There’s an old Japanese proverb that says “fall down five times, get up six," and poet Carl Sandburg is famous for the line, “a baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.” Mush those statements together and you’ve got a perfect recipe for how postapocalyptic romance became my new comfort read.
Give me a bleak urban or rural landscape, a few determined survivors, a credible threat, some romantic tension, and I’m good to go. If the end of the world already happened, then things can only get better, right? Whether it’s war, disease or other disaster, this emerging subgenre proves that it’s not the end of the world, even when it is, and love really can conquer all.
My heart skips a beat at images from movies like Waterworld or The Postman, and I fall upon new installments of The Walking Dead, both televised and graphic novel versions, like the slavering scavenger that I am, eager for the development of its various romances as well as the zombie peril. So when I sniff out a romance novel that promises some end-of-the-world action combined with a great love story, I am on that sucker in a heartbeat.
Worldbuilding, or in this case, re-building, is a large part of the appeal of the postapocalyptic romance. When everything our hero and heroine knows has been stripped away, they still keep going, digging deep into their resources, both practical and emotional, to build something out of nothing. We get to watch our hero and heroine build their relationship, but also the formation of new societies, hidden strengths emerging and groups of unlikely allies banding together to ensure that there is a tomorrow.
Writing as Ellen Connor, the team of speculative fiction author Ann Aguirre and historical romance author Carrie Lofty bring us the Dark Age Dawning series. A worldwide power failure precedes the Change, when humans fall prey to animal nature and a small group of intrepid survivors battle the unknown to make it through to see a new day.
Joss Ware’s Envy series takes us forward in time, to a new Las Vegas, fifty years after a worldwide catastrophe. This world is lush and green, nature taking back what man has created. There’s an added twist here, as this universe’s heroes have been in suspended animation for half a century and aren’t about to give up their quest for justice even though they slept through the end of the world. Match these gents and their old school know-how with heroines who have no experience of a world before the apocalypse, and it’s a winning combination.
While the bad guys may have succeeded in bringing about the end of modern civilization, it still doesn’t stop the strongest hearts from surviving, finding love and making a new tomorrow. When it comes to postapocalyptic romance, perhaps R.E.M. said it best: it’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.
Anna C. Bowling considers writing historical romance the best way to travel through time and make the voices in her head pay rent. She welcomes visitors to her blog, Typing With Wet Nails and to follow her at Twitter.