INTRODUCTIONJames Berger, author of After The End: Representations of Post-apocalypse (1999) pointedly identifies the paradox in post-apocalyptic fiction: it tells stories that happen after the end, “in which the ending, paradoxically, both does and does not take place” (XII). Post-apocalyptic fiction explores the aftermath of the apocalypse in a world inhabited by only a tiny fraction of the original population, of which every single survivor is damaged in one way or another. To summarize the essence of the genre: “It is about aftermaths and remainders, about how to imagine what happens after an event conceived of as final” (Berger XII).
I have always been fascinated by post-apocalyptic fiction, however gruesome it may seem. I wanted to incorporate the genre in my master’s thesis, but during my initial explorative research I often did not find the scientific literature that I was looking for. There seem to be very few theoretical studies on post-apocalyptic fiction as a genre on its own. With this thesis, I would like to contribute a work of academic literature on the genre and attempt to take the first step towards a genre-theoretical foundation for post-apocalyptic fiction. As my first research question I would like to find out what is so typical about post-apocalyptic fiction. A rather crude definition of the genre would require that the story takes place after an apocalypse-like event (because technically there can be no aftermath after an actual world-ending apocalypse).
In genre theory, though, this requirement alone would not be enough to delineate all aspects of the particular genre. Certain characteristic conventions regarding both content and/or form are important for its distinction as an independent genre. In this thesis, I distinguish three basic elements on which the genre of post-apocalyptic fiction is based: 1) there has been an apocalypse-like event, 2) few people have survived, and 3) these sole survivors .