Shining, Shimmering, Splendid, A Whole New World: American post-apocalyptic films

The collapse of civilisation and loss of the majority of humanity is the starting point for the thought experiment in The Knowledge. The Introduction explores what sort of world the survivors of the cataclysm might find themselves in, and the challenges they’d face thriving in the immediate aftermath and striving to rebuild civilisation from the ground up. The book touches upon many tropes of post-apocalyptic literature and cinema, which are expanded upon elsewhere in this website (e.g. best post-apocalyptic movies, best post-apocalpytic bookspost-apocalyptic art, ruin photography). In this guest blog post, Emma Anne James (Twitter) takes a closer, analytical look at the body of American post-apocalyptic films – their common themes, key differences, and problems with their underlying ideals. Emma is a postgraduate researcher in the Department of History of Art and Film, University of Leicester, writing her PhD thesis on this very topic. Also see Emma’s comprehensive list of 78 post-apocalyptic films from the last 80 years of cinema history.


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80 years of post-apocalyptic cinema

DamnationAlleyEmma Anne James (Twitter) is a PhD researcher at the University of Leicester, writing her thesis on the critical analysis of post-apocalyptic cinema. She has written a guest post for The Knowledge website discussing the tropes and common themes, as well as the implicit assumptions within them, of these post-apocalyptic films. Here, she provides for us her exhaustive list of 78 American post-apocalyptic films released in the eighty-year period between 1933 and 2013. This includes absolute classics like On the Beach, some truly awful films like Creepozoids, and all three incarnations of The Planet of the Apes narrative (1968, 2001, 2011).

Emma’s research focuses on films released after 1968, and doesn’t include zombie flicks for various reasons including their general status as apocalyptic rather than post-apocalyptic films (see here for her definitions on this). She also includes a few films that have another type of narrative, but contain a very significant post-apocalyptic aspect in the film (for example, the last third of A.I. is significant for its iconographic and thematic use of a post-apocalyptic setting).


Here, then, is Emma’s complete list of post-apocalyptic films. How many have you already seen…?


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An excerpt from The Knowledge is published today on The Survival Blog is run by James Wesley Rawles, a former US Army intelligence officer and expert within the Prepper community, who has also published the excellent prepper manual ‘How to Survive The End Of The World As We Know It: Tactics, Techniques And Technologies For Uncertain Times‘. Rawles has also turned his hand to writing novels on this topic, and has published Patriots: A novel of survival in the coming collapse, Founders and Survivors. This excerpt from The Knowledge is taken from Chapter 5, introducing how you can begin to gather and synthesise the chemical substances that will be crucial to your rebuilding effort after an apocalypse.

Read the book excerpt on here


How To… Make your own wind turbine

TWind_turbinehe September issue of Wired magazine carries an article by me and Leila Johnston about how to make your own wind turbine. This piece draws on the material from the first chapter of The Knowledge, talking about how you can use ingenuity and resourcefulness to scavenge and repurpose all you need to maintain a comfortable lifestyle in the immediate aftermath. For instance, the vital component of a wind turbine that generates electricity for you can be cannibalised right out of any car or truck engine – the alternator.

Wired_septThe article is on the news-stands now, or available on the Wired app on iTunes or Google Pla

Filming in the Wastelands

Plymouth, Montserrat. The modern Pompeii_smallMark Westcott is a TV documentary director from London. He worked on the Discovery channel series ‘Man, Woman, Wild‘, a survival show featuring American special forces expert Mykel Hawke and his broadcaster wife Ruth England. In 2011, the series took the film crew to the Caribbean island of Montserrat, where they got special access to explore regions laid to waste over a decade ago by eruptions of the island’s volcano. In this guest post, Mark describes his experiences in this devastated landscape of decaying collapsing buildings, scavenging vital supplies from abandoned kitchens and garages, and the feral cattle: like a localised apocalypse.

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Ferronautas: Exploring Mexico’s abandoned railways

Ivan_Puig_and_Andre_s_Padilla_Domene_SEFT_1_in_tezontle_mine_webOne of the topics I discuss in the opening chapters of The Knowledge is how quickly our asphalt roads would deteriorate after a collapse of civilisation, and so why it might be much easier for long-distance travel and trade in a post-apocalyptic world to use the abandoned railway tracks. Two artists have completed a fascinating exploration project along these lines.

Ivan Puig and Andrés Padilla Domene describe themselves as Los Ferronautas (from ferrocarriles, ‘railway’ in Spanish) and spent 2010 and 2011 travelling along the rusting railways of rural Mexico, and the modern ruins scattered around them. In the second half of the 19th century, the Mexican government partnered with British companies to build a railway line to connect Mexico City with the Atlantic Ocean and the rest of the world. But now this historic railway infrastructure lies in ruins, much of it abandoned due to the privatisation of the railway system in 1995. It was deemed simply unprofitable to continue running the passenger services, and lines became cut off and whole communities isolated.

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WikiReader_PocketWonderful on-line information resources like Wikipedia are only useful if your computer or mobile device has an active internet connection to access them. And if civilisation were ever to collapse, such vast reserves of human knowledge would evaporate within days as blackouts hit the servers and the internet collapses. This ingenious little device offers the perfect solution.

WikiReader is a compact handheld device that provides instant access to Wikipedia no matter where you are, and without needing any connection to the internet. The integral SD card stores the text of three million articles, and regular updates to this database can be downloaded for free. The monochrome display is easy to read, and the touch screen interface allows you to scroll through articles with the stroke of a finger, or follow hyperlinks with a simple tap. You can browse through at your leisure or find particular keywords using the dedicated Search button. History and Random buttons are also included. The ultra-low-power system means you can run it for months before needing to recharge the internal AAA batteries. WikiReader is compact and lightweight, perfect for keeping with you for looking up things while you read or travel, and can be slipped into a bug-out bag.

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