ORIGINAL

Dispatches from the ruins

5 minutes

Why do we crave the awful futures of apocalyptic fiction?

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

Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter
Aeon is not-for-profit
and free for everyone
Make a donation
Essay/
Stories & Literature
Ghosts on the shore

In Japan, ghost stories are not to be scoffed at, but provide deep insights into the fuzzy boundary between life and death

Christopher Harding

Essay/
Stories & Literature
Sweet artifice

Dandies in the age of decadence favoured synthetics over nature, nowhere more so than in perfumery’s fabulous counterfeits

Catherine Maxwell