Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s 2014 anthology Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse delivers exactly what it promises: post-apocalyptic tales told from Canadian perspectives.
The moral here seems to be that it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
Also, it’s not going to get better.
Introduction • essay by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
A very brief introduction.
Unsurprisingly, it turns out that Canadian visions of the post-apocalyptic world reveal essentially Canadian obsessions about the fracture planes along which society might shear.
“No Man is a Promontory” • short story by H. N. Janzen
No food should mean every person for themselves, the weak serving only as slaves or food for the strong. For one adult and one child, it does not.
At least for now.
“Persistence of Vision” • short story by Orrin Grey
The narrator tries to frame a personal survival story as a film. However, aesthetic distancing does not change the fact that death at the hands of angry shades can only be delayed, not prevented.
You might wonder why people don’t just allow themselves to be killed so they can join the army of the malevolent dead, who are after all the winning side. It’s not at all clear that this strategy will work.
“St. Macaire’s Dome” • short story by Jean-Louis Trudel
An exile returns home, eager to share his vision of freedom with his former neighbours.
This is set in one of those post-Peak Oil worlds where uranium becomes less radioactive very quickly and where, despite an abundance of coal, nobody has ever heard of coal gasification.
“Kalopsia” • short story by E. Catherine Tobler
Who will win the war for the old amusement park?
Never bring a duck to an elephant fight.
“White Noise” • short story by Geoff Gander
Silence is vulnerability. Even the most garrulous person has to stop talking some time.…
“Edited Hansard 116” • short story by Miriam Oudin
Steadfast career politicians struggle to ensure that they are seen defending their constituents’ interests, even as the world stumbles towards inexplicable doom.
Hansard is a reference to transcripts of parliamentary debates (following UK practice). It is as Canadian as possible under the circumstances to assume that even in the face of an incomprehensible natural disaster, the shiny tiny gears of government would keep spinning. Or at least, as in Last Night, that the MPs would adopt a formal process to wind down government in an orderly manner before the end of the world, rather than abandoning their posts.
“The Body Politic” • short story by John Jantunen
The conventional life of a grumpy retiree and his wife is tainted by his growing comprehension that something has gone terribly wrong with the world.
“D‑Day” • short story by T. S. Bazelli
Life after almost everyone sudden vanishes: some go mad, some try to adapt to their new, empty world, and one man waits for his beloved wife to return to him.
This is a melancholy little tale and it reflects poorly on me, I am sure, that I tried to work out from the number of survivors in this whether enough humans survived on Earth to re-establish the species. My lowest estimate is about 20,000 humans world-wide, which should be enough… if they can find each other.
“Matthew, Waiting” • short story by A. C. Wise
The kids he mentors while on his way are all familiar types, but none of them are the woman the old man missed. Happily, reunion is merely a matter of entropic inevitability.
The old fellow’s custom of calling everyone by the name of the particular old acquaintance of whom they remind him is efficient but impolite.
“Jenny of the Long Gauge” • short story by Michael Matheson
A bold entrepreneur is faced with a sudden, unwanted disruption to her market stall.
Surprisingly, it turns out “stab everyone responsible for tipping my wares table over” is almost always not the sanctioned response. But only almost always. Before you set out to break someone’s bowl, make sure you’re not facing one of those edge cases in which your intended victim can lash out.
“Snow Angels” • short story by A. M. Dellamonica
Nobody knows why the majority of population simply fell asleep. Nor do they have any idea what will happen if the sleepers begin to wake.
Although the protagonist is unimpressed with the results, the Canadians in this story have managed to keep the government running, albeit on a pretty basic level. They’re also doing their best to keep the sleepers alive, rather than simply abandoning them in place.
“Keeper of the Oasis” • short story by Steve Stanton
The guardian will not forget his duty, even though, given the state of the world, it is utterly pointless.
“Manitou-Wapow • short story by GMB Chomichuk with Curtis Janzen and Thomas Turner
The Invaders have a foothold in the New World and a methodical plan to deal with the Terrestrial natives’ one effective weapon against them. But the natives have their own scheme.…
This is War of the Worlds told in a less challenging disease environment than Wells’ England (which, you will remember, was an epidemiological hellscape seething with diseases lethal to Martians). It may well be that Africa will be humanity’s final refuge, thanks to all the infectious diseases that would challenge invaders. (A spot of Ebola, old chap?)
“Saying Goodbye” • short story by Michael Pack
One of the survivors of the great dying will eventually find himself the last survivor of the great dying. But only for a short time.
Again, there seem to be or at least to have been a fair number of survivors in the small region in which this story is set. A simple extrapolation suggests that it is likely the planet as a whole has a large enough cohort of Homo sapiens that humanity will survive. But perhaps this region had an atypically high fraction of survivors. Or perhaps humans are thriving somewhere well out of reach of the protagonist.
“Of the Dying Light” • short story by Arun Jiwa
Humanity’s enemies come from far far away. But perhaps not so far away that a determined hunter could not track down their home.
Literally fighting shadows is a motif that turns up more often than I would have expected. Is it particularly Canadian?
“@shalestate” • short story by David Huebert
Aside from mass extinction, dramatic climate change, personal degradation, and the inevitable doom of the human race, modern industrial civilization worked out pretty darned well.
“City Noise” • short story by Morgan M. Page
The big city offered refuge to the queer girl; even after the big crash, it seems better than the alternatives. But there’s one thing that makes her leave.…
Not as ominous as that may make it sound. There are the usual human predators, but mostly people keep trying to keep something functioning as best they can. Well, except for the rich people, who have run off to their isolated estates.
“Brown Wave” • short story by Christine Ottoni
A kid is pretty useless in the face of natural disaster. Reasonable people might jettison the kids. Happily for this kid, there’s a local shortage of reasonable people.
Contrary to what most post-apocalyptic and prepper fiction would have you believe, most people will help each other when the chips are down.
“Ruptures” • short story by Jamie Mason
Never let the fact your activities will tear existence apart stop you from making a decent living.
It is not meant as such, but this could be read as Primeval fanfic.
“River Road” • short story by Amanda M. Taylor
Survival in the post-human world is doable… as long as your party does not include an idiot who will bring the invaders down on you.
A surprisingly high fraction of adventuring parties have one or more members with an uncontrollable urge to press big red buttons, even though you would think natural selection would have already eliminated that trait.
“Last Man Standing” • short story by Frank Westcott
Extinction isn’t fun. Not even if you play amusing literary games with your personal account.
Another story in which a doomed survivor tries to improve their experience with literary tricks. Canadians are weird.
“Dog for Dinner” • short story by dvsduncan (sic)
Arranged marriage: another one of society’s chains on a would-be independent woman. Or could it be the key to unlock some of her shackles?
Try not to be a dog in a Canadian post-apocalyptic story. You may be surprised at the animal cruelty depicted in some of these stories… but you must remember: not only are these desperate people in desperate circumstances, but that even in good times, many Canadians take pride in clubbing baby seals to death.
“Maxim Fujiyama and Other Persons” • short story by Claude Lalumière
Maxim didn’t care for people before the end of the world and he does not much care for them now. That doesn’t mean his life needs to be solitary…
Not so long ago, I would have argued that, given the fact that most Canadian writers are selling to US markets and must drop or hide their Canadianisms, talking about Canadian SF would be ludicrous. Knowing an author was Canadian would give no useful information about the fiction they wrote. I’ve come to think I was mistaken.
This anthology, for example, is a lot closer to Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell than the American post-apocalyptic anthologies I have read. American post-apocalyptic fiction is generally a celebration of Yank-style xenophobia and survivalism: a suburbanite conviction that even a small disruption of daily life would turn every neighbor into a ravening beast. Canadians, to the contrary, imagine that people will work together to build new communities in the ruins. Choosing otherwise means certain doom. A lone human wandering the wastelands is not a grand heroic figure, a modern-day Conan; they are a corpse that has not yet stopped twitching.
It’s an idea that may seem peculiar to our southern cousins, but it’s one they might want to consider.
Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse is available here.