The Apocalypse Seven: Pandemic Thoughts
It would be very cool if I could claim that I got the idea to write The Apocalypse Seven during the pandemic of 2020, but I didn’t; I wrote it in April and May of 2019. And was under contract with the publisher by Thanksgiving, 2019, a month before anyone had even heard of the novel coronavirus, so a pandemic wasn’t on their minds either when they bought it.
I wasn’t inspired by any real-life events. I just thought (s0me time in late 2018) that it would be fun to try writing a post-apocalyptic story. Then, having decided to write one, I set about formulating a plot, which was: wouldn’t it be funny if the characters woke up one morning having missed the apocalypse entirely? (I pitched it to my editor with this longline “Robbie appeared to have slept through the apocalypse.”)
Then I started writing.
I’m bringing all of this up in the context of the pandemic because in the process of writing The Apocalypse Seven, I had to stand in different parts of Cambridge—it’s set in Cambridge, Mass, because that’s where I live—and say to myself, “What would this feel like if there was literally nobody else here?” Not, look like; that’s easy. But what would it feel like?
A year later it was pretty easy to get a really good idea of what that would feel like; with the schools closed and the restaurants shuttered and everyone working from home or not working at all, I just had to walk outside.
It’s isn’t often one gets to confirm one got the vibe right in a book about the extinction of the entire human race.
The Apocalypse Seven comes out on May 25th, in about three weeks. A book written a year before the pandemic lockdown began will be available for sale in bookstores at the tail end of that pandemic (caveat: or so it looks right now, here in the U.S.) or, around the same time we’re all ready to go back to bookstores again. This is fortuitous, and entirely coincidental: the release date has never changed.
Unless it’s not fortuitous; who wants to read a post-apocalypse story after a pandemic? Ah, but: remember the part about how I thought this would be funny?
I don’t know how to put it any other way than this: The Apocalypse Seven is a cozy post-apocalypse story. Yes, there’s the aforementioned “extinction of the entire human race” thing, but that’s not 100% accurate because there are the seven survivors who slept through it. This is a book about them.
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Quick story. I was on a panel at the 2020 Boskone sci-fi convention. (This was in February, just before everything shut down.) The subject was post-apocalypse stories, so naturally The Apocalypse Seven came up a few times, even though I was the only one in the room who had read it. My fellow panelists had all written their own post-apoc stories, and had read quite a few more than I have. (I am notoriously poorly read in all SF/F sub-genres, even the ones I write in.)
I asked if anyone could think of a post-apocalyptic story where the characters helped one another survive and were generally supportive, which is the kind of book I wrote.
Nobody could come up with one.
Admittedly, I cheated a little. The easiest way to take the “No, but you see, humans are the real monsters!” trope out of the post-apocalypse dynamic was to eliminate any possibility of tribalism—you can’t make more than one tribe out of seven people. So that’s what I did.
The Apocalypse Seven is as much about seven strangers recognizing that they need each other to survive as it is about the mystery behind how they ended up in this situation in the first place. Despite the egregious body count (hello, I killed the human race how are you today?) I think it’s a story that provides a little hope, taking place on a landscape we’re all a little more familiar with than we expected to be.
In another three weeks you’ll have your chance to read it for yourself, and tell me if you agree.
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The closest post-apocalyptic story I can think of that satisfies your conditions is Earth Abides by George R. Stewart. I first read it nearly fifty years ago, and as post-apocalyptic fiction goes, this is an absolute classic and one of my all time favourite reads.