselves. And the third movie centers around reports that Alaska is a safe place, and the decision to try to get there (from Nevada).

    My third novel, now shelved, was post-apocalyptic. It was interesting to work on, but ultimately my writing went in a different direction. I think it was mostly to write about something about September 11, in fictional terms.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. What you are describing is more often called dystopian SF, as it involves some sort of dystopia (the opposite of utopia). It has been a staple of SF pretty much since before there was a genre by the name, as some folks have claimed that Frankenstein was the first SF novel. Others credit Jules Verne as the first SF writer for his Time Machine book, which definitely qualifies as dystopian fiction as it shows the future devolving into a very ugly place. There are many, many examples of dystopian SF of more recent vintage, as well. It is a way for a good writer to show us where we are headed if we don’t change our ways or to show us an unfamiliar vision without having to put it on another planet.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes. I like dark. I think it’s here to stay with the increasingly grim news in our world. It’s not that hard to leap ahead and envision a suffering planet. You hit most of what I’ve noticed in post-apocalyptic sci-fi and fantasy. I’m looking forward to reading more about the end of the world (no experiencing it!).

    Liked by 1 person

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