tag: Post-Apocalyptic

A Terran Odyssey

The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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“A Terran Odyssey” is a curiosity since it’s just an abridged version of Dick’s novel Dr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb. I don’t believe it was published anywhere until it was included in a short story collection in 1987, and it’s not clear to me if he assembled this story after Dr. Bloodmoney or if he wrote it before. Either way it appears to be identical to what’s in the novel except Bruno Bluthgeld is nowhere to be found (although they do mention Jack Tree at the beginning), and some subplots like the one involving Walter Dangerfield have been expanded in the book. Dr. Bloodmoney is a favorite of mine so I would suggest just reading that instead.

Cast of characters

See notes on Dr. Bloodmoney

Planet for Transients

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First published in Fantastic Universe Oct-Nov 1953

A human named Trent sets off across the radioactive surface of Earth from an underground settlement in Pennsylvania, where food and oxygen supplies are dwindling, in search of another human settlement that can help them survive. On his trek he encounters three different groups of mutants who have adapted to thrive in that environment in the three hundred and fifty years since the nuclear war. 

He eventually finds another settlement, and they let Trent know the hard truth that humans have made Earth inhospitable for themselves and forfeited their right to live there anymore. The Earth belongs to all the mutants, and the humans deserve this for nuking the surface. They are leaving for good in search of other planets in a rocket they have constructed, and they agree to take Trent’s group with them. 

Cast of characters

  • Trent
  • Jackson and Earl Potter – friendly mutants Trent runs into on the surface. They also show up in the wasteland of Deus Irae.
  • Norris – a human in the settlement leaving Earth

A Surface Raid

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First published in Fantastic Universe Jul 1955

A race of mutants that evolved from scientists and scholars just before the third World War survived in their underground labs and factories as the humans above destroyed the Earth’s surface. Two hundred years later these subsurface dwellers periodically venture up to capture saps (as they call their unevolved Homo Sapien ancestors) to use for manual labor. Young Harl has just learned what the saps actually are and when he finds out his father Ed is planning a surface raid for saps he demands to tag along. 

The crew is equipped with screens that render them invisible and once aboveground they are able to observe the saps in their primitive tribal existence. Harl is enamored with a young sap woman, and when she is alone he disables his screen in an attempt to make contact. She runs in fear, alerting the others in the tribe and prematurely ending the raid. 

In a narrative gimmick Dick often used in his stories around this time, he ends with a change in the point of view, in this case switching to the tribe’s perspective, and with names like Julie, Ken and Mr. Stebbins perhaps they aren’t the savages they seem to be. Julie describes to the others the pale, sickly apparition she saw, and Mr. Stebbins informs her she saw a goblin, the creatures like men, but not men, who live and dig tunnels underground.

Cast of characters

  • Harl Boynton – a member of the Youth League
  • Edward Boynton – Harl’s father planning the surface raid
  • Robin Turner – Ed’s assistant
  • Fashold – a Youth League leader
  • Julie, Ken, Mr. Stebbins – aboveground Homo Sapiens

The Great C

Paycheck and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Cosmos Science Fiction #1 Sep 1953

In a post-apocalyptic, far-off future an artificial intelligence responsible for the Earth’s nuclear destruction demands a yearly sacrifice from the planet’s surviving humans. A youth from one of the tribes makes the long trek out to speak to the Great C to attempt to stump it with three questions. The Great C easily answers these questions (where does rain come from, what keeps the sun moving through the sky, and how did the world begin) and the youth is dissolved in a vat of acid providing fuel for the Great C for another year.

Both Tibor and Pete encounter the Great C in Dick’s Zelazny collaboration Deus Irae, although in that book the Great C is more of a trickster trying to feed on passerby.

In 2018 Secret Location released a VR movie based on this story that also borrows the idea of the computer’s female avatar from Deus Irae

Cast of characters

  • Walter Kent – the tribe leader
  • Tim Meredith – that year’s sacrifice to the Great C
  • Bill Gustavson, Anne Fry, John Page – members of the tribe


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First published in Galaxy Science Fiction Nov 1955

After a war leaves humans scattered in settlements around the U.S., unmanned automatic factories continue to churn out consumer goods while expanding and using up more and more natural resources.

Humans, lacking any other way to stop these autofacs, pit the factories in adjacent cities against each other as the autofacs scavenge for the same raw materials. The Kansas City factory ends up destroyed by a factory from another city, or at least it appears that way until the humans discover that deep underground the factory has started to manufacture miniature replicas of the factory itself that will presumably take over the entire earth.

This story was adapted for season one of Electric Dreams which takes the premise in a different direction with a not-too-satisfying twist ending.

Cast of characters

Earl Perine, Morrison, O’Neill, Judith O’Neill – members of a settlement in Kansas City

Second Variety

Second Variety and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Space Science Fiction May 1953

A war between Russia and the U.S. left the world’s cities destroyed. The American government fled to a secret base on the moon, while behind on Earth a skeleton crew of soldiers fights what remains of the Soviet Army. The Americans have the vicious robotic claws on their side until the claws learn to evolve. Deep in underground factories the claws begin to build machines, indistinguishable from humans, that kill without loyalty to Russia or the Americans.

While traveling to meet with the Russians, the American Major Hendricks finds this out when he encounters the young child David, the third variety of these robot simulacra. The Russians tell him about the first robot variety, but then the question becomes which one of them is the second variety pretending to be human.

The next story Dick wrote is a sequel of sorts called “Jon’s World” that takes place in the future after the war. The 1995 movie Screamers based on “Second Variety” starring Peter “RoboCop” Weller sticks close to the short story and managed to entertain me in spite of some 90s-era special effects.

Cast of characters

  • Major Hendricks – our protagonist
  • David – the third robot variety
  • Klaus Epstein – a Russian soldier
  • Rudi Maxer – a corporal in the Soviet army
  • Tasso – a young girl embedded with the Russians