As readers we seem to have developed a fixation with dark future worlds. Are we purposely casting a sinister slant onto human destiny? Is it a desire for sensationalism, or simply realism that colours our apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic science fiction trends? Are we heading rapidly towards disaster? Or is it a slow unfurling of all that we hold dear? Love it or loath it, dark future sci-fi is here to stay. Here is my pick of common themes in the post-apocalyptic / dark future world.
There are always survivors
No matter how bad, no matter how much decimation, no matter what we do to our world, there is always the residual hope of the survivors the book is based around.
They don’t always tell you how it happens
Often there is just an indication that life changed, but no one actually knows the cause. Much of the book may be dedicated to understanding the trigger event, fitting the pieces of the puzzle together in an attempt to rectify or resolve the damage done.
Sometimes they just move on to dealing with the consequence. It all comes down to whether the trigger to change life in this new dark direction was fast or slow.
A slow trigger such as climate change could provide people with plenty of warning.
A fast trigger such as a natural disaster could keep people in the dark.
And many triggers can be applied in different ways depending on how you pitch the book. For example a war could be swift or take decades to tear society down. The same with diseases, and even an alien invasion could be pitched from multiple directions.
The search for a better place
The book can often be themed around a journey or search. Always seeking to find a safe zone or utopia homeland that is just around the corner, over the hill, or a hidden message away.
It brings out the best and worst in people
Even a localised natural disaster can bring out the hero…and the criminal who wants to prey on the weak. An apocalyptic event just does this exponentially more. Dark, lawless futures, likewise set a grim backdrop that provides plenty of scope for the scourge of society to step into. There is a big difference between an opportunist criminal that knows he has a few days or hours to take advantage of his fellow men, and the far more profound knowledge that the law and order we have come to rely on is never coming back.
Awesome character arcs
Dark places and events can change people, but perhaps more dramatically it can leave them the same. I love the way this genre is often centred around the character arc. Some characters change significantly as their survival instinct kicks in and they adapt. They become something more, or worse, or better, than they were. My favourite is when they stay exactly the same, for example the person who doggedly retains their innocent, hopeful, and caring ways, no matter what hardship or horror comes their way.
Best bad guys
It’s not just about surviving against the evil humans in these dark future worlds. Zombies, mutations, diseases, out of control robots, rabid dogs, and alien attack! So much creative scope when it comes to the bad guys.
Divided Serenity out now on all Amazon stores, and free with Kindle Unlimited.