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In the first two decades of the new millennium, stories of the post-apocalypse have permeated pop culture, from books such as Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006), Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl (2009) and Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven (2014) to films and TV programmes such as The Walking Dead (2010-), the Hunger Games series (2012-15) and Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). While post-apocalyptic fictions of previous eras largely served as cautionary tales – against nuclear brinksmanship in On the Beach (1959) or weaponised biology in The Stand (1978) – today’s versions of these tales depict less alterable, more oblique and diffuse visions of our doom. So why can’t we seem to get enough of humanity’s unavoidable collapse and its bleak aftermath?
Dispatches from the Ruins reflects on what these stories – set among crumbling buildings, overgrown lots and barren wastelands – might be telling us about modern fears and fantasies. This Aeon original video is adapted from an Aeon essay by the US writer Frank Bures. Bures is also the author of The Geography of Madness (2016), a book about cultural syndromes across the world. His work has been included in the Best American Travel Writing and appeared in Harper’s, Lapham’s Quarterly and the Washington Post Magazine, among others.
Director and Editor: Adam D’Arpino
Producer: Adam D’Arpino, Kellen Quinn
Writer: Frank Bures
Narrator: Karl Miller
Music: Steven Bulinski
Thinkers and theories
Bernard Williams on Descartes’s audacious endeavour to prove knowledge is possible
The cast of ‘misfit toys’ who keep life on an idyllic tourist island afloat
Ageing and death
When his elderly parents make a suicide pact, Doron struggles to accept their choice
Biography and memoir
What Akiko saw at the centre of the Hiroshima blast, and the indelible mark it left
Design and fashion
From sheep to sea – an ode to the iconic sweater that warms Cornish sailors
The revolutionary artist who propelled the Black Panther movement with imagery
Yes, the Inuit have dozens of words for snow – but what does each one mean exactly?
Technology and the self
One woman prepares for the risky solitude of Georgia O’Keeffe’s American West
History of science
How one of history’s most beautiful books was used to find fate in the cosmos