Science Fiction Checklist Challenge: Dying Earth

~posted by Carrie M.

There is something both chilling and oddly beautiful about the concept of a dying earth. This literary genre places the reader on the precipice of humanity’s destruction and forces us to come to terms with the fragility of life and the evils of society that are nearly always the cause of our inevitable destruction, yet it can inspire a sense of calm finality, unity, and faith in humanity.

Find Tales of The Dying Earth in the SPL catalog

The Dying Earth Genre has roots in literary history as early as the 1800s, right after the Romantic Period. However, the actual name for these works comes from Jack Vance’s classic collection of short stories titled, (you guessed it) The Dying Earth (1950). In Vance’s collection of vaguely connected stories, the reader is transported to earth in the very distant future where the sun is dying. Overall, humanity has had a long and lustrous romp through the channels of time, and what is left of us gather in the ruins of cities built long ago by science and industry that no one remembers anymore.  The characters of these stories take a decidedly Nihilistic approach to life given that the sun is not much more than a dying cinder on the horizon, and they live a catch-as-catch-can life on the eve of their doom.

Find The Night Land in the SPL catalogIn a similar vein, The Night Land (1912), by William Hope Hodgson, also addresses an earth in the very distant future with an already dead sun. While humanity takes its last stand in a giant metal pyramid, survivors tell children fairytales about days of sunshine and roses. Unlike Vance’s characters who are merely running out the clock, Hodgson takes a decidedly more frightful approach to the death of the planet. Once the sun burned out, hostile otherworldly forces became poised to take the husk of the earth and the few remaining humans with it.

Find Parched in the SPL catalogFinally, a Young Adult novel by Georgia Clark, Parched (2014), takes place in the near-ish future where a lack of renewable resources is not only killing the planet, but also driving an even larger wedge between the haves and the have-nots of the world. While the residents of Eden enjoy a life similar to our own 21st century existence, the rest of humanity out in the Badlands can barely scrape survival out of the dustbowl that was once Earth. The protagonist, Tess, is a teenage girl who fled Eden when her mother died, but she must now return to the city to stop the tyranny and evil plan of Eden’s leaders that will leave it as the only remaining sustainable city at the cost of the lives of those in the Badlands. Tess is supported by Eden insurgents who believe that Earth can be healed without administering a death sentence to the rest of the world. Can Tess unite the factions of a dying planet and save humanity before she even turns eighteen, or has the damage already been done? Check it out and see.

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