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  • Apocalypse Demographics in Fiction and Film July 12, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite , trackback


    There are a series of apocalyptic scenarios in literature and film that involve a portion of the world’s population disappearing or dying and the minority left behind having to fight for survival. For example, the graphic novel The Y: The Last Man describes the destruction of all men and a world where women rule: there is a very good Polish film Sexmission (1984) that does something similar from behind the Iron Curtain. The Day of the Triffids describes everyone (but a tiny minority of survivors) becoming blind and then being eating by ravenous plants. José Saramago also has blindness, though he does quite different things with the affliction. A series of modern zombie films and novels have a small group of the living fighting against everyone else who has become rabid: the successors of Vincent Price in the Last Man. Cormac McCarthy describes a world in The Road, in which after an unspecified disaster, things stop growing and those left behind just start eating each other. Modern Protestantism has the Rapture whereby the righteous are removed from the planet by God and those in need of salvation are left to fight for or against the antichrist: there have been a series of novels and films based on this theme including an old favourite of this author, A Thief in the Night. Logan’s Run gets rid of everyone over twenty-one. P.D.James the Children of Men imagines a world where no one can reproduce and humanity is slowly dying off. Essentially only the old survive. Shute’s On the Beach imagines a post-nuclear world in which only Australians (and only a few of them) survive and wait for the arrival of a mortal cloud of nuclear radiation from the north. The Quiet Earth (1985) is a New Zealand effort where the only individuals left are those who were being killed when humanity was wiped out by a mysterious ray.

    Of course, there are many apocalypse films/books/comics. But what I’m interested in here are these situations where a particular demographic alone survives. So just women (Y, Sexmission), particularly age cohorts (Logan’s Run or Children of Men), the unsaved and presumably the unvirtuous (rapture films and novels), people living in a particular place (e.g. On the Beach), and the Darwinian strong (various apocalypse vampire/zombie films, On the Road). Some of these are less interesting than others: in a sense the Darwinian survival of men with biceps is the premise of half of all Hollywood films in the last century. Are there any other demographics left behind out there: just children (Lord of the Flies?), just one ethnic group, just one character type… drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com

    24 July 2014: Chris S. writes ‘A notable story by Frank Herbert (Dune, et al.) where a man develops a virus that kills women, and men are the vector. Quoting from TV Tropes’s section on ‘gendercide’. R.A. Lafferty’s short story “Parthen” is set during a Gendercide, in which asexually-reproducing aliens who resemble pretty young women mingle with the human population, causing every man who sees them to fall chastely in love with them. This induced a form of Love Makes You Stupid, so the infatuated men quit working, abandon their families, and eventually perish in the streets. Human women clean up the bodies and replace men in the workforce, while the alien “girls” buy up property when the male owners desert it. A transmission from space had previously warned the Earth that aliens would destroy half of humanity and enslave the other half, yet even as they’re starving to death, the male protagonists keep assuming it’ll be a violent invasion rather than a Gendercide. I remember one short story, and I’m reticent to mention it since I don’t have a citation, where it was told from the perspective of a trans-woman in a world where all women died out and how men were trying to recreate women out of men with fake wombs and other stuff.’ Ricardo, meanwhile, writes: Some years ago I had a radio show with a friend, we would just play old films fully in the radio. I have paired Price Last man on Earth on the right channel with… The last woman on Earth on the right. They are about the same time and it’s quite fun the way the same idea gets played…. The tagline for the Last woman was… They fought for the ultimate prize, so you get the gist of it.’ Sébastien writes I suggest All fools’ day by Edmund Cooper where only the mentally insane people survived a die-off. I’m searching the name of a science-fiction short story where only the men have survived The trouble with the proposal of a story based on the survival of just one ethnic group is there are racist cults who believe(d?) extraterrials will come and take the pure blooded Aryans before to exterminate the Mongrels, the Jews and the Blackies. I’m not interested in a hypothetical novelization… Men with biceps may be uninteresting, but they really do have a better chance of surviving a sudden disaster than the rest of us do. An example of this is the sinking of the ferry “Estonia” in the Baltic Sea in 1994. The ship went down in 30 minutes with no organized evacuation of the passengers. Per Wikipedia, “The survivors of the shipwreck were mostly young, of strong physical composition, and male. Seven people over 55 years of age survived. There were no survivors under age 12.” William Langewiesche’s book “The Outlaw Sea” has a detailed description of the horrific scramble to escape. For longer-term survival in harsh conditions, being part of a group and having special skills apparently is key. Ignoring the surrounding verbiage, this account of survival in Bosnia is interesting.’ thanks guys!