Smashing the Routine

After spending a chunk of yesterday feeling in a funk, I finally realized why: I’ve spent most of the last month moving (twice), hosting my boyfriend’s mom for a week, going away for a family vacation weekend, and going away for a friends camping trip weekend. My normal routine and most of the things in it have gone completely out of whack, cutting me off from the outlets I usually have for creative work, physical work-outs, and other things I’m passionate about. Life happened along and smashed my little routine to bits for a while there, but luckily it’s not too hard for me to put them back into the niches where they belong.

But this also segues nicely into another topic: why I love post-apocalyptic (or even mid-apocalyptic) stories. It has a dash of why I really enjoy stories set in the Real World Plus, as I think of it. You know, our world, but plus a little something else–like a school for witchcraft and wizardry, or a girl given incredible power so she can slay vampires, that sort of thing. It’s that yearning of wanting to picked out as someone special for being exactly who you are, an ordinary and good person who gets to be extraordinary all of a sudden. Who doesn’t want that? Also, it helps that you don’t need to go through the set up of a completely different world, either on the enjoying or the creating end. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, either, but it minimizes the tasks that require your attention. There are also plenty of stories that are in completely foreign worlds that are excellent, and well-done world-building is an admirable skill.

Back to the post-apocalyptic. The basic tennant of this genre is always the same: the entire world has changed, and that means the people need to change with it in order to survive. What do you do when everything you know, your daily life, has been irreversibly changed? How do you deal with the world as it is now? The Walking Dead is a fantastic example of this–while it’s about zombies, it’s really not. It’s about people trying to figure out how to live in a world that has changed completely. Priorities have to change, the way they think has to change, and they realize these things slowly and with significant growing pains (not to mention a significant body count). The routine they have become accustomed to and lived in is smashed, gone forever, and there’s no guide for what the new routine needs to be. What’s more, the new routine itself is a constantly changing thing, and if you don’t catch up, how will you get by?

Characters in this setting not only need to adapt, but they eventually need to realize, in most cases, that there is no going back. Even if the bad guy is destroyed, that doesn’t mean the world gets to go back to the way it was. Who are they going to be, now that not only their life has changed, but the whole world has?