There’s a certain strain of post-apocalyptic speculative fiction that gives off a curious prairiecore vibe. I don’t mean full-skirted dresses and basket weaving, but dreamlike journeys through a semi-rural American landscape that take subdued, earthtoned approaches to science fiction. Station Eleven is probably the best-known example of this trend that I literally just made up (full disclosure, I’ve only seen the show)—and at times, a little bit of Sweet Tooth and some of the Westworld HBO series.
This subgenre (I hesitate to use prairiepunk, which has apparently been claimed by a specific fandom—I’m hesitant to use “-punk” appellations at all) is filled with visually-driven explorations of our relationship with the natural environment on the cusp of revival. This is fertile ground for obsolete or hidden technologies that are romanticized and mythologized by various characters. There’s a feeling of movement, drifting, and even a bit of the surreal midwestern mood that Samuel R. Delany captured so freakishly well in Dhalgren—a literary oddity that lesser science fiction writers still aspire (and fail) to replicate. And as with life on the prairie, there’s also that central pillar of family—biological or otherwise—and the ways in which people cling to ideas of each other.
Walk the Vanished Earth follows the same paths with compelling, sometimes perplexing results.