disaster adj.

designating a genre that deals with a global catastrophe (natural, man-made, or extraterrestrial in origin) and its aftermath

Esp. in disaster novel.

SF Encyclopedia

SF Criticism


  • 1975 N.Y. Times 23 Nov. 53/1

    From the team that brought you the screenplay of ‘The Glass Inferno’ comes a disaster novel that makes their earlier effort seem pale as a cookout.

  • 1976 ‘L. del Rey’ Reference Library in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact Feb. 171/1 Lester del Rey

    No Blade of Grass, by John Christopher (Equinox, $1.95, 190 pp.) may be the best of the ‘British disaster’ type of science fiction, classically exemplified by H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. Here the disaster is a virus that attacks all grass, including the cereals that provide food for most of mankind.

  • 1979 B. Searles et al. Reader's Guide to Science Fiction 12 Baird Searles bibliography

    J.G. Ballard stands oddly and enigmatically apart from the mainstream of science fiction. Although his early work, particularly his first four novels, continued an especially British theme (the ‘disaster’ novel), they had the quality of being internalized; most s-f tends to be militantly externalized.

  • 1979 D. Pringle Disaster Novel in P. Nicholls Encyclopedia of Science Fiction 173/1 David Pringle

    American disaster novels are fewer in number. Oddly enough, where British writers reveal an obsession with the weather, American writers show a strong concern for disease.

  • 1982 D. Hartwell The Golden Age of Science Fiction is Twelve in Top of News (1982, issue number unknown) 146 David G. Hartwell

    Ballard continued to produce such stories into the early 1960s and then emerged as a novelist with four disaster novels, The Wind from Nowhere, The Drowned World, The Burning World, and The Crystal World.

  • 1986 G. K. Wolfe Critical Terms for Science Fiction & Fantasy 22 Gary K. Wolfe bibliography

    Cosmic disaster story, Kingsley Amis' phrase for a long-popular tradition of science fiction and fantasy stories that deal with world- or even universe-threatening disasters brought on by natural forces (as in John Christopher’s No Blade of Grass, 1956, which Amis discusses) or by human folly (as in numerous nuclear war tales; see Post-Holocaust). Amis argues that such tales differ from other science fiction in that they bear no real extrapolative or analogical relationship with our own society, but instead may be used to explore propositions about the nature of society and human interaction. (Amis does not mention the nature of reality, which came increasingly to be of central concern in J. G. Ballard’s series of disaster novels such as The Crystal World, 1966.) Such works are perhaps more commonly referred to simply as ‘disaster stories’ or ‘disaster novels’.

  • 1987 J. J. Pierce Great Themes of Science Fiction viii. 143 John J. Pierce

    John Christopher (1922— ) is a specialist in the realistic, Earthbound disaster novel, and his No Blade of Grass (1956, as The Death of Grass ) is typical of the school: A mutant virus infects the world’s grain crops, leaving billions to face starvation.

  • 2002 Locus Sept. 27/2

    You've heard of raining cats and dogs? It gets worse here; much worse… He captures the same sort of arid power so often admired in J. G. Ballard’s classic disaster novels.

Research requirements

antedating 1975

Earliest cite

Martin Levin in the New York Times Book Review

Research History
Jeff Prucher submitted a cite from a reprint of the Nicholls "Encyclopedia of SF"; Mike Christie verified the cite in a 1981 reprint, and Rick Hauptmann subsequently verified it in the 1979 first edition.
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1986 cite from Gary Wolfe's "Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy".
Jeff Prucher submitted a 2002 cite from a review column by Ed Bryant in Locus.
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1984 cite from David Hartwell's "Age of Wonders".
Jeff Prucher submitted a cite from a 1991 reprint of the 1985 "Oxford Companion to English Literature".
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1987 cite from John J. Pierce's "Great Themes in Science Fiction".
Irene Grumman submitted a 1979 cite from "A Reader's Guide to Science Fiction" by Baird Searles (et al.).
Bill Mullins submitted a 1975 cite from a review by Martin Levin in the New York Times Book Review.

Last modified 2020-12-16 04:08:47
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.