Friday, March 4, 2016

Commentary On The Free Post Apocalyptic Download ' The City At The World's End' By Edmond Hamilton For Your Old School Post Apocalyptic Campaigns

So earlier tonight Trey over at From The Scocerer's Skull posted a really solid blog post about one of my all time favorite author's public domain books. He posted about an rpg setting based upon William Hope Hodgeson's Nightlands. You can read about this post right over here. The blog post reminded me of one of my all time favorite books by Edmond Hamilton called the City At The World's End. This is another public domain science fiction book with a ton of material to mine for a post apocalyptic rpg setting. The book's tag line really sells this one; "In one split second, a group of ordinary people was catapulted by a mysterious explosion across time into a terrifyingly strange world a million years away."


Imagine growing up in the 1950's Midwestern America small town U.S.A. and you find that right above your heads an atomic weapon has gone off. Suddenly there's a blinding flash, and your someplace else. Not simply some place else in space but time. This is the story of a small town and its dawning realization that they're entire existence has been thrust deep into time way into the future.
After the opening chapter the truth confronts scientists with the unthinkable: a superatomic bomb has fallen on Middletown, a small American city hiding a secret anti atomic laboratory, severing it from its surroundings; the sun is now red and drawn out, the moon is unrecognizable, the temperature is low. Various hypotheses are considered to explain all of this, and the most unlikely might well be the one closest to the truth. After the initial event has occurred, transmission of knowledge proceeds in a myriad of interesting ways: between scientific and non-scientific Middletownians The text and dialogue are a quick two step of science fiction. There's lots going on here with the main male character dealing with not only the implications of what's been happening but a fight for survival as the town itself tries to cope with the dawning revelations that something extraordinary has taken place. Earth is covered with acre after acre of strangely abandoned domed cities.The perfect place to stage a mega dungeon or ruined urban center for a post apocalytic game such as Mutant Future or Mutant Epoch.  The sense of loneliness and weirdness in these chapters is high pulp and the novel shares many instances of things in common with William Hope Hodgeson's the Night Lands. Earth is in the throws of the far future death grip , this is a similar location to that which is hinted at in H.G. Well's The Time Machine, the Earth has cooled, & this is a dying world. There's lots of weird bits in this novel  for example. Mankind has spread among the stars and has been genetically modified to live on various world  in the vast interstellar empire. The aliens are in fact us. This makes this novel an excellent excuse to introduce all kinds of mutates, mutants, and alien races that have been adapted to live on other worlds and yet must cope with being thrown together aboard a ship or exploring the ruins of Earth's past.
These aliens however have far more in common with the so called primitives then they do with the citizens of the Galactic Empire. The story is great from a post apocalyptic perspective because it allows on to really get into quite a bit of cross over with out actually giving up the fight for survival on a dying Earth. The vast unexplored cities are perfect mega dungeon locations and are great for putting whatever little twisted creations you might want to throw at your players as a DM.

I remain a huge Edmond Hamilton fan and there are some issues with this book. There are plenty of 1950's mores and norms here and that has to be taken into account. This novel is ground breaking in the sense that there is a strong female star ship captain and though she falls for the male lead there's more behind this then simple sexism. 
Hamilton and Leigh Brackett are two of my all time favorite writers from the age of pulps and there's a wealth of material that can be pulled and mined from The City At The World's End.


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