What elements are needed to write a frighteningly plausible post-apocalyptic story?
I'm working on a PA novel. One thing that is hanging me up is the general implausibility of most PA stories. Even the really good ones tend to rely on some kind of Big Obvious Thing, like atomic destruction, mega tsunamis, zombies or alien invasion.
These ideas are cool but I'm looking for something a bit more subtle, or more grounded in naturalism. It occurs to me the the 14th century black plague was maybe the closest humanity ever got to this kind of thing. That intrigues me.
I also thought the BBC's Survivors show was quite good (the 2008 version
, haven't seen the 70s one), as an example. Likewise I recently enjoyed the WOOL series
, though it tends to be a bit too Big Ideas for what I'm after. And Cormac McCarthy's The Road was brilliantly bleak, but he intentionally ignored the worldbuilding to keep it from distracting his father-son story, so...
Okay enough meandering, here are some more specific questions:
1. Is there gold standard of PA fic I should know about?
2. What elements in a PA story would make it rise above a sea of pretenders? (not talking about character dev/good plotting...I'm thinking more about milieu, back-story and general plausibility issues)
3. Are there any good narrative histories/analyses about the Plage/Black Death that could inform a good PA story?
3b. The little I do know about the era of the Black Death is that it played a big role in cultural and especially religious thought. Are there any books that explore that specifically? Is there anything I could read to get a better understanding of how watershed events in general shape cultures, especially religious/tribal attitudes?
Bonus question: historical analyses/insight on how cults and religious societies form