Why Have Humans Always Been Obsessed With the Apocalypse?

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The Walking Dead, The Leftovers, The 100, Mad Max: Fury Road and World War Zare just some of the recent movies and television shows capitalizing on humanity's obsession with the apocalypse. For some strange reason, many people believe that if the world were to end tomorrow, they would be one of the lucky few to survive. That's probably why we love stories about the survivors of acataclysmic event, but our fascination with the apocalypse is far from a recent development. Sure, in the '80s we had Back to the Future, but we also had The Terminator.Even the Bible's New Testament has an entire section dedicated to the end of times, filled with terrible prophecies of destruction and mayhem.

Some people claim contemporary media is saturated with post-apocalyptic themes becausewe as a species have lost faith in our future. That's simply not true. Humans have always been pessimistic a-holes, and here's the literature to prove it.


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1. 'The Last Man'

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Mary Shelley is best known as the author of the Gothic novel Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, but she also wrote The Last Man, which was originally published in 1826. The book tells the story of a group of friends traveling through Europewhile a plague decimates the majority of the world's population.

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2. 'The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion'

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The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion follows the two protagonists as they discuss the destruction of the world, which was brought about by a comet that removed nitrogen from Earth's atmosphere. It was written by Edgar Allan Poe in 1839, and first published in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. 

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3. 'After London'

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Released in 1885, After London is set in England's countryside in the wake of a sudden and unspecified catastrophe that wiped out most of England's population. Richard Jeffries depicts a future where survivors have returned to a quasi-medieval way of life. 

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4. 'The Time Machine'

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Many stories by H.G. Wells have a post-apocalyptic theme, but the most influential of all was arguably The Time Machine, released in 1895. This short novel takes place in 802,701 A.D., after civilization has collapsed and humanity has split into two distinct species. The story's protagonist eventually witnesses the Earth's death beneath a swollen, red sun.

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5. 'The Machine Stops'

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In E. M. Forster's novella The Machine Stops, humanity lives underground and relies on a giant machine that has basically eradicated free will by providing for humankind's every whim. This short story, published in 1909, predicted new technologies like instant messaging and the Internet.

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6. 'The Scarlet Plague'

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Jack London's The Scarlet Plague, originally published in London Magazine in 1912, takes place in San Francisco in the year 2073, 60 years after a plague has depopulated the planet. Most of the people left on Earth have no idea what the world was like before the Red Death, and anyone who even tries to impart wisdom is ridiculed. 

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7. 'Brave New World'

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Imagine a society where everyone is conditioned through psychological manipulation and reproductive technology. That's exactly the setting of Aldous Huxley's 1932 novel Brave New World. 

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8. 'By the Waters of Babylon'

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The world in By the Waters of Babylon has been ravaged by nuclear war, and the planet's greatest cities have been left in ruins. Stephen Vincent BenĂ©t originally released this piece as The Place of the Gods in 1937, but it was republished under a different title in 1943. 

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9. '1984'

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George Orwell's 1984 introduced popular, dystopian concepts such as thought crimes, Big Brother and 2 + 2 = 5. This novel, written in 1949, is set in a world that is perpetually at war and constantly under government surveillance. 

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10. 'The Martian Chronicles'

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Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles takes place before, during and after a nuclear war on Earth. Released in 1950, the collection of short stories is sort of like an episodic novel that deals with humans evacuating Earth and colonizing Mars. 

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11. 'The Day of the Triffids'

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The Day of the Triffids was written by English author John Wyndham and published in December 1951. It is a post-apocalyptic novel set in a world plagued by blindness and ravaged by an aggressive, carnivorous species of plant.

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12. 'Fahrenheit 451'

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Widely regarded as one of Ray Bradbury's best works, Fahrenheit 451 takes place in a dystopian society where books are outlawed, and government officials are ordered to burn any literature they come across. Released in 1953, the novel is set in an unspecified city at an unspecified time in the future. 

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13. 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?'

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This 1968 science fiction novel was the main source of inspiration for the movie Blade RunnerAmerican writer Philip K. Dick imagined a future where Earth and its populations have been practically pushed to the point of extinction by nuclear war during World War Terminus. 

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14. 'The Folk of the Fringe'

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Orson Scott Card's 1989 anthology The Folk of the Fringe takes place after World War III has basically leveled the United States. The short stories are about a few groups of Mormons struggling to survive in post-apocalyptic America. 

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15. 'Idiocracy'

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Alright, so the film Idiocracy isn't classic literature, and compared to everything else on this list, it's fairly recent, but the movie is still a perfect example of how bleak our outlook of the future truly is. This 2006 satirical film is set 500 years in the future in a dystopian society where advertising and commercialism are valued over intellectual curiosity and social responsibility. And here we are in 2016. 

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