AI: Apocalyptic Inquisition

The fall of civilization is a favorite topic for science fiction but the post apocalyptic landscape varies greatly from the toxic jungles of Nausica to the barren wastes of Mad Max.

What is your Favorite depiction of the end of the world? What apocalypse is nearest and dearest to your heart and who has managed to pull it off to your satisfaction in either literature or film?


Ryan is a professional nerd, teaching engineering in the frozen north. Somewhat less professionally, he is a costumer, author, blacksmith, juggler, gamer, serial enthusiast, and supporter of the Oxford comma. He can be found on twitter and instagram @studentofwhim. If you like what I do here, feel free to leave a tip in my tipjar.

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  1. I can’t really say without some thought which is my favorite, since the end of civilization is not generally something I find enjoyable.

    I can tell you which I found the most disturbing, to the extent that I have trouble even writing this. It is a manga called Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō. Spoiler: The story is about an android managing a shop in a remote area. It becomes clear over time that what is going on around her, though, is the slow decay of society. It isn’t a sudden asteroid or flood. Ocean levels have slowly risen, and birth rates have fallen. Humans are just slowly dying out. Large areas that were once cities are now just abandoned or submerged. Roads are getting overgrown with grass. Most of the people around are old. Humans are just slowly disappearing.

    But it gets really disturbing how nature reacts. As cities vanish glowing blue plants and large rock formations with dimples replace them. It eventually becomes clear that these are nature’s way of “remembering” the streetlights and buildings that once stood there. Eventually plant formations closely resembling humans start popping up. Things are made crystal clear during a discussion on an apparently self-sufficient aircraft between an android and an elderly woman, where the woman pointed out how every time the aircraft visits a new area more of the city light are replaced with blue glows, and asks the android that she and her kind remember us when all the humans have died out.

    The main character, the android, and those around her seem unaware that this is happening, it is such a slow process without any obvious cause. I know this description is vague, but that is because there is really nothing very specific said about what is happening or why. I think that is what I found so disturbing about it, a beyond how nature is reacting, is the fact that there really isn’t much you can say about what is happening, no natural event or particular human action that can be blamed. It just seemed to be how society ended up progressing. They called it “the nightfall of humanity”, it wasn’t suddenly wiped out, it slowly faded away on its own.

  2. Ooo, tough question.

    The end of the AI-supported, teleportation-doorway civilization in The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons is pretty amazing.

    The original apocalyptic novel The Last Man by Mary Shelley is moving and poignant, especially when you think of the time it was written.

  3. There are a few I love, post-apocalyptica was my favourite genre for a while as a teenager 🙂 To this day the book ‘I Am Legend’ stands out because of the realistic portrayal of the protagonist – he’s no hero or saviour, he’s just a grumpy old alcoholic who reminds me more of Doctor Cox from Scrubs than anyone else. Words can’t describe how sickened I felt when I heard that Bay and Smith were involved in the recent movie. Earth Abides and A Canticle For Leibowitz were also quite wonderful on the literary front.

    In movies I’d be tempted to go for something from the zombie genre although I really did enjoy The Road and thought it was a fantastic effort at filming the unfilmable. Big shouts out to Delicatessen for being so gorgeous and The Quiet Earth for it’s realism.

  4. I’m rather fond of Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

    “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know wheeeeeeen…”

  5. As a side note, I hate all post-apocalypse films where the only form of clothing seems to be leather and somehow humanity has forgotten the majority of technological advances we had made and thus there are no modern luxuries except cars which have all been equipped with spikes and such.

  6. @dpeabody: I agree that the proliferation of leather clothing in a landscape that can’t support large mammals seems a bit suspect, but I cannot abide your distaste for spiky cars.

    The first thing I’m going to do after the nuclear fires is to weld pointy things to everything I can see.

  7. I take back my previous answer. My favorite post-Apocalypse scenario is Six-String Samurai. Who wouldn’t want to live in a world where a samurai version of Buddy Holly is vying for the throne of Lost Vegas? And the shoes are great!

  8. My favorite post-Apocalypse scenario is Margaret Atwood’s “The Year of The Flood”.

    I think it is a cleverly extrapolated future with the common elements of today’s society. Take gangs, urban life, alternative medicine opponents, naturalistic fans, rejuvenation and supplement industry, add some global warming, bioengineering and fundamentalism… Voila!

    She came up with very entertaining transgenic ideas. I especially like the pigoons: genetically engineered pigs with bodies shaped like balloons, bred to grow extra organs for human transplantation. They can grow multiple kidneys at once, grow very fast and they have human cortex. They can be very cunning 🙂

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