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Title: The Not So Cozy Catastrophe: Reimagining the British Disaster Novel in J.G. Ballard's "The Drowned World" (1962) and Brian Aldiss's "Barefoot in the Head" (1969)
Authors: Daley, C
Keywords: Science fiction;Disaster fiction;J.G. Ballard;Brian Aldiss;John Wyndham;H.G. Wells;New wave science fiction
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: London and New York: Routledge
Citation: In: Germana, M., and Mousoutzanis, A., (eds.) Apocalyptic Discourse in Contemporary Culture: Post-Millennial Perspectives on the End of the World, 2014, pp. 133 - 147
Abstract: Emerging from the fin-de-siècle writings of H.G. Wells, British disaster fiction maintained a perpetual link, prior to the Second World War, with the distinctive sub-genre of scientific romance. Following the war, the genre was temporarily revived for a Cold War audience by John Wyndham through novels including "The Day of the Triffids" (1951) and "The Kraken Wakes" (1953). Wyndham’s fiction relies on tracing the struggles and subsequent successes of archetypal English suburbanites as they witness societal breakdown following ecological terror. What is noticeable about Wyndham’s narratives is the salvageable nature of the post-apocalyptic landscapes they depict, with Brian Aldiss famously labelling Wyndham as the “master of the cozy catastrophe”. This chapter will argue that the emergence of the New Wave in science fiction during the 1960s produced a stylistic and political challenge to this “cozy” formula. Focusing on J.G. Ballard’s "The Drowned World" (1962) and Brian Aldiss’s "Barefoot in the Head" (1969), this chapter will examine the ways in which such texts subvert traditional forms of catastrophe writing while also tracing the continuities between these later narratives and earlier works.
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