• Francine Cunningham

Writing for the end of the world

I love end of the world stories. So much. I write a lot of them too. I'm working on a short story collection and I'd say 75% of the stories are in some way end of the world stories. Zombie, wasteland, urban decay, vanishings— its all there. Anyway, I love the stuff. I also love end of the world movies.


Here's an ongoing list of some of my favourites:


The Stand by Stephen King. (Novel—And, I love the 4 part movie)

Has anybody not heard of this book? This is my very favourite Stephen King book (and movie, although Langoliers, Shawshank Redemption, Green Mile and The Mist are all fighting for top spot. Man, this guy has some good movie adaptations, oh and Misery.) Anyway, this I think, was my first introduction to wasteland/plague story and it got me hooked in a big way.

And there's a character named Fran, there are never characters named Fran so immediately it gets top points. If anyone wants to name a character in a story after me I will not be offended, either Fran or Francine, is good with me.


Obsolete by Chuck Palahnuik.(Short story)

Such a good story about how we value life and the "rat race" we can live in. Even if that means being born and then killing yourself to make it to the better, fancier afterlife. And what happens if two people don't want to go? Will they ruin it for everybody?

"By now even harried moms were rounding up their kids, shrieking for everybody to hurry up and drink their poisoned milk and get their asses the hell to the next step of spiritual evolution. Now even life and death would be phases to rush through, the way teachers hurried kids from grade to grade to graduation—no matter how much they did and didn't learn. A big rat race to enlightenment."

World War Z by Max Brooks.(Novel)

This book was so different, which is why I think it exploded onto the scene in such a huge way. (Please do not confuse this with the film of the same name which in no way bears a resemblance to this story. Although, I did find the characterization of the zombies super cool in the film. Swarms of bugs and what not.) If you like zombie stuff and haven't read this book you should. Also if you like stories that are more like vignettes of many stories coming together to form a whole you should read this book.


On the Wings of this Prayer by Richard Van Camp.(Short story)

Richard was my very first writing teacher. He is such a natural and mesmerizing storyteller. (Brief digression: There is a film made from one of his stories, Firebear Called them Faith Healers, that hasn't left me since the day I watched it. Seriously check it out.) But back to this story. Holy Moly. I love love love this story. It gives me chills every time I read it. And it's a story that needs to be read and heard in this world right now.

"I saw a grey whale once, rolling in shallow water. Hundreds of Hair Eaters poured over the body biting, ripping at the barnacles and sea lice. Others clawed into and reached into the eyes and blowholes. One dove into its mouth. Then others. Then more and more. It thrashed and couldn't get away. The Shark Throats ate their way from the inside until I could see its skeleton. I watched a mile away and heard it scream. Their cries are supposed to be subsonic but I heard it. I still hear it."

The Age by Nancy Lee.(Novel)

What I loved so much about this book was the second timeline about the end of the world in Vancouver. It was so visual, exciting. I was so connected to those characters and I really hope Nancy Lee someday writes a total genre dystopia epic. She knows what's up in the genre. If you haven't read the book give it a read.


The Herd by Tyler Keevil.(Short story)

I found this story in the anthology Dead North: Canadian Zombie Fiction. It is something totally unique. Told from the point of view of an Inuit survivor of a zombie apocalypse. I gave this to some of my students to read and they all fell in love with it.

"Each part of a deadhead has its uses. The bones make arrowheads, spears, needles, blades, parts to repair my sled. The intestines are perfect for stringing my longbow. The skin is useless for warmth, compared to wolf or fox or bear. But it makes good leather. My tent, once rough canvas, is now entirely a patchwork of deadhead skin. The top of the skull can be used as a bowl, in a pinch. The fat for lamp oil, the hair as thread. You can derive salt from the blood. The body of a deadhead is like a walking cache of practical provisions."

The Droughtlanders by Carrie Mac.(Novel-3 part series)

This is a young adult series set in what I believe to be Australia or at least an un-named piece of land that has a vast desert. I guess I'm just assuming its Australia because the author is from there. Anyways this book starts after some plague has hit the world and society rebuilt in a very twisted way. I don't want to give anything away but there is a circus!


Sin Eaters by Sherman Alexie.(Short story)

I've already talked about my love of this story in a previous post.

“The boy with old eyes stared at me and I stared back. His eyes were two abandoned houses standing together on a grassy plain burned brown by the sun. Wooden flesh fell away from those houses and left only skeletal frames. Crows and owls perched on rotting timbers. Wild grass and prodigal weeds burst through the foundation. Everything is reclaimed. Everything is reclaimed.”

Sherman Alexie is a writer who's sentences take your breath away. I sit inside of them for so long and come back to the ones that hit me the hardest over and over again.


The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore. (Graphic narrative and TV Show)

Ok, The Walking Dead. Probably the most popular zombie story of right now. Who doesn't watch this show or read the comics or both? What I love about this story is we are getting to linger in these characters and this world. And they are getting changed by the world. I like the balance of savagery and humanity.


Farenhite 451 by Ray Bradbury.(Novel)

I know this isn't technically in the vein of these other stories but is about a future dystopia world where everything is screwed up and things topple. I cannot get the image of that wife, just sitting in her living room, with the four walls of TV, everyday, all day. It was just so creepy and so sad. Glued to a screen. Glued to a screen.


Short movie list:

(I also have this love for action/disaster/end of the world movies that take place in one day.)

Legion (awesome soundtrack to write to!) This movie fulfils both my love for one day movies and end of the world as we know it and as an added bonus some sort of religious aspect that is bringing the end of the world. It's also just really visually appealing.

Waterworld (I know I'll get flack for this one but I like it) I do like it. I actually like The Postman too. They're just good Sunday afternoon rainy spend all day on the couch movies.

Mad Max (the new one's soundtrack is the best to write high intensity scenes to.) I loved the new one. Tom Hardy is a fox and Charlize Thereon is incredible. Very awesome score and such beautiful everything.

Resident Evil- All of them. I like everything about them. Virus. Voice overs. Action heavy. They just keep going. Love it.

Dawn of the Dead- When they're trapped in the mall, awesome. And who does't like a good zombie?

I will be adding to this list as I read/watch more and remember stories I have read/watched but currently have forgotten.


Also, tell me your favourites on my Facebook page and I'll check them out.


Surviving in a wasteland,

FRancine

FC

ILLUSTRATIONS AND WRITING BY

FRANCINE CUNNINGHAM

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