After the End – Stories of Life After the Apocalypse

After the End by Cora BuhlertWhen the apocalypse has come and gone, life still goes on for the survivors struggling to adapt to the new normal.

In a drowned world, the descendants of surface dwellers remember the cities that were lost, the inhabitants of ocean floor colonies cling to outmoded customs and scavengers search the flooded ruins for anything that might be of use. In a world ravaged by droughts, two college students come face to face with how the other half lives. A lone explorer traverses the icy wasteland that used to be Europe. A group of children travels across a zombie-infested America in search of shelter and safety. After a robot uprising, a police officer is assigned to clean-up duties and finds an unexpected miracle among the ruins. And in a world blasted by electromagnetic solar storms, a nineteenth century technology suddenly becomes the sole means of long distance communication.

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Some background information:

  • After the End is a collection of eight post-apocalyptic short stories of 24500 words altogether. All stories in this collection are digital premieres and have never been published previously.
  • All but one of the stories contained in this collection were written as part of the 2016 July short story challenge. The idea was to write a short story per day in July 2016.
  • Like many other stories written during the July short story challenge, seven of the stories contained in After the End were inspired by pieces of science fiction and fantasy art. The artworks which inspired the stories are (click on the link to see the image): “Funeral Rites”, “Memorial Service”, “Scavengers”, “Picnic at Seashell Beach”, “Shelter”, “Railroad Town”, “Felix”.
  • The sole exception is “Lifeline” which was inspired by visiting the restored optical telegraph in Brake (see a photo here) and thinking, “Hey, this would be great as a long distance communication medium after the apocalypse.”
  • Optical telegraphs or semaphores were a long distance communication medium from the late 18th to the mid 19th century, until they were superceded by electrical telegraphs. The Bremen-Bremerhaven optical telegraph line, to which the restored station in Brake belongs, was established in 1846 and only active for a few years. You can learn more about this line here.
  • The Bremerhaven car terminal, one of the biggest transshipment points for cars and other vehicles in the world, is briefly mentioned in “Lifeline” and shows up again, sort of, in “Shelter”. Approximately four thousand cars arrive at the car terminal every day and wait on huge lots and in multi-storey car parks to be forwarded to their final destination. It’s really an amazing sight and I think everybody has thought of climbing over the fence and nicking a brand-new car at least once, just like Paul tells Karla in “Lifeline”.
  • The description of the car carrier that saves Ryan’s life is based on the GA plans and interior photos of the giant car carriers that regularly arrive at Bremerhaven. There even is a real car carrier called MV Aniara that is operated by Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, a company specialising in vehicle transports that has named all of their vessels after operas for some reason. I picked the MV Aniara because of the SFnal implications of the name, which is a reference to the epic science fiction poem Aniara by Swedish Nobel laureate Harry Martinson and the eponymous opera adaptation by Karl Birger Blomdahl. You can see a photo of the real MV Aniara here.
  • In addition to being all set after the apocalypse has come and gone, the other theme that unites the stories collected in After the End is hope. All stories are set in the new normal after the apocalypse and usually feature young characters for whom this post-apocalyptic world is the only world you know and for whom stories of life before are just fairy tales.
  • And because the theme is not just the end of the world, but also hope, it’s no coincidence that the collection begins with a funeral and ends with a man holding a baby in his arms.
  • The cover is stock art by Jonny Lindner. I picked it because the mixture of decay and hope fit the stories perfectly.
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