Unexpected "Radium Age" stories

less than 1 minute read

I was enjoying a Nature discussion of “radium age” sci-fi literature, when this line caught me by surprise:

In Jack London's post-apocalyptic The Scarlet Plague (1912), a race of barbarians descended from San Francisco's brutalized underclass roam the city's devastated remains after the fatal pandemic of 2013.

Wait a minute, Jack London wrote a zombie story?

Well, it’s more Postman than zombies, but it’s available on the Kindle for 99 cents: The Scarlet Plague (Annotated - Includes Essay and Biography). (UPDATE 2012-09-23: A reader notes that the story is also available for free from Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/21970).

Here’s the description:

The story takes place in 2073, sixty years after an uncontrollable epidemic, the Red Death, has depopulated the planet. James Howard Smith is one of the few survivors of the pre-plague era left alive in the San Francisco area, and as he realizes his time grows short, he tries to impart the value of knowledge and wisdom to his grandsons.

They’ve apparently reverted to a Stone Age lifestyle, which does explain the Jack London element. I also love discovering that When the World Shook was written by H. Rider Haggard, better known for King Solomon’s Mines.