cosy catastrophe: Brian Aldiss’s term for a type of esp. British disaster story, exemplified by John Wyndham, in which the protagonist suffers relatively little hardship.
Corpses seem to be a bit passe this season at that in stf if nowhere else. Certainly the old catastrophe story of years gone by can no longer make the grade except in superlative form.
The urge to write another ‘catastrophe’ story must be very like the urge that drove the late Cecil B. DeMille to produce his super-colossal spectacles. You can assemble a cast of millions and use a setting as big as the world. You are practically unlimited as to special effects.
Anyone who has composed any catastrophe story has dealt in this knowledgeable and inoffensive journalistic language.
The essence of cosy catastrophe is that the hero should have a pretty good time (a girl, free suites at the Savoy, automobiles for the taking) while everyone else is dying off.
One of the qualities that the world destroyers brought to their catastrophe s-f, and this applies particularly to Wyndham, was a kind of non-melodramatic verismo, a typically British common sense approach which made for an enormously realistic feel to the horrible situations conjured up.
Even the classically British scenario of meteorological apocalypse—the sun has caught a nasty cold from a plug of dark matter and has to be bombed back to life—owes little to our noble native tradition of catastrophe fiction, set as it is entirely in space with only one brief scene of the benighted earth at the end.
It’s not difficult to trace its lineage back to the so-called ‘cosy catastrophe’ authors who brought the civilised world to its knees.
editorial note in Thrilling Wonder Stories
We would like cites of any date from other authors.
Last modified 2020-12-27 10:25:19
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.