I happen to love post-apocalyptic science fiction. It is one of my favorite genres. I also love alien and monster movies, District 9 and Cloverfield being two of my favorites. And though there’s not much information out there about it yet, I’m really looking forward to Revolt coming out later this year. It got me thinking about what it is exactly about this genre that entices me so.
I don’t know why, but even as I kid I would imagine what we all would do if some catastrophic event made society come crashing down around us. And I’m not some sort of pessimistic nihilist. I’m actually an optimist at heart, and I certainly don’t think the world would be better if society as we know it ceased to exist. So why is it so fun to think about? What’s so attractive about movies and books in this genre?
I think as human beings we all have this sense of living on a knife’s edge. It’s mostly unconscious, but on some level we know we’re hurtling through life with the illusion of having full control over our destinies when there’s truly very little we can do to control what life throws at us. We have schedules and routines to order things and reinforce this notion, but really anything can happen at any time to disrupt the order in our lives. A car can be stolen, a job can be lost, a pipe can break and flood the entire house. Little, mundane things can and do throw our everyday lives into momentary chaos. Maybe watching aliens invade and throwing entire societies into bedlam makes us appreciate how insignificant the things that disrupt our daily lives really are, and how comparatively easy they are to overcome. I think that’s a reassurance we need as human beings. We need to know that everything’s okay, because hey, at least aliens aren’t trying to blow up the planet to make way for an intergalactic thruway. Or maybe that’s a stretch.
Inevitably sci fi forces us to consider the human condition by highlighting things that are completely outside of it. We bond emotionally with the people in the films because they are, well… people. They remind us of what it means to be human and what is important about being human. Often in sci fi, we are shown that the flaws of a human being are exactly what make him or her human, and that notion is celebrated. I suppose that’s what I like the most about the genre. As much as it is about cool special effects and scary situations, it’s also about us being us no matter what and surviving because of it.