I remember first reading McCarthy’s The Road in high school. His style captured
me—so bleak and bare and beautiful. I loved the way his writing mimicked the end of
the world. The world he portrayed was hard to look away from, even if I wasn’t
entirely sure why.
I remember the scene where the father shows his son the house he grew up in. To the
father, it’s a rich world, full with the memories of the past. To the son, the house is only
a danger. Yet they are both forced to live in this new world together. They both walk
down the same road: I wonder if that is part of why people are drawn to this type of
story. They are stories that unite us in a world that feels increasingly divided. There is a
joy in imagining a dark future world where survival is what matters most.
It’s part of why I started writing my own post-apocalyptic novel on Wattpad, The Last
She, about a girl who thinks she might be the last woman left in the world. She
decides to return to the ruins of her hometown, Boise, to find out what really happened
to her family and the world. Writing The Last She was my chance to reimagine my
hometown, to see the places I’ve grown up with in a darker light. And I’ve found that
others enjoy it too. Other readers who live in Boise, or have visited, love to tell me
about the different locations in the novel they’d visited, and how they too like to
imagine them differently than they are.
I wonder if that is the appeal of these stories. Dystopian and post-apocalyptic worlds
unite us, young and old, rich and poor, in a future that is dark and bleak. We
collectively step into worlds where children are ripped from their parents to fight to
the death, where a father travels a barren road with his son, or, as in my debut novel
The Last She, where a girl who thinks she might be the last girl on earth. It’s brutal. It’s
survival. It’s an exploration of who we truly are, or what we might become, in a way
that strips away our labels and makes us all equal. It becomes a collective, terrible,
imagined future, and the more terrible it becomes, the closer we crowd to watch it.
As I write the third and final novel in my post-apocalyptic trilogy, The Last She Series, I
find myself wondering why we feel the need to read these stories, and why I’ve felt the need to write them.
Maybe it’s because these stories offer us a collective
experience that unites us in pain and joy alike. Maybe it’s because I want to see a world
that is even worse than our own, but where characters triumph regardless. Maybe it’s
because these stories feel like a dream meant to prepare us for a possible future. I’m
not sure, but I’m grateful people still want to experience something together. Even if it
is the end.
About The Author
H.J. Nelson is an Idaho native who graduated from University of Wisconsin with
degrees in Creative Writing and Wildlife Biology. She began writing on Wattpad in
2015, where her story The Last She was one of the most read science fiction stories in
2016 and 2017. Since then her works have been optioned for television by Sony and
garnered over twelve million reads.
When not writing, Nelson has lived on a boat in the
British Virgin Isles, worked in two zoos and ridden an
elephant through the jungles of Laos— though she
considers raising two daughters her most dangerous
adventure yet. You can sign up for her newsletter at
hjnelsonauthor.com, find her on Wattpad @hjnelson and on Instagram at @h.j.nelson.