I’m not sure why I enjoy reading end of the world scenarios so much, but they’re one of my favorite sub-genres. I mean, I just took an hour walk outside admiring the springtime green, my neighborhood’s lovely flowers, the birds singing, and what do I do when I get home? Decide to write a post recommending end of the world short stories and poems. Because, of course.
So if you only have 10-20 minutes to read, here are 10 online short stories and poems about the end of the world. Afterward, remember to take a breather and admire nature…while it’s still here.
As Good as New by Charlie Jane Anders
Charlie Jane Anders just won a Nebula for her end of the world novel All the Birds in the Sky, one of my favorite novels from 2016. But that wasn’t her first time writing about the end of the world. In “As Good as New,” Marisol — a washed-up playwright who managed to survive the apocalypse — finds a jinni in a bottle. Can her 3 wishes save the world?
So Much Cooking by Naomi Kritzer
A mom’s food blog chronicles her struggles to feed her growing pack of children as H5N1 spreads, causing massive food shortages. A really creative way to write about the apocalypse!
The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster
Originally written in 1909, this short story feels like it could’ve been written yesterday. A highly technological human settlement, run by The Machine, lives in an air-ship after some kind of apocalypse. Vashti’s life changes when her son starts questioning The Machine.
The Red Thread by Sofia Samatar
Sahra records her travels with her mom in letters to her disappeared friend Fox. She and her mom are traveling between human settlements, teaching the remaining children and trying to convince the settlements to live safely. But is Fox receiving Sahra’s letters? And why did he abandon them? This short story is also recently published in Sofia Samatar’s first short story collection — Tender: Stories.
Don’t You Worry, You Aliens by Paul Cornell
An elderly librarian maintains his library even when no one is around to enjoy it. And there’s a dog but he doesn’t die!
when the end is near by Amber Atiya
“i will miss
the woman-lined walls
of tony’s pizza
ordering zeppoles extra
sweet, will miss the urge
to fry bacon in my vegan
lover’s favorite pan”
Gloves by Lisa Rosinsky
“When I dreamed of the apocalypse, the end
came like a liquefying of the sky, the sunrise
and sunset palettes swirling all together”
The Future of Terror / 5 by Matthea Harvey
“In the lantern-light, the lawn speckled
with lead looked lovely. We would live this
down by living it up. My pile of looseleaf
was getting smaller—I wrote in margins,
through marmalade stains, on the backs of maps.”
A Song on the End of the World by Czeslaw Milosz
“On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.”
How it Ends: Three Cities by Catherine Pierce
“This morning we woke to the grackles. Their mouths open, tails oil-black against the blacker pavement. Some had closed their eyes; others had died staring. Cars stopped on Congress and were left, hunched like boulders. The elms, always bright with cries, were still.”
What are some of your favorite end of the world shorts?
2 thoughts on “Shorts on a Theme: The End of the World”
I’m actually going to check The Machine Stops. Sounds very interesting! I’m always very interested with anything ahead of its time. I remember when I was reading War of the Worlds first, I was just dumbstruck about how a Victorian man could come up with all that, just plain fascinating!! And this sounds like something just like it. Thanks for sharing 🙂
It’s very similar!