Yeah, I dunno if I agree that post-apocalypse is all pessimism and nihilism. The whole idea of a ‘post’ apocalyptic life is that life continues. In my GALAXY brain, it implies hope. Humans are not destined to complete extinction, just a change in environment. We’re in for another dark age, but that dark age will pass. Some form of human society, whether it’s violent, cooperative, or something completely different lives on. That is WAY more positive in the way that authors writing during the time the Cuban Missile Crisis. You can see in the art of that time that many people thought the earth was doomed, that humanity is doomed, that NOTHING would be left.
You look at Cold War fiction like ‘On the Beach,’ in which humanity just gives up and allows the radiation to claim the last of humanity. Or you look at something like Threads, which the last shot is of the last survivors of a dying Britain about to succumb to radiation death.
Hell, films like Failsafe are a TON more darker than the darkest post- apocalypse fiction. In that film, the Americans accidentally send a bomber to bomb Moscow and tell him to not respond to anyone trying to stop him. Yes, it’s basically Dr. Strangelove but a lot more sinister. To prevent total war, the Americans decide to nuke their own city as an apology for nuking Moscow. The last scene is New Yorkers going about their day, children playing, people shopping, men laughing at the bar, unaware that they’re all about to be wiped out. It’s a creepy idea that our country is willing to destroy its own people to keep this rickety stack of cards we call America together.
Fiction like Fallout, Terminator, Mad Max, I think are MUCH more positive than the absolution of a doomed earth our Cold War authors thought of. There’s something AFTER the bombs. Especially Fallout… Out of total annihilation, we see new societies emerge, we see The NCR, we see the Minutemen, or the numerous tribes that appear, we see new evolutions of humans that are diverse and interesting. Of course there’s a continuation of the theme that ‘war never changes,’ but it implies humanity lives on to continue those themes. That’s a TON more positive of a take than humanity slowly being poisoned on a beach.
I always find it interesting that post-apocalypse fiction always has the take that the death of the United States is the death of the world. No, it’s just a change. Counties live to a certain point, then they become something else. American fiction of course has this creepy attachment to holding onto the American way of life to the end. You see this with Division 2. I do wanna see more fiction that embraces the idea that perhaps America collapsing could be a good thing… That perhaps a collapse is what we need, so rebirth and something new and progressive can rise. I know that implies a lot of suffering, like a lot of cold war/post-apocalypse fiction already has, but I think you can create cool, neat works like Buried Without Ceremony or other works that are positive about an inclusive, cooperative culture rising out of the ashes of the old.