The City, Not Long After

The City, Not Long AfterTITLE: The City, Not Long After
AUTHOR: Pat Murphy
PUB DATE: February 1990
SECONDARY THREAT: Invasion, martial law

Of all the apocalypse novels I’ve read, and there have been many, this is the one most filled with beauty and hope. Not long after a plague decimates global populations, San Francisco has been taken over by artists–painters, writers, musicians, tinkerers, makers–who have crafted along the way a sort of utopia. What they can’t find, or make or grow, they trade for at Duff’s. And all seems well, until a nameless girl comes to town.

I had planned to give you the full run-down of the story, pointing out the pieces that most speak to me, the preps hidden within the story, but I just can’t. Not with this book. Because I want you to read it. With its magic untainted.

What I will tell you is that the book deals with themes that include robotics and humanity, love and loss, art and war, isolation and collaboration, pacifism, ghosts, angels, the consciousness of a place, creativity and freedom, and the costs of peace. It even includes a nod to one of my most personally treasured myths at the very end.

But I will give you this–a quick peek into the poetry of the work:

Her mother had told her about San Francisco. Bedtime stories always began, “Back in San Francisco before the plague…” The stories were odd and disjointed, fragments of her mother’s life. Bright memories of the Chinese New Year’s parade, touched with the scent of gunpowder from fireworks. Remembrances of neighbors: the old woman with twenty-nine cats, the young man who practiced Tai Chi on the roof.

From her mother’s memories, the girl had created her own picture of San Francisco: a place as exotic as Oz, with tremendous hills over which cable cars rolled. She had asked her mother once why they could not go back there. Her mother had shaken her head. “Too many ghosts there. I can’t go back.”

Pat Murphy is an award-winning writer, scientist, and occasional toy-maker. Learn more here.


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