Guest Post: “Writing About the End of the World Near the End of the World” by Olivia Cole

Copyright: Deena Danielle Photography

Meet Olivia Cole.

Olivia Cole is an author and blogger from Louisville, KY. She is the author of the New Adult series PANTHER IN THE HIVE and a Young Adult series, including books A CONSPIRACY OF STARS (2018) and AN ANATOMY OF BEASTS (2019). Her essays have been published at Bitch Media, Real Simple, the LA Times, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, and others. Olivia is the creator and curator of the all-women science-fiction themed art show KINDRED. She teaches creative writing at the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts. Olivia is represented by Regina Brooks of Serendipity Literary Agency.

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The Guest Post.

Writing About the End of the World Near the End of the World


It’s not the end end. But we’re getting there. Earth will go on, perhaps, but humans seem determined to ensure that the place we have called home since we evolved out of the mud will no longer make itself hospitable to our survival. We did this. And we write about it and make movies about it, all imagining the end that will eventually come, and which comes closer every day, with every law passed and not passed, with every belch of pollution, with every factory’s roar. We write about the end of the world as if it is something that will happen to someone else.


Myself included.


In PANTHER IN THE HIVE, the first book in the first series I ever wrote, life in America as we know it goes up in flames when a chip designed for elite healthcare turns its hosts into flesh-eating zombies. In A CONSPIRACY OF STARS and its sequel AN ANATOMY OF BEASTS, humans have fled their Origin Planet, destroyed by war and climate change, and ended up on the planet Faloiv, where they threaten to repeat the same mistakes. As a younger writer, I cut my teeth on books by Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy…books that looked ahead and saw a world speeding toward an edge and an edge that also sped toward the world, a thunderous clash inevitable. As a younger person, I read these books with a fascinated dread, and also with a racing eye: looking for the solution, an answer that any one of these brilliant authors might offer that would tell me how we could avoid the thing they saw lying in wait for us. Now that I’m older, I realize this impulse was naïve and lazy, but also not atypical. I think many of us approach these books with the same paralyzed horror that we approach report after report on climate change: this could be real. This could be us. This could be me. This is real. This is us. This is me…if something doesn’t change. If something doesn’t change. If something doesn’t change.


It’s something I’m thinking about as I draft my next book, a middle grade (you guessed it) post-apocalyptic novel. How can I offer answers when I don’t have them? What good does writing about the end of the world do, this close to the end? So that in a hundred years someone can look back, read our words, and be baffled that we knew what was coming…and did nothing? So I ask myself why I do this. What’s the point? And I’ve decided I do this for at least three reasons.


  • I have hope. The outlook is bleak, but I believe if we make the right changes, if we start treating this planet like the mother it is, like the sacred thing it is, that we can at least calm the storm we’ve brought on our heads and preserve some of what we have left. It’s one of the reasons why, in A CONSPIRACY OF STARS, I focus so much on accountability and avoiding repetition of past mistakes.
  • I believe in change. I’ve learned a lot from Octavia Butler, but her words in Parable of the Sower have stuck with me most: “the only lasting truth is Change.” I know our world will change, and I want to change with it. As we shed toxic, violent systems, I want to imagine what the outcomes will be. How will those systems transform if not eradicated? And how can we eradicate them once and for all?
  • Survival requires imagination. New inventions, new ways of empathizing and approaching humanity, new ways of living our lives. My imagination is always running, looking for the solution, hoping to strike gold.


The ice is melting. The oceans are warming. The sun becomes unkind. I don’t know how long we’ll be here. But I imagine our survival. I imagine the beautiful things about us being what survives: our love, our art, our courage, our innovation. The best things about our species can be what saves us if the worst things don’t kill us first. Which will it be? I’m going to write about both…and always, always with hope.

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