The Chrysalids

The Chrysalids Post Disaster Fiction, or Cosy Catastrophe? Classifying John Wyndham

John Wyndham’s work comments on the state of the society he was living in at the time. The Cold War had a strong impact on the psyche of the British, causing fear of an impending world-ending catastrophe or World War III. Thus, as stated by Slattery in his piece “Down on the Triffid Farm," Wyndham was a “post-disaster” novelist (40). Slattery points out that while much of the science fiction of that time was interested in telling stories of how an apocalypse would look, Wyndham was instead interested in telling the story of what the recovery from an apocalyptic disaster could look like.

“Cosy Catastrophe” is a term coined by Brian Aldiss in Billon Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction. This classification has been used to imply that the protagonist of the Wyndham’s works can continue leading a comfortable and safe existence while the rest of the world falls apart. If Wyndham’s science fiction does in fact fit into Brian Aldiss’ reductive classification of “Cosy Catastrophe," it is because Wyndham wrote to sooth the British public in a world that felt, in the midst of the aftermath of WWII and the beginning of the Cold War, as if it were indeed falling apart (Sawyer 76).

Wyndham touches on themes such as climate change and genetic mutation, themes that in many ways are even more relevant today. Further, Wyndham’s work is a satire on the human quality of prejudice and intolerance for those unlike themselves. In this way, much of The Chrysalids may not be considered “cosy” at all, but rather a bleak Darwinian view of how humans could take evolution into their own hands (Sawyer 76): causing a nuclear war, living under authoritarian religious regimes, committing allegedly necessary acts of genocide. All of these dark times have already been seen by Wyndham in their own way, and are darkly satirized by him in the societies he creates in The Chrysalids. Because these themes continue to manifest themselves today, John Wyndham's works continue to be a relevant and thought-provoking way to explore the defects of our society.