Here's How Apocalyptic Fiction Has Changed Over the Last Century

Illustration for article titled Here's How Apocalyptic Fiction Has Changed Over the Last Century

Tumblr user Destination Toast has done a lot of statistical analyses of fandom — all of it very impressive — but the latest analyzes how the kinds of apocalypses in fiction have changed over time. We're worried about a lot more now than we used to be.

The chart below covers the different kinds of apocalypses and how often they've popped over the decades. It's probably not a coincidence that war spikes during World War II and during the 80s — especially if the 80s stats include nuclear war stories.

Also, wow were people in the 1900s worried about the sun just giving up and killing us all.

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Illustration for article titled Here's How Apocalyptic Fiction Has Changed Over the Last Century

The numbers are, Destination Toast admits, probably not entirely accurate. They're based off of Wikipedia's list of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction:

For data, I used Wikipedia's List of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction. (See the article for definitions). It's unfortunately woefully incomplete; a lot of my faves aren't on there, especially from recent years (and you can see the drop-off in number of works per year during the 2010's in the final graph — I totally don't believe that is accurate.

Take this with a large grain of salt — and please go add any missing books/films/shows to the list on Wikipedia! The apocalypse fandom clearly has a lot to contribute here (especially, I suspect, in terms of fiction by women, POC, and non-Western/non-English language authors), and I will be doing the same.

As noted, it's hard to believe the drop off in the totals for recent works:

Illustration for article titled Here's How Apocalyptic Fiction Has Changed Over the Last Century
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It's been rising pretty consistently, so it's unlikely that we've just suddenly stopped writing, filming, and playing games about the apocalypse. We have, however, really invested some heavy fear in wars, eco-causes, and disease. Surprisingly, the sun takes up a smaller proportion of end of the world tales these days:

Illustration for article titled Here's How Apocalyptic Fiction Has Changed Over the Last Century
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You can see more graphs and the raw data gathered and crunched by Destination Toast here.


Contact the author at katharine@io9.com.

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DISCUSSION

sugarbushsquirrel
sugarbushsquirrel

Maybe it's because I was a terrible Catholic and/or a barely-grown adult journalist in New York City on 9/11, but normal people making plans "for the zombie apocalypse" as some kind of throwaway term for actual contingency plans if shit gets bad... bugs me more than anything. Stuff happens and you're allowed to plan for it and talk about it. There is no need to be cute. And if there are zombies, that means the rapture already happened... so loot from the faithful (and please take care of their pets - you're already NOT RAPTURED, MIGHT AS WELL START BEING NOT A DICK ABOUT BASIC DECENCY STUFF — at the very least it will help your trial at Judgement City if, for argument's sake, the logic of an Al Brooks movie makes more sense than CCD and you like a nice hotel with chocolate swans before bed).

But in lieu of non-rapture... have a wind up radio that lets you charge a USB device. Keep copies of IDs in a plastic bag in a plastic storage case. Follow what the Red Cross or local safety group advises... and then also keep 2-3 cases of dark beer (because storing dark beer is storing bread that can sedate you and lasts forever), a bottle or bag of your legal intoxicants of choice (because if you are looking through your emergency kit in an actual emergency... you'll be glad that it's there), and probably board games or puzzles and books to stay busy as you wait for the power to come back / government to be reinstated / first responders / illuminati FEMA death camp goons / pen-pal from the other survivalist yurt, the one that *gets* you / whomever.

Me? Don't worry about me. I have my own plans. Quit journalism to become a scientist with ideas that challenge the authority in my chosen field in such a way I am a laughing stock by all... except the most-respected figurehead of said field. Granted, everyone thinks he is a little "out of it" as he only speaks to tell the truth and if then *maybe* once every few months and about salt use at dinner, but he smiles at me every time I get thrown out of the important PHD meetings, so I feel okay professionally. Plus, I've exclusively only been dating the offspring of important politicians as I know that romantic, familial access to elected political powers can often help prove theories in emergency situations — definitely more than well-regarded peer reviews in scientific journals. So, really, good on all accounts in general and in case.

I mostly just wanted to make sure everyone has dark beer and crosswords and extra pens in their kits.