Uses of the End of the World: Apocalypse and Postapocalypse as Narrative Modes

Arden Henley
Friday 8 December 2023

Pitetti, Connor. Science Fiction Studies volume 44, no. 3 (November 2017), pp. 437-454.

In this article Connor Pitetti distinguishes between apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic novels in science fiction, with the key difference between them being how they each view the rebuilding process. Pitetti categorizes apocalypse narratives, ranging from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead film series to the Bible, and identifies the difference in these narratives, beyond the question of timeframe–where apocalyptic stories sever the present from the future (that is, they rebuild in small, wholly unique societies after the apocalypse, if they rebuild at all), postapocalyptic stories are much more fluid in their progression from travesty to rebuilding society.

In both apocalyptic and postapocalyptic narratives, as in life, rebuilding is a key part of healing in the aftermath of destruction and conflict. This process is both physical and emotional–rebuilding infrastructure is just as important as rebuilding a sense of community, identity, and healing. The novels Pitetti discusses tell us how to go about both kinds of rebuilding and emphasize the communal nature of that endeavor. He repeatedly emphasizes the wider themes of rebuilding: it is gradual, it happens in stages, it is informed by the past and focused on the future, and it is ultimately very human.


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