I recently read the novel Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, which won several awards in 2014. It describes, among other things, a post-apocalyptic future in which well upwards of 99% of humanity is killed by an abrupt pandemic of influenza-of-doom and the subsequent collapse of current social structures. The “viruses don’t work that way” aside, there was something about the story that bothered me which also applies to a bunch of other post-apocalyptic stories: no one remembers to salvage a radio.
That I jump to this as a world-building problem immediately is perhaps due to my being a radio and radar astronomer. But I think it’s an important difference from one of the common conventions of post-apocalyptic science fiction.
Apocalypse, No Matter How
Imagine a post-apocalyptic Earth. Maybe global thermonuclear war turned most cities into radioactive glass and shut down agriculture almost everywhere. Maybe a disease of doom spread everywhere. Maybe somebody created a zombie-vectored bioweapon. Maybe someone broke all of the rules for spaceflight and made a large rockpile impact Earth. Maybe a star went kaboom. Maybe more than one of those at once. Whatever the method, almost everyone is dead. What do you do next?
Many post-apocalyptic stories rely on the characters having little or no knowledge about what is going on elsewhere in the world, either to drive plot (“find the green place“) or to limit the scope of the story (“caste-driven dystopia in a post-apocalyptic Chicago“). But even fairly simple radio technology allows communication across large distances. This makes many plots not work.
I’ve been mostly working on editing Vagabond (the novel I’ve actually written all the way to the end), so I don’t have a big analysis post for you.
On the other hand, I can show the first map I’ve drawn for the other novel I have planned — The Diamonds of Night. The big empty area in the middle of the northern continent is filled with other countries, but they aren’t so important so I haven’t filled them in yet.
The story mostly takes place in Suidaarde.