Earth Abides

Isherwood Williams — call me "Ish" — is a graduate student doing field research high in the remote Sierra Nevada mountains, but when he comes into town for supplies everyplace seems curiously deserted.



& links

Feb. 6, 2023

Yup, it looks like all of humanity has been wiped out by a new and ferocious disease, leaving one man alone against the world.

That's a very familiar scenario in books and movies, but I've never seen it told as well, and in such detail, as in the novel I've just finished reading, Earth Abides, by George R Stewart.

I'll be dead before the full brunt of climate change finishes society's slow collapse, but this book is a vivid peek at what's coming soon.

Ish was unlucky enough to survive the pandemic. For a while he believes he's the only one, but there are others. Most of those who weren't killed, though, couldn't cope with the immediate aftermath — the solitude, the silence. They went nuts.

But Isherwood Williams has the good fortune to be a natural introvert, so he's better equipped for this strangely quiet place.

He makes a few friends, and eventually finds a wife. Rather daringly for fiction written in the 1940s, she's of another race, but with so few of us left, 'human' is the only race.

And so begins the next generation, a handful of people who know nothing of our world except that food comes from tin cans, and legends of "the Americans," and have little interest in books, art, or history.

Without government and without laws, the new people make up their rules as they go, sometimes foolishly, sometimes fatally.

The detail in this book is remarkable. It spans about fifty years, and the author has considered everything — how long before the electricity begins flickering out, the faucets run dry, the rats multiply, the highways are overrun with weeds, wild animals encroach on the suburbs, the bridges collapse, lightning strikes and cities burn, etc. 

Earth Abides asks and answers profound questions about the nature of our species, but it's not entirely brainy — it's also a rousing adventure. Same as it will be when the book's story basically comes true, soon.

And then, as in the book, it'll be a thousand years before there's anyone on Earth with the time and interest to again ponder such philosophical matters.

This goes on my very small shelf with a few other books, to be re-read as many times as I can before dying.

I do not at all like the recent redesign at Wikipedia. It is bizarre and wrong to have clickable items on the left, and the actual text of an article on the right.

I do not at all like the recent redesign at IMDB. Spreading information that used to be on one page across three pages is great for the click count, but not so great for the people clicking. I still mourn for the IMDB of the late 1990s, which was far more functional than the IMDB of 2023.

Same with YouTube, same with Gmail, same with Amazon, and with every site that's ever been redesigned. It's a law, like Moore's or Murphy's: Every website redesign makes everything worse.

This site, I pledge to you, will remain clunky but functional, and will never be redesigned, until I die and it fades off the internet forever.

Re-typing my old zine Pathetic Life, page by page, I've just taken a look at my copy of #21 for the first time in decades, and to my dismay, it's missing two pages.

A couple of years ago, the internet came to my rescue when I'd misplaced an entire issue of PL, so I googled, and to my surprise, I'm in my own local library.  

So yesterday I took a #120 bus to downtown, escalatored up to the library's Level 7 Aviation Room (ask at the Level 8 desk), and found something called the ZAPP Zine Collection, where in a dusty folder in a locked bin, there was a copy of Pathetic Life #21. Escorted by a security guard, I photocopied two pages I'd typed and photocopied 27 years ago.

It's the closest I've ever come to feeling that I've left a mark in the world.

News you need,
whether you know it or not

Satanic Temple opens abortion clinic named after anti-choice Supreme Court Justice Alito's mother 

Colorado River crisis so severe lakes Mead and Powell are unlikely to refill in our lifetimes 

New York City pays $121 million for police misconduct, the most in 5 years 

No immunity for cops who shot man multiple times, then searched his house for evidence of "assaulting an officer"

Rikers reports first death in 2023 of person in custody, after deadliest year in quarter century 

Cop used traffic stops to sexually assaulted women 

LAPD officer caught saying "happy hunting" before fatal shooting gets 2-day suspension

Cop gets one whole year in jail for shooting unarmed neighbor in the back, twice, five years ago

Mystery links
There's no knowing where you're going




Clicks ahoy

Mississippi banned Sesame Street for showing Black and White kids playing 

How a single line of code brought down a half-billion euro rocket launch 

What is the most successful Hollywood movie of all time? Well, it depends how you look at it. 

Origami is revolutionizing technology, from medicine to space 

Gattaca is still pertinent 25 years later 

Aquatic telephones let skin divers talk under water, 1957

♫♬  Mix tape of my mind  ♫

Close Encounters of the Third Kind — John Williams 

Fishies — Cat Empire 

Incense & Peppermints — Strawberry Alarm Clock 

No Bad News — The Wiz 

Someday Soon — Judy Collins 

Eventually, everyone
leaves the building

Jacques Bloch 

Melinda Dillon 

Gwen Knapp 

Marion Meade 

Will Steffen 

Brian Tufano 


Cranky Old Fart is annoyed and complains and very occasionally offers a kindness, along with anything off the internet that's made me smile or snarl. All opinions fresh from my ass. Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.
Tip 'o the hat to Linden Arden, ye olde AVA, BoingBoing, Breakfast at Ralf's, Captain Hampockets, CaptCreate's Log, John the Basket, LiarTownUSA, Meme City, National Zero, Ran Prieur, Voenix Rising, and anyone else whose work I've stolen without saying thanks.
Special thanks to Becky Jo, Name Withheld, Dave S, Wynn Bruce, and always extra special thanks to my lovely late Stephanie, who gave me 21 years and proved that the world isn't always shitty.


  1. I read Earth Abides quite a few years ago. I MIGHT even still have my copy, back in New Jersey. I'll look for it next time I go back. I remember liking it, but I was a kid, maybe 18, and 30 years on, there's a lot of perspective.


    Doowap doo wap doo wap!

  2. The words "Gone With The Wind" appear nowhere in your article about successful movies.


    Not that I give a shit, I'm just a pedantic statistic nerd.

    1. EARTH ABIDES is better than my brief review conveyed. It's not even all that long, but so much happens it feels like reading three good novels.

      Yeah, you'll notice all the graphics and stats in the article start in 1970. It's a stupid perspective but I see it so often I'm dulled to it — lots of people who consider themselves movie buffs think movies started in the 1970s, or the 1990s. They'll talk about seeing a really, really *really* old movie and it turns out they're talking about HOME ALONE.

  3. Holy shit, the SPL also has my zine. Fuck that! I'll send you 50 bucks, Holland, if you go down there and destroy those for me.

    Glad you liked Earth Abides. It's not a page-turner, and it took a while to grab me, but I find myself thinking about it all the time, years later. It and Canticle For Leibowitz must be my two favorite post-apocalyptic novels.

  4. There's nothing to be embarrassed about in your old zines, man. But if you send me fifty bucks I'll *tell* you I went down there and destroyed them.

    I read CANTICLE many years ago, when I was trying to read all the great sci-fi books. That's about the post-apocalyptic monks, right? Pretty good, as I recall.

    So how come, if I was reading the greats of sci-fi, I never read EARTH ABIDES until 2023? Hell of an oversight.

    1. It was Stewart's only science fiction, I believe. He wrote an interesting novel about a storm which I understand was responsible for our current "naming" of hurricanes, and lots of non-fiction about names (places, people, etc.) and other historical stuff.

      Have you read Alas, Babylon? I flew through it in a couple days... but it's terrible in so many ways. It treats nuclear holocaust like an episode of the Flintstones.

      Recently read William Brinkley's The Last Ship, which was very good, but ridiculously longwinded. The good stuff is *so* good, though... the survivors (a military vessel) cruising the world's shores, seeing the victims on the beaches, playing worldwide "tag" with a Russian sub, then meeting and cooperating with them, creating a new society on an unpolluted island, then an absolutely terrible turn of events that puts them back at ground zero... anyway, worth reading for the good parts, be prepared to skip over lengthy sections of the Captain pondering his duties in multi-page soliloquies.

      Or, just skip to the best (and shortest) holocaust book ever written, John Hersey's Hiroshima.

    2. ALAS BABYLON sounds like a book I tried to read it and gave up on, decades ago. I give up a lot, when a book is too difficult. Same with math. 'Challenging' is good, but sometimes I'm not up to the challenge.

      THE LAST SHIP sounds challenging, too. :)

      John Hersey's HIROSHIMA — I'm at the library's reservations page (where I just canceled PLAYTIME, thanks, since you've reassured me I'm OK without subtitles) and the cover says "Everyone able to read should read it," which seems like a strong recommendation.

  5. Lookin' for a book, maybe I'll get Earth Abides...I never reread a book...Eel P

    1. You never re-read a book? Not even THE BIBLE? Man, I *always* re-read a great book. Chances are, it won't disappoint me.

  6. ~ Chance Beginnings ~February 7, 2023 at 9:50 PM

    I copied the dog meme you posted. Made me smile. Thx.

    1. And I, of course, copied it from somewhere else. So goes the internet. :)

  7. Replies
    1. I will see your anonymous yep, and raise you another yep.


The site's software sometimes swallows comments. For less frustration, send an email and I'll post it as a comment.