A recent story-id question introduced me to a Thomas M. Disch novel about the end of humanity while fighting, and losing, against overwhelmingly powerful alien invaders. This was in the early 1960s.

That is not just dystopian, not just post-apocalyptic. It's not about humans picking themselves up after a lost battle or even a lost war. It's THE END™. The fat lady has sung, the opera is over, that's all she wrote. Goodbye, sayonara, dust in the wind.

Was this novel part of a wave of "doom science fiction" related to politics then? A lot of people at the time were expecting nuclear war and an end to human civilization, if not the extinction of each and every human.

  • 2
    This is an interesting question but I'm just not sure if it can be answered within the format of this site. – user8719 Oct 15 '13 at 18:12
  • Sorry, the recent edit asking for opinions keeps this out of scope. This is not the venue for soliciting discussion. – phantom42 Oct 18 '13 at 15:52
  • 2
    Sure it can. Anyone reading science fiction or watching movies after the Second World War, would have noticed the proliferation of doom-laden scenarios which lasted until after the 1970s. Was the use of atomic weapons and the escalation and fears of the Cold War responsible? Let's say they were strong influences. Not to mention the continual wars the US found itself embroiled in, Korea, Vietnam and the like. These things were reflected strongly in our fiction and every atomic mutant ever created probably owes their existence to that fear-laden period. Annihilation was our stock in SF trade. – Thaddeus Howze Oct 19 '13 at 8:05
  • What Thaddeus said. The question's wording may be a bit awkward but the core of it is a very well known and observable phenomenon in SF. It's one of the best and most refreshing questions on here in a while. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 19 '13 at 14:25

I believe there was quite a sub-genre of "end of the world/humanity" stories from just after the end of WWII into the '60's. It does seem to have been fueled by a number of things, including the apparently endless "small" wars (Korean, the French and then Americans in Indochina, Jewish-Arab conflicts), which all served as proxies to the much feared big war between the capitalist West and the communist east. People were afraid of nuclear war, invasion, environmental destruction and just plain existential uncertainty. A number of stories and movies were produced about events leading to the (probable) end of the human race. Many ended on a hopeful note, but not all. The most realistic and depressing (to me) was Nevil Shute's "On the Beach," ending with the oppressive certainty that there was no hope. Another classic was "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." On the lighter, ironic side you have books like William Tenn's "Of Men and Monsters," where humanity is down to 128 individuals living like mice in the walls of the giant aliens that have taken over Earth.

  • I hadn't thought of that - very cool. – rws Feb 15 '14 at 0:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.