It was amazing, astounding, this loss of communication with the world. It was exactly as if the world had ceased, been blotted out. …With the coming of the Scarlet Death the world fell apart, absolutely, irretrievably.
– The Scarlet Plague, by Jack London
Just a handful of years after the novella quoted above came out, the world was plunged into a global pandemic that claimed over 50 million lives. Jack London didn’t live to see it, but he had recently witnessed the ominous return of the Black Death, a startling outbreak of bubonic plague in turn-of-the-century San Francisco that is recounted in David Randall’s Black Death at the Golden Gate. What’s more, he had the foresight to know that worse – much worse – was to come:
Now this is the strange thing about these germs. There were always new ones coming to live in men’s bodies. …the more men there were, the more thickly were they packed together on the earth, the more new kinds of germs became diseases. There were warnings. Soldervetzsky, as early as 1929, told the bacteriologists that they had no guaranty against some new disease, a thousand times more deadly than any they knew, arising and killing by the hundreds of millions and even by the billion.
While not all of the predictions in London’s vision of America circa 2013 ring true – personal dirigibles, anyone? – his pandemic prophecies have only gained force. In H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, humankind is saved by micro-organisms; in London’s The Scarlet Plague, these same germs turn on us, and almost win. Looking back from the year 2073 on the devastation, an old man attempts to teach his grandsons how to relight the torch of civilization, with the aid of that most precious tool: books! Continue reading “Pandemic Post-Apocalyptic Podcast”
We always love it when worthwhile, interesting books are adapted to film or TV, as it invariably means that a multitude of readers will be drawn to the source. As sales figures and waiting lists and libraries attest, this has been quite a year for Margaret Atwood’s landmark 1985 dystopia The Handmaid’s Tale, owing largely to the recent Hulu series, as well as the current political climate. If you’re waiting for a copy – or if you’ve already read it – why not tap into the diverse tradition of feminist science fiction that explores gender and society in provocative and visionary ways.
Continue reading “Beyond The Handmaid’s Tale: Feminist Dystopia & Utopia”
Our guest blogger Omar El Akkad has been garnering rave reviews for his powerful, thought-provoking debut novel, American War. Set during the Second American Civil War of 2075, American War lays bare our own fractured cultural and political existence in a dystopian fantasy that rings all too true for many others struggling in war-torn places of the world. Today he shares three books you probably haven’t read, and why you should. El Akkad will be appearing on Monday, April 17 at the Elliott Bay Book Company. Catch his recent NPR Interview.
Empathy, which these days feels more and more like a radical act, has become as of late the primary criterion for inclusion in my reading list. More than beautiful writing or technical merit or imaginative flair, I find myself most urgently in need of fiction’s ability to transpose, to immerse me in the thick of strangers’ lives. In this isolationist era, run and overrun by men whose worldview relies on exclusion and deliberate unknowing, it seems an obligation to seek out writing that chronicles other cultures, other histories, other lives. Continue reading “Omar El Akkad, author of American War, on reading and the radical act of empathy”
We’ve had hundreds of murders, scores of heists and scams, repeated instances of paranormal activity, and even a bit of cannibalism. Yet is rare that we’ll destroy an entire planet. But during Thrilling Tales: A Storytime for Grown Ups starting at noon today, we just might manage it. In H.G. Wells’ 1897 story The Star, a mysterious mass from outer space crashes into the planet Neptune, gradually unleashing a chain reaction that at first dazzles, and then terrifies a waiting world. Will all mankind perish in a cataclysmic fireball? You’ll have to stop by the Central library today at noon to find out!
Now in its twelfth year, Thrilling Tales typically happens two Mondays a month at the Central Library. Continue reading “The World Ends Today at 12:05”
Flash Point by Nancy Kress
With the United States in a permanent recession, Amy is forced to participate in a reality television show where she is never sure if the dangerous threats are real or manufactured. Fast-paced and smart science fiction that manages to be gritty and frighteningly believable in its portrayal of the future. Continue reading “Science Fiction Fridays: Three picks for the dystopia hungry reader”