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