Guest Post from Ron Welch Author of Theradlands.com

This next guest post is from Ron Welch, blogger and author at Theradlands.com . Ron is a purveyor of all things wasteland. That is, to say he is a sort of aficionado of a fictional post apocalyptic, post nuclear war Earth. A planet completely devastated by nuclear war, civilization reduced to rubble, radiation pollution, the whole works! Think of the world of Mad Max or Fallout and you will get the idea.

I reached out to Ron after reading some of his well written and interesting posts and realized that I hadn’t really focused nearly enough on the so far fictional wasteland. The idea of the wasteland is prominent throughout all types of post apocalyptic fiction and it certainly deserves a place here!

I really enjoyed reading Ron’s insightful commentary. He actually puts the wasteland in a new sort of perspective that I hadn’t really considered before. Please enjoy his article and make sure to follow him on Twitter @The_radlands and visit his site theradlands.com . Thanks Ron!

The Power of Post-Nuclear Fiction

by Ron Welch

Post-nuclear fiction is unique; it captivates us with tales of inhumanity, survival, and occasionally grotesque mutations. Although each writer creates a different post-nuclear world, there are always a handful of similarities throughout to define sandstormthe genre and keep the audience anchored into the setting. Because a post-nuclear world necessarily requires advanced technology, the genre finds itself at a crossroad between sci-fi and fantasy, utilizing the social commentary of the former with the fantasticism of the latter.

From Mad Max to Fallout, post-nuclear worlds are generally rooted in techno-feudalism. Great leaders rise to power, protecting slaves and serfs from the horrors of the wasteland. Typically, walled villages are mandatory to keep out monsters (both human and beast). Bandits and raiders are present in every wasteland incarnation, similar to pirates radiationin both sci-fi and fantasy. Although outwardly techno-feudalism outwardly looks identical to traditional feudalism, where it diverges in post-nuclear fiction is at the means of collecting resources. Traditional feudalism is rooted in farming and the production of resources. Techno-feudalism is rooted in the scavenging of resources, both for convenience and because the secret to advanced (and even primitive) technology is lost on uneducated wastelanders. Scavenging is key to the setting.

falloutWhile exploring the wasteland, scavengers often come across pockets of radiation. In reality, radiation from nuclear weapons dissipates after a few months. In fiction, radiation is used as a placeholder for magic (again calling on traditional fantasy). Mutants (both human and beast), psychic powers, and unexplained anomalies are engrained in post-nuclear fiction.

From the burnpit screamers in A Boy and His Dog to Ghouls, mutants have been critical to the success of the post-nuclear genre. The existence of these creatures captures our imagination in a way that fantasy monsters and sci-fi boyanddogaliens cannot. Mutants, by their nature, rely on body horror. Generally, mutant designs are just a twist on something that already exists. For example, the Fallout franchise combined dogs and men into centaurs. The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise has grotesque chimera and pseudogiants. A handful of franchises go a step further, adding sentient mutant races to interact with humans, filling a roll similar to Elves and Dwarves in fantasy or aliens in sci-fi. Mutants are engaging, as they encourage the audience to think about what other animals would look like in the setting.

Although less common than mutants, some post-nuclear settings also include psychic powers. This again calls back to the cross between sci-fi and fantasy. Psychic powers are effectively sci-fi magic. The difference is that mutant powers are often sporadic and uncontrolled (see Psykers in Warhammer 40k or Dark Ones in Metro 2033). Likewise, some settings (specifically S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Metro 2033) have anomalies that split from traditional radioactive horror and merge toward something more mysterious and occasionally spiritual. Anomalies rarely have a scientific explanation (even a super-scientific explanation that works within the universe), but they reflect something critical to the genre. After a nuclear war, the world will never be the same again.

madmaxvehicles In many ways post-nuclear fiction is similar to sci-fi and fantasy. They all reflect societies where governments are loose, territorial, or non-existent. They all have monsters, but the manner in which those monsters express themselves through design and intelligence varies widely. All of these things help the audience to better connect with the genre, because although fictional, it is rooted in reality. The locations are the same, but they are presented in through the filter of destruction and radioactive horror. Given the opportunity, post-nuclear fiction can define the post-apocalyptic genre the same way Tolkien defined fantasy and Frank Herbert defined sci-fi.

What do you think makes the post-nuclear genre unique? Tell us in the comments!

If you enjoyed this piece, you can read more specific articles at www.theradlands.com or follow us on Twitter @The_RadLands .

 

The Terminator

terminatorIt’s odd that I haven’t mentioned The Terminator on this site before. It was one of the first end of the world movies to capture my imagination. In many ways, the movie and the concept really sparked the genesis of my odd apocalyptic preoccupation. The Terminator is one of my all time favorite movies. An awesome combination of a killer cyborg, time travel, the dawn of true artificial intelligence and nuclear war gets me every time.

First off, lets get the criticism out of the way. I’m not claiming that the acting or the story line logic is perfect. Yes, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s acting is fair at best (well, he is a cyborg). And yes, there is some unnecessary nudity – no I’m not referring to Sarah Connor. For some strange reason, only human tissue can travel through time, oh and a metal skeleton, but not clothes…Ok, lets move on shall we…

The premise itself is perfectly logical: artificial intelligence is born, sees humans as a threat, concludes that to eliminate the threat efficiently it must initiate a full scale nuclear strike against The Soviet Union (which was still intact at the time that the film was made). A newly born artificial intelligence aka Skynet knew that such a strike would be reciprocated and “bye-bye” humans, well most humans anyway. Of course, there would be survivors, but Skynet must have deduced that such a threat would be minimal with 90% of the world’s population dead and most of humankind’s infrastructure decimated.

We are led to believe that Skynet was somewhat surprised by the human will to survive. Indeed, humans can be quite resourceful and tenacious when necessary. The human resistance became something more than a nuisance to Skynet, so it comes up with quite an innovative plan to use cyborgs to infiltrate human populations to kill, kill, KILL!

Furthermore, Skynet decided to use its newly discovered time travel technology to send a terminator back in time to prevent the human resistance leader from being born by killing his mother Sarah Connor. Ha! Take that stupid humans!

However, apparently Skynet didn’t fully consider the consequences of time travel as Kyle Reese followed the Terminator back through time to defend Sarah Connor. We find out that Kyle is actually John Connor’s father!

cyberdyneNot only that, but we later find out (in Terminator 2) that Cyberdyne systems actually based most of its work off of the robotic arm and circuits that they found and studied from Terminator 1. Oh Boy! So did Skynet actually create itself accidentally by sending the first terminator back in time? Wow, time travel is fun isn’t it, if you can get past the headache! 🙂

Some of my favorite parts of the first Terminator movie are when we see the future through Kyle Reese’s dreams and memories. We see tricked out resistance 80’s cars with stolen mounted Skynet laser cannons (below). We watch as the early terminator units infiltrate a human enclave and kill everyone. We watch as a giant robotic tank drove over skulls in post apocalyptic Los Angeles.

Considering the special effect technology that was available in 1984, these scenes are epic! It’s like Mad Max mixed with Star Wars. Add in the 80’s synthesizer music and we are talking over the top awesome for a 10 year old kid and a 41 year old man alike!

The Terminator franchise now covers 5 movies, a TV series, novels and a comic series. The Walking Dead fan’s might be interested to know that Gale Anne Hurd was a writer and producer in almost all of the Terminator movies. It’s hard to really understate the influence The Terminator has had on our modern culture. To this day, it still stands as one of my favorite movies of all time.

 

World War Z The Movie

World War Z

Max Brooks’ vision of a zombie apocalypse is now available for the masses with the big screen release of World War Z movie. An action and suspense movie, bolstered with some excellent special effects, World War Z focuses on a UN investigator’s pursuit for the source of the zombie outbreak. The zombies are winning this war, and fast. Gerry Lane (played by Brad Pitt) and his picture perfect family are caught in a downtown Philadelphia traffic jam when the first zombies attack. After narrowly escaping the initial stages of the zombie apocalypse, Gerry is forced to go back to work for the UN in exchange for the safety of his wife and children. We follow Gerry in his investigation around the world, from one calamity to the next, on his quest to discover the source of the zombie outbreak. Worthy of special mention are the scenes in Jerusalem which are by far the best in their portrayal of thousands of zombies in their characteristic swarming behaviors.

While World War Z The Movie is certainly entertaining and enjoyable, it would be dishonest to ignore some of its more obvious flaws. For one thing, the movie doesn’t follow the book closely. In fact, Max Brooks himself says that the movie doesn’t resemble the book at all. You could say that the movie takes place in the same “universe” as the book but is basically a completely different side story (sorry, no Battle of Yonkers). World War Z also suffers from some logic problems that are common in the zombie genre in general. The logic issue has to do with the focus on a scientific solution to the zombie apocalypse when such an event clearly crosses over into supernatural territory. At one point in the movie, a World Health Organization researcher points out the futility of his own research when he mentions that they had initially tried to fight the zombies by infecting them with a variety of pathogens but were unable to do so due to their lack of a functioning circulatory system. In other words they are dead. Nevertheless, they carry on with their search for a biological solution. ***RANT ALERT*** The references to “mother nature” taking back the planet from us greedy humans by causing the dead to rise and eat us is just plain fucking stupid! Look, zombies are just fucking awesome, don’t get all scientific assholes! ***RANT ALERT*** (sorry had to vent!)

One concept that translates from the book is the notion that human beings could eventually band together to fight for the survival of the species. Setting aside our differences, even for a short time is a fascinating and optimistic idea for sure, considering most people can’t even get along with their next door neighbors. A world war, not against one another, but against a superior enemy that exists only to destroy us. Would humans eventually cooperate if they were on the brink of destruction? Faced with the ultimate test, would we prevail?

Do yourself a favor this summer and take your favorite person to the theater, get a bucket of popcorn, a large soda and watch as the end unfolds under the walking dead. Have fun, life is short!

Man of Steel

You might be surprised to see a posting on the new Superman movie on a site dedicated to apocalyptic fiction but I felt compelled to make a short post about Man of Steel. Actually, you could argue that Man of Steel has an apocalyptic theme as General Zod and his crew make some legitimate attempts to destroy the world as we know it, but that’s really beside the point. What it boils down to is that this is a good movie and you should check it out! 

I’ve always been a Superman fan but up until now I’ve found the movies to be slightly corny and cliché. Man of Steel is clearly a reinvention of Superman. We are talking a major reinvention on par with and exceeding Batman’s transformation in the Dark Knight movies. On top of a “grittier” and more realistic Superman character we get a lot more detail on the destruction of Krypton and the events that lead up to the creation of the superhero. The action and special effects are monumental. You get the sense that the technology has caught up with the story. In other words, the special effects that were available in the previous Superman movies weren’t good enough to be convincing. This is evident in the fight scenes which are simply mind-blowing. If you’ve seen The Avengers, think of the scenes when The Hulk smashes his enemies into the ground and you will get a sense of how awesome the fight scenes are in Man of Steel. Of course, the movie isn’t perfect. Some of the relationships are superficial, including the relationship between Lois Lane and Superman but I’m willing to overlook that type of thing and think it is to be expected in a two-hour blockbuster movie. Do yourself a favor this summer and make some time to go to see Man of Steel.

Oblivion

Oblivion

A fragmented moon offers some clues to the cause of the devastated Earth.

Leaning heavily towards the science fiction end of the spectrum, Oblivion is one of the best post apocalyptic movies that I’ve seen so far in 2013. Without giving too much away, Oblivion is a post apocalyptic movie with some extraterrestrial involvement. Not aliens exactly, but perhaps an advanced alien technology. The flooded out ruins of New York City, with the Empire State Building at ground level, will remain embedded in my mind for some time. If you are looking for a movie to go to this weekend, Oblivion is worth checking out. Watch the trailer below:

Red Dawn 2012

Red Dawn 2012

Being a huge fan of the original Red Dawn, released in 1984, I was excited to watch the latest incarnation of this fictional World War 3 invasion of America. Let’s just take it as a given that the logistics of such an invasion make it practically impossible. With that said, the idea of a small group of regular people engaging in guerrilla warfare tactics on familiar turf has a certain appeal to the John Rambo kid within all of us! Obviously, with the Cold War era behind us, the threat of such an invasion is even more unlikely. Not to mention, why would anyone bother to invade a country physically when they already own it economically? Though the invaders are North Korean, the implication is that they have the full support of China. With practical matters out-of-the-way, the recycled story of resistance against a superior enemy is enjoyable. Though it has its share of superficial relationships and some teenage “corny” moments, Red Dawn is packed solid with action and the scenery is much more enjoyable in high-definition compared to watching it on the giant old 200 lb 24 inch tv on the videocassette recorder! Part of the enjoyment in this remake is nostalgia, I suppose, but as long as your expectations aren’t too high and you are able to accept an unrealistic plot, Red Dawn is a fun diversion.

The Day

Premiering at the Toronto Film Festival in 2011, The Day is a Canadian independent post apocalyptic film that follows a group of desperate survivors that get caught in a trap set by tribal cannibals. For those of you familiar with The Road, the atmosphere and setting to this story is quite similar. It is set in a bleak and desolate world that has been left barren by some unknown catastrophe. I thought of this movie as taking place in the same world as The Road with a different set of characters in perhaps a different part of the world. Taking this movie for what it is, I enjoyed it. It does have some logic problems though. For example, why does this tribe of cannibals keep coming after a group that has guns. I mean almost all of them are killed as they approach the house in waves but they just keep coming. Why would they risk the lives of so many of their own clan to get just a few people. After 10 years of post apocalypse survival surely they would learn that only practical energy is worth expending or they would have perished already? Considering that this is an independent film without a big Hollywood budget, this film isn’t bad. If you need a break from zombies and want a fix of doom and gloom, The Day might be for you. Beware though, these cannibals aren’t much smarter than zombies.