I have a lot of different responses to dystopian and apocalyptic literature… A personal response… a professional response, and I have a few ideas on the larger cultural meanings behind the rise in popularity of post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction.
First, from a personal level… I grew up in the cold war. I participated in duck-and-cover drills in elementary school… movies like Dr. Strangelove, The Day After and Miracle Mile spoke to me on a personal level. I played role playing games like Gamma World and (shout out to fellow old-school-geek Junot Diaz) Aftermath!). And I read stuff like A Canticle for Leibowitz. From this personal connection to the apocalypse, I developed a relationship to the post-apocolpytic genre’s close sibling, Dystopian Literature.
I’m not sure, but I think one of the first “dystopian” stories I ever read was “’Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” by Harlan Ellision. It was all down hill from there, as I ingested everything from Huxley to Burgiss to Aldis to Ballard… I could go on and on. But for whatever reason, this type of fiction really spoke to me… and I ate it up. Voraciously. From Literature with a capitol L, to the new wave to cyberpunk, if it was dystopian in nature, I probably read it.
Eventually I ended up doing this Science fiction thing for a living. When John Joseph Adams approached me with an idea about a reprint anthology – Wastelands – my first thought was… “Well, I guess that’s an okay idea… but I already HAVE all those stories. Who exactly is this anthology for?” Then I took off my SF-Grognard hat, and put on my publisher hat and said “It’s for the vast majority of readers out there, who don’t have upwards of three thousand anthologies and single author collections in their personal library.” While wearing this publisher hat, I figured there would be a moderate amount of interest in a post-apocalyptic anthology.Read More...