IS CORONAVIRUS THE EARTH ABIDES PLAGUE? from the “Earth Abides” Project

In his amazing predictive authoring, Stewart revived the earth by a plague. Is it here?

The book is available in paperback from Amazon and as an audiobook. I have both versions. I’ve read it (repeatedly) and listened to it (at least another three times, once with Garry, who loved it). I’ve always been surprised it never became a movie, but I can see where it would present some serious cinematic challenges.

Still, it might make an incredible Ken Burns series. If you haven’t read it yet, this is definitely the time to read it. It is NOT depressing because everything works out as it should, though I suppose it helps to be a bit existential about the world, life, and humanity.


IS CORONAVIRUS THE EARTH ABIDES PLAGUE?

Posted on February 11, 2020
George R. Stewart was quite a prophet.

George R. Stewart was quite a prophet.

In his first great work, Ordeal By Hunger, he told the story from an ecological (or Ranger’s) point of view. But he began with the Astronaut’s point of view from Low Earth Orbit. Not bad for a book published in 1936. (It’s still the best book about the Donner Party).

As he prepared for the publication of his ecological novel Fire he sent a letter to a Book-of-the-Month club publicist that prophetically explained:

“I consider the main theme … to be the problem of the relationship of man to his environment. I really think of myself, in most of my books, as what might be called an ecologist. ” (From a letter in the Bancroft Library’s George Rippey Stewart Papers. Published here by permission of the Stewart family.)

In the Third Book of The Years of the City, Stewart pretty well predicted how societies fade away, in a novel that has disturbing parallels for today.

And in his classic work, Earth Abides, he predicted the end of the Anthropocene – the human era – through a disease that spreads rapidly throughout society, decimating most of the human race.

His interest in the idea came from his own experience. After graduation from Princeton University in the Class of 1917 (one of his classmates was F. Scott Fitzgerald), Stewart, like many of his classmates wrapped in patriotic passion by the US’s entry into WW I, enlisted. Like other army soldiers – young healthy men expected to be the most resistant to disease – he contracted the Spanish Flu. It nearly killed him, and it would interfere with his health for decades – eventually leading him to have one lung removed.

The flu infected ONE-THIRD of the human population of the Earth. It may have killed as many as 50,000,000 people. And, like other recent epidemics, it became deadly when some component of a virus jumped from animal populations into a strain of human flu. This is exactly what caused the launch of coronavirus – almost certainly from a live animal market in China. Read about the 1918 epidemic. It killed perhaps 50,000,000.

(An excellent article about the Spanish Flu epidemic, In Flew Enza, focuses on the effects at UC Berkeley — discussing Stewart’s experience, and Earth Abides.)

So far COVID has killed about 6000 and has a 95% cure rate. This is not meant to discourage prudence but to point out that we are far from the 1918 pandemic.

Be prudent. Don’t panic.

If this already frightening disease, coronavirus, should mutate, Stewart’s prophesy could well become (at least partially) true. There are still isolated human populations – as many as 100 tribes, the Sentinelese being the best known – which might avoid the disaster.

Will this be the Earth Abides virus? Hopefully not. At least Stewart helped prepare us with his novel. The book is so widely-read and in so many languages that certainly many of those who are in the leading roles to battle this epidemic have likely read it, and have thus been thinking for decades about what to do if and when such an epidemic should happen. It has in fact been impressive to see how quickly they have begun to respond to it. So we shall wish them well and hope for the best.

In the meantime, you may want to re-read Earth Abide.

POSTSCRIPT, on the first day of spring 2020:

There is major economic and social disruption today – the economic weakening of society, and the isolation of neighbors from each other when cooperation and high social capital are needed but prevented by locking down a town. A city with which I am familiar (as was George R. Stewart) has one case. They have demanded the closure of all businesses except food and drug stores and the hospital. Businesses can’t pay rent or employees; employees can’t pay rent or buy food. For ONE case in a city of more than 50,000.

And there are proposals to close the national parks – the best places for people to get the medical benefits of fresh air and exercise with the best of social distancing.

This would be a good time to consider Rudyard Kipling’s poem IF – especially the first few lines:


If

by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, …


Let’s also follow the example of the locked-down Italians: Sing songs of hope.

Be prudent, keep your head, keep the faith. And sing from your balcony.

2019 – EARTH ABIDES ACHIEVES PLATINUM – Marilyn Armstrong

I don’t know how many copies of “Earth Abides” I have owned or how many times I’ve read it. I first read it when I was a teenager and I’ve been rereading it regularly ever since. I used to give away copies to people who hadn’t read it yet and eventually, kept extra copies, just in case.

So I bought another copy.

A couple of years ago, I bought the audiobook which has a great introduction by Connie Willis. Since I can’t give that one away, I still have a few paperbacks waiting for whoever becomes the next person I meet who hasn’t read it. Yet. Or who need to read it again.

Periodically, I need to reread this book. It gives me hope and frankly, I’ve been very weak in the hope department recently. This time, Garry and I listened to the Audiobook together. Not surprisingly, he liked this.

Earth Abides speaks of today. Ironically, of all the science fiction books I’ve read through many years, this one has become increasingly relevant. I wish it had not.

Ish's Hammer(1)

According to Google, both the 70th and hundredth anniversaries are honored with platinum gifts.  Since Earth Abides is closing in on the 70th anniversary of publication, George R. Stewart’s epic work has achieved platinum.

The novel was published on October 7, 1949.  It immediately caught the attention of reviewers for its well-written, epic tale of humans living in a world they no longer dominate.  One later reviewer went so far as to call it “a second work of Genesis.”  With its title from Ecclesiastes and the old testament rhythm of its language, it is almost biblical in its feeling. Never dull, it is a book that sings.

Stewart later insisted he didn’t intend it to be a religious work.  But even he admitted that there was “a certain quality there.”  The language was one thing.  Stewart taught himself Hebrew before he wrote the book.  He wanted to translate portions of the Bible into more modern English.  He was surely influenced by the style of ancient Hebrew.

The book has had an enormous influence on later works.  Stephen King based The Stand on Earth Abides, Grammy-nominated composer Philip Aaberg wrote “Earth Abides,”  Jimi Hendrix was inspired to write “Third Rock From the Sun” from the novel (his favorite book). Other authors and scientists honor Stewart’s works.  It is published in either 20 or 27 languages, depending on who you ask.  There is some talk of producing a film version of the novel, but I don’t think it will happen and if it did, I’m afraid it would be awful. I don’t see it translating well to the silver screen … or even the small one.

It might make a good mini-series …. if Ken Burns directed it.

It was also the first winner of the “fantasy novel” award. It generated a whole genre of post-apocalyptic writing and another entire generation of disaster books — and sadly, movies. Connie Willis, who reads the introduction says it hugely influenced her work on many levels.

The best essay about the novel was written by James Sallis and published in The Boston Globe.  Like Stewart, Sallis realizes the importance of integrity and beauty in his work, and it’s reflected in his essay.  Sallis is a distinguished novelist and poet, whose noir novella Drive was filmed by Nicolas Winding Refn.

The novel has never been out of print, no thanks to its original publisher.  Random House decided to pull the novel in the early 1970s.  Fortunately, Stewart and small fine press publisher Alan Ligda quickly got together and brought out a beautiful copy from Ligda’s Hermes Press.

Hermes EA

The Hermes edition sold well.  Random House quickly realized they’d made a mistake and bought the rights back.

Thanks to Alan Ligda, Earth Abides has been in print for seventy years come next October.  He is a hero of the novel.  Sadly, he died young, and won’t be able to help celebrate the book’s Platinum Anniversary.  So please take a minute (or more) to say a silent thanks to Alan Ligda while you celebrate the novel.

ligda

Read the novel again. You’ll have to do a number of readings to catch up with Steve Williams, the Pilgrim, who doesn’t know how many dozens of times he’s read it. Despite the post-apocalyptic story, it’s an optimistic book. The ultimate disaster is overcome and the world that arises is a better one than that which perished. As you read, reflect on Stewart’s role in raising our consciousness of the ecosystem.

His wildly popular ecological novels, StormFire, and Earth Abides, and his less-widely read “post-modernist” ecological novel, Sheep Rock, have shaped our thinking.  Like most great creative works of thought, they have more power than all the armies in existence.  That pen (or, in Stewart’s case, pencil) is mightier than the sword.

By the way – if you want to buy a signed first edition,  Morley’s Books in Carson City just happens to have one.  It comes with a custom box to protect the classic.  Only $1600 – about half the price of another on offer at ABE.

EA Morleys

EARTH STILL ABIDES – Marilyn Armstrong

When I first read Earth Abides by George R. Stewart more than 50 years ago, it wasn’t newly published, but it was new to me.

Unlike so many other books I have read and forgotten, Earth Abides stuck with me. I’ve returned to it many times in recent years, but there was a period when I couldn’t find a copy of the book anywhere.

Nonetheless, I could recall it with remarkable clarity. This is especially remarkable considering the thousands of books I read every year. That I could remember this single book spoke volumes. It turns out that I was not alone. Many people found the book unforgettable, including many writers. George Stewart’s masterpiece became the jumping-off point for an entire genre.

Earth Abides is a “foundation book,” one of a handful of books that you must read if you are a science fiction fan. It is frequently cited as “the original disaster” story. A foundation book it most definitely is, but classing it as the “original disaster story” rather misses the point.

Earth Abides isn’t merely a disaster story or post-apocalyptic science fiction. Above all, it is a book of rebuilding, renewal, and hope. The event that initiates the story is a disaster, a plague resulting from either a natural mutation or something escaped from a lab that runs amok. Whatever its origins, it kills off most of Earth’s human population. As has been true of plagues throughout history, a small percentage of the population is naturally immune. Additionally, anyone who survived a rattlesnake bite is immune.


You might think the technology in the story is going to be old and silly. Except, everything fails immediately when people are gone. It doesn’t matter what you used to have. Without electricity, it’s trash.

It turns out, whatever super high tech stuff you have in your tech-pile of devices if you don’t have power, you have nothing. It’s rubble.


The plague is the back story. The front story of Earth Abides is how humankind copes with the tragedy as scattered remnants of people slowly find one another, form groups and create a new world. Through marriage and the pressures of survival, groups become tribes. Simultaneously, the earth itself revives and finds balance.

Animals return. Old animals and new animals. Dogs and cats remain and the only absolutely lost creature turns out to be the human louse.

Most diseases of the old earth are eliminated by depopulation. New generations are healthy. Along with physical disease, mental illness, archaic religion, outdated social structures, and cultural norms are discarded or slip away. New human generations have no memory of institutionalized bias and prejudice. The color line becomes extinct.

There is much that needs doing in this brand new world, but there’s an infinite amount of future in which to do it. The earth will be repopulated. Gently and peacefully. The reborn world will contain bits and pieces of what went before but lack its former demons.

Cover of the 1949 Random House hardcover editi...

Cover of the 1949 Random House hardcover edition of Earth Abides. Cover illustration by H. Lawrence Hoffman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last time I read it was just following its re-release. Now, we are reading it again. Eight years has given me time to be surprised by the book again. Surprised by how much Ish — the main character — changes over the years. How enormously his belief structure adapts to new realities. How much of the detritus of the previous world he eventually allows to disappear and how open his mind becomes.

It’s a rare transformation from a literary point of view. Few characters I’ve read have transformed as much as Ish does in Earth Abides.

The technology stands up surprisingly well because it’s essentially irrelevant. All technology disappears, so it doesn’t matter how advanced it used to be. When the power goes off, it’s over. The world returns to pre-technology. It has wind, water, and sun. Books remain, so knowledge exists, but in stasis, waiting to be rediscovered and deployed. Meanwhile, earth abides.

The world ends, a reborn world begins. Earth Abides is timeless. As is the Earth.


There’s an entire site dedicated to George R. Stewart — The EARTH ABIDES Project. Please check it out!

It’s available for Kindle, Audible download, audiobook, hardcover, and paperback and I have a spare copy, just in case you need one.


Notes on Hebrew and its use in Earth Abides


Many people (including Connie Willis) think the name “Ish” is related to some ancient native American with a similar name or some mythical creature from some legend. However, if you read the original commentary from the Stewart home blog, you’ll realize as Stewart was writing this book, he was studying Hebrew. He wanted to retranslate the bible. Yes, he WAS an academic — the best kind.

His two primary founders were a man and a woman, called “ISH — in Hebrew pronounced “eesh,” meaning man and “EMMA.” in Hebrew pronounced “eema.” It means mother.

Ish and Emma are the founding parents of the world to come. Their names are not an obscure reference to other books or myths. They are standard Hebrew and anyone who speaks the language — even a little bit — will get it.

The More-or-Less Annual George R. Stewart, Jimmy Stewart Christmas Post – Reblog – Earth Abides Project

Christmas 2019


Here’s the annual re-post of a story of the close connections between George R. Stewart and Jimmy Stewart, and between the mythical town of Bedford Falls and the real town of Indiana, Pennsylvania, the boyhood home of both Stewarts.

It’s A Wonderful Story


This is the time of year when most of us watch the classic Christmas movies. A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sims, Miracle on 34th Street, A Child’s Christmas in Wales, (An almost unknown gem, produced in Canada, starring Denholm Elliot); and It’s a Wonderful Life. The local theater in Arroyo Grande, California, owned by a man who loves movies, shows one of those classics each Christmas. The admission is a can of food or a toy, to be donated to those in need – in the spirit of the movie.

To see such a film on the big screen, surrounded by local neighbors of all ages – to see how the children love the film – it is a reminder of what we’ve lost. Today we watch movies on TV, often alone, and usually less intently than in a movie theater. Yet at a showing of Miracle on Thirty-Fourth Street the audience clapped and cheered when the judge decided that, yes, Kris Kringle was indeed Santa Claus. How long since you’ve experienced that?

For many people It’s a Wonderful Life is the Christmas movie. So those who are George R. Stewart fans will be interested in the connection between that classic film and GRS.

George R. Stewart spent his boyhood in Indiana, Pennsylvania, where his mother’s family lived. His maternal grandfather, Andrew Wilson, planned to be a teacher and even helped found a school nearby (it would become the prestigious Kiski School). But he couldn’t earn enough to support his family so he went into the mercantile business. He had a hand in a hardware store there, owned by another Stewart. That Stewart’s son was James Stewart, also born and raised in Indiana.

George and Jimmy looked alike. With all the similarities in family history, geography, and physiology, you’d expect they were related. But they shared only one possible distant relative. And they lived in different worlds, in Indiana.

The George Stewarts went to the middle-class Presbyterian church on the flats; Jimmy Stewart and his parents to the upper-class Presbyterian church on the hill. GRS went to a public high school out west, Jimmy to a prestigious private school in the east. Their paths apparently never crossed. 12-year-old GRS and his family left Indiana for California in 1905, the year James Stewart was born. Out west, nothing in their interests or their work brought them together.

Still, the lives paralleled in remarkable ways. GRS and his family moved to Pasadena; he went to Princeton; and after marriage moved his family to Berkeley, California. Jimmy went to Princeton, then moved to Pasadena; and spent his life in Southern California. GRS wrote books, two of which were filmed. Jimmy made films, like that grand Christmas classic we all love. GRS worked at the Disney studios for a time, an advisor to Walt himself. Jimmy worked at many studios, creating characters and stories that touched the hearts of millions. Ironically, GRS did not like the media, and apparently did not attend movies often, if at all.

Even though their paths never crossed, during the Christmas season we should remember there is one thing they shared: The experience of life in a small American town in the early 20th century. Like a trip to Disneyland, a viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life enfolds us in such a place. For a time, we walk the streets and meet the people of the town and the time where both boys grew up.

Here’s a passage from the biography of Stewart, about Indiana, Pennsylvania as Bedford Falls:

George R. Stewart’s boyhood town was so archetypically American that it could pass for George Bailey’s “Bedford Falls” in Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. In fact, the town was “Bedford Falls” – at least for the movie’s male star. Indiana, Pennsylvania, was also the boyhood home of James Stewart, “George Bailey” in Capra’s film. Although the movie’s “Bedford Falls” was built on a studio backlot in the San Fernando Valley, Jimmy Stewart said that when he walked onto the set for the first time he almost expected to hear the bells of his home church in Indiana.

Although the film’s Producer/Director, Frank Capra, is said to have modeled his mythical town on the upstate New York town of Seneca Falls, for Jimmy Stewart Indiana, Pennsylvania, where he and George R. Stewart grew up, was the place he had in his heart as he brought George Bailey to life.

Each year, Indiana holds an It’s a Wonderful Life Festival, with a parade, hot chocolate, tree lighting, and continuous showings of the film at the Jimmy Stewart Museum. It’s a winter festival so the people lining the streets in their warm clothing bring life to a snow-bound town like the movie brings life to the streets of the movie set town.

As you watch Capra’s great film this Christmas, keep in mind that GRS celebrated his Christmases in a town which for another Stewart, Jimmy, was the model for iconic, Bedford Falls.

Merry Christmas to all.

PS. A Christmas gift, for 2019 readers – a link to the radio interview with “Tommy Bailey,” one of the Bailey children growing up in Bedford Falls, setting for It’s a Wonderful Life.

Original material:

The EARTH ABIDES Project: A site for George R. Stewart, Author of the classic EARTH ABIDES

WIRES – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Electric

I can hide in the woods and live without wi-fi. I wouldn’t like it, but I could do it. I could shudder with fear and use an outhouse. I would hate it, but I can (and have) done it. I can easily live without a cell phone, half-heartedly without a computer … but without electricity?

It is over.

Recently, I read (again, but in Audible with Garry), George R. Stewart’s immortal “Earth Abides.” I have heard some people say “Oh, the technology is so old.” Clearly, they missed the point of the story.

It simply doesn’t matter what your technology is, was, or might have become. When the power goes out, it’s finished.

The book was written in the late 1940s, but technology is barely mentioned except to point out how it is decaying, rusting, breaking. It doesn’t make any difference because when the electric failed, everything else went down the tubes.

Whether it’s wi-fi, television, boiler, or the pump which pushes the water from well to faucets, the bottom line is electricity.

Without it? It doesn’t matter how advanced you were. How many of us could fix a generator? Not the one in your house but a big one, like Hoover Dam? Or fix a fallen wire? Or even reconnect the power lines to our own houses?

In “Earth Abides,” in a single generation, all technology is gone from the earth. A very few cars drive, in the rare case where they can find one that has gas in it and hasn’t rusted to nothing. Weapons don’t work and no one remembers how to read. No one is even interested in reading. The author, a university academic, wants desperately to have readers so they can rediscover what has been lost, but in the end, only “Earth Abides.”

The last time our power went out, we were in the dark for little more than an hour and a half, but it felt like a lifetime. It reminded me — again — that no matter what we invent, no matter how clever we get with technology, in the end, it runs on power.

Until such time as Earth has a viable alternative to massive power generation, electricity is the end of the line for our technological structure.

It is something to think about.

THE END AND THE BEGINNING – Marilyn Armstrong

According to Google, both the 70th and hundredth anniversaries are honored with platinum gifts.  Since Earth Abides is just a year short of its 70th anniversary, George R. Stewart’s epic work is approaching platinum. One year to go.

In the meantime, I finally got Garry to listen to it with me. It’s funny how many times I’ve read it and listened to it. This is the first time I spent the whole second half of the book crying. Probably because this is a book about the rebirth of the world after a plague wipes out most of humanity.

Maybe it’s all the stress about the near demise of our current world, but somewhere around the middle, I started crying and couldn’t quite stop. I think Garry was crying too.

Ish's Hammer(1)

The novel was published on October 7, 1949.  It immediately caught the attention of reviewers for its well-written, epic tale of humans living in a world they no longer dominate.

One later reviewer went so far as to call it “… a second work of Genesis.”  With its title from Ecclesiastes and the old testament rhythm of its language, it is biblical in its feeling. But not dull.

Stewart later insisted he didn’t intend it to be a religious work.  But even he admitted that there was “a certain quality there.”  The language was one thing.  Stewart taught himself Hebrew before he wrote the book.  He wanted to translate portions of the Bible into more modern English.  He was surely influenced by the style of ancient Hebrew.

The book has had an enormous influence on Science Fiction as an art form. To call this “the original post-apocalyptic story,” Stephen King based The Stand on Earth Abides, Grammy-nominated composer Philip Aaberg wrote “Earth Abides,”  Jimi Hendrix was inspired to write “Third Rock From the Sun” from the novel (his favorite book). Other authors and scientists honor Stewart’s works.  It is published in either 20 or 27 languages, depending on who you ask.

There is some talk about producing a film version of the novel, but it’s a book made up almost entirely of talk and thought.  To make it work on TV or in a film, they’d have to add “action.” It would be something, but not this book.

 

ligda

Earth Abides is a “foundation book.” It is frequently cited as “the original disaster” story. But isn’t a disaster story or post-apocalyptic fiction. It’s the end and the beginning.

Earth Abides was the first recipient of the medal for Fantasy Novel.


You might think the technology in the story is going to be old and silly. Except, everything fails immediately when the electricity stops. It doesn’t matter what you had. If you don’t have electricity, you have nothing. 

The plague is the starting point. The important part is how humankind copes with the tragedy as scattered remnants of people slowly find one another, form groups and rebuild. The earth itself revives and finds balance.

The book was re-released as a 60th-anniversary edition in 2009, including the audio version with an introduction by Connie Willis. It’s now 2018 (going on 2019) — making it just a year short of 70 years. The book is not merely relevant. By my standards, it’s optimistic.

It’s available for Kindle, Audible download, audiobook, hardcover, and paperback. There was a time when it was hard to find, but it seems to have found its way back into bookstores and libraries.  I’m glad. It remains among my top five all-time favorite books. If you haven’t read it, there’s no time like the present.

Now that Garry has read it, he won’t forget it. It’s not a book you forget.


A final note: Despite the fact that both “Storm” and “Fire” have been out of print for years, both books are available as Audiobooks. I had an extra credit and finally decided on “Fire” only because it was based on a real fire, one of the first that blazed through California. “Storm” is a combination of fiction and science — something that could happen and given the way the weather is these days, probably will. But just so you audio listeners know, George R. Stewart’s “Fire” and “Storm” are both ready for listening. 

2019: EARTH ABIDES ACHIEVES PLATINUM – REBLOG PLUS MY REVIEW

I don’t know how many copies I have owned of this book. Or how many times I’ve read it. I know it has been often. I first read it when I was a teenager and I’ve been rereading it regularly ever since. I used to give away copies to people who hadn’t read it yet and eventually, kept extra copies, just in case. Which meant that I had to read it again. So I bought another copy.

A couple of years ago, I bought the audiobook which has a great introduction by Connie Willis. Since I can’t give that one away, I still have a few paperbacks waiting for whoever becomes the next person I meet who hasn’t read it. Yet. Or who need to read it again 😀

After this reblog, you’ll find my review of the book. It’s probably my fifth review since I started this blog. Periodically, I really need to reread this book. I’m addicted.

Also, please add to today’s Ragtag Daily Prompt:

Antediluvian

The story isn’t exactly antediluvian — but then again, perhaps it is. In its own way.


Ish's Hammer(1)According to Google, both the 70th and hundredth anniversaries are honored with platinum gifts.  Since Earth Abides is closing in on the 70th anniversary of publication, George R. Stewart’s epic work is approaching platinum.

The novel was published on October 7, 1949.  It immediately caught the attention of reviewers for its well-written, epic tale of humans living in a world they no longer dominate.  One later reviewer went so far as to call it “a second work of Genesis.”  With its title from Ecclesiastes and the old testament rhythm of its language, it is almost biblical in its feeling. Never dull, however.

Stewart later insisted he didn’t intend it to be a religious work.  But even he admitted that there was “a certain quality there.”  The language was one thing.  Stewart taught himself Hebrew before he wrote the book.  He wanted to translate portions of the Bible into more modern English.  He was surely influenced by the style of ancient Hebrew.

The book has had enormous influence.  Stephen King based The Stand on Earth Abides, Grammy-nominated composer Philip Aaberg wrote “Earth Abides,”  Jimi Hendrix was inspired to write “Third Rock From the Sun” from the novel (his favorite book). Other authors and scientists honor Stewart’s works.  It is published in either 20 or 27 languages, depending on who you ask.  There is some talk of producing a film version of the novel.

It was also the first winner of the “fantasy novel” award. It generated a whole genre of post-apocalyptic writing and another entire generation of disaster books — and sadly, movies. Connie Willis, who reads the introduction says it hugely influenced her work on many levels.

The best essay about the novel was written by James Sallis and published in The Boston Globe.  Like Stewart, Sallis realizes the importance of integrity and beauty in his work, and it’s reflected in his essay.  (Sallis is a distinguished novelist and poet, whose noir novella Drive was filmed by Nicolas Winding Refn.)

The novel has never been out of print –no thanks to its original publisher.  Random House decided to pull the novel in the early 1970s.  Fortunately, Stewart and small fine press publisher Alan Ligda quickly got together and brought out a beautiful copy from Ligda’s Hermes Press.

Hermes EA

The Hermes edition sold well.  Random House quickly realized they’d made a mistake and bought the rights back.

Thanks to Alan Ligda, Earth Abides has been in print for seventy years come next October.  He is a Hero of the novel.  Sadly, he died young, and won’t be able to help celebrate the book’s Platinum Anniversary.  So please take a minute (or more) to say a silent thanks to Alan Ligda while you celebrate the novel.

ligda

And read the novel again.  (You’ll have to do a number of readings to catch up with Steve Williams, the Pilgrim, who doesn’t know how many dozens of times he’s read it.)  As you read, reflect on Stewart’s role in raising our consciousness of the ecosystem.

His wildly popular ecological novels, Storm, Fire, and Earth Abides, and his less-widely read “post-modernist” ecological novel, Sheep Rock, have shaped our thinking.  Like most great creative works of thought, they have more power than all the armies in existence.  That pen (or, in Stewart’s case, pencil) is mightier than the sword. By the way – if you want to buy a signed first edition,  Morley’s Books in Carson City just happens to have one.  It comes with a custom box to protect the classic.  Only $1600 – about half the price of another on offer at ABE.

EA Morleys

via 2019: EARTH ABIDES ACHIEVES PLATINUM


EARTH STILL ABIDES – Marilyn Armstrong

When I first read Earth Abides by George R. Stewart more than 50 years ago, it wasn’t newly published, but it was new to me.

Unlike many other books I have read and forgotten, Earth Abides has stuck with me. I’ve returned to it many times in recent years, but there was a period when I couldn’t find a copy of the book anywhere. Nonetheless, I could recall it with remarkable clarity. This is especially remarkable considering the thousands of books I read every year. That I could remember this one book — not to be too punny — spoke volumes. It turns out that I was not alone. Many people found the book unforgettable, including many writers. George Stewart’s masterpiece became the jumping off point for an entire genre.

Earth Abides is a “foundation book,” one of a handful of books that you must read if you are a science fiction fan. It is frequently cited as “the original disaster” story. A foundation book it most definitely is, but classing it as the “original disaster story” rather misses the point.

Earth Abides isn’t merely a disaster story or post-apocalyptic science fiction. Above all, it is a book of rebuilding, renewal, and hope. The event that initiates the story is a disaster, a plague resulting from either a natural mutation or something escaped from a lab that runs amok. Whatever its origins, it kills off most of Earth’s human population. As has been true of plagues throughout history, a small percentage of the population is naturally immune. Additionally, anyone who survived a rattlesnake bite is immune.

Earth Abides was the first recipient of the medal for Fantasy Novel.


You might think the technology in the story is going to be old and silly. Except, everything fails almost immediately when people are gone. It doesn’t matter what you used to have — except electricity.

It turns out, whatever super high tech stuff you have in your tech-pile of devices if you don’t have power, you have nothing. It’s just rubble.


The plague is the back story. The front story of Earth Abides is how humankind copes with the tragedy as scattered remnants of people slowly find one another, form groups and create a new civilization. Through marriage and the pressures of survival, groups become tribes. Simultaneously, the earth itself revives and finds balance.

The animals return. Old animals and new animals. Dogs and cats remain and the only absolutely lost creature turns out to be the human louse. Not too many people went to the funeral of those three species.

Most diseases of the old earth are eliminated by depopulation. New generations are healthy. Along with physical disease, mental illness, archaic religion, outdated social structures and cultural norms are discarded or merely slip away. New human generations have no memory of institutionalized bias and prejudice. The color line becomes extinct.

There is much that needs doing in this brand new world, but there’s an infinite amount of future in which to do it.

The earth will be repopulated. Gently and peacefully. The reborn world will contain bits and pieces of what went before but lacks its former demons.

The book was re-released as a 60th-anniversary edition in 2009, including an audio version with an introduction by Connie Willis. It’s now 2018 (going on 2019) — making it just about 70 years and the book is still not merely relevant, but hopeful. By my standards, optimistic.

Cover of the 1949 Random House hardcover editi...

Cover of the 1949 Random House hardcover edition of Earth Abides. Cover illustration by H. Lawrence Hoffman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last time I read it was just following its re-release. Now, I’m reading it again. Even after all these years, it kept me up until dawn. I haven’t read the night away in several years and it wasn’t intentional. I couldn’t let the story go.

Eight years has given me time to be surprised by the book again. Surprised by how much Ish — the main character — changes over the years. How enormously his belief structure adapts to new realities. How much of the detritus of the previous world he eventually allows to disappear. How open his mind becomes.

It’s a rare transformation from a literary point of view. Few characters I’ve read have transformed as much as Ish does in Earth Abides.

Earth Abides was published in 1949. In some parts of the U.S. and other countries, the issues with which the book’s characters grapple are still very much alive. They shouldn’t be. We have moved on but not enough and right now, we are going backward faster than we ever moved forward.

The technology stands up surprisingly well because it’s essentially irrelevant. All technology disappears, so it doesn’t matter how advanced it used to be. When the power goes off, it’s over. The world goes back to pre-technological. It has wind, water and sun. Books remain, so knowledge exists, but in stasis, waiting to be rediscovered and deployed. Meanwhile, earth abides.

The world ends, a reborn world begins. Earth Abides is timeless. As is the Earth. There’s an entire site dedicated to George R. Stewart — The EARTH ABIDES Project. Please check it out!

It’s available for Kindle, Audible download, audiobook, hardcover, and paperback. There was time when it was difficult to find, but it seems to have found its way back into bookstores and libraries.  I’m glad. It remains among my top five all time favorite science fiction novels and if you haven’t read it, there’s no time like the present.

I have a spare copy, just in case.

Notes on language (Hebrew) and its use:

Many people (including Connie Willis) think the name “Ish” is related to some ancient native American with a similar name or some mythical creature from some legend. However, if you read the original commentary from the Stewart home blog, you’ll realize as Stewart was writing this book, he was studying Hebrew. He wanted to retranslate the bible. Yes, he WAS an academic — the best kind.

His two primary founders were a man and a woman, called “ISH” — in Hebrew pronounced “eesh,” meaning man and “EMMA.” in Hebrew pronounced “eema.” It means mother.

Ish and Emma are the founding parents of the world to come. Their names are not an obscure reference to other books or myths. They are standard Hebrew and anyone who speaks the language — even a little bit — will get it.

Of FIRE AND FLU – AUTHOR GEORGE R. STEWART

This is incredibly timely … and the original book was written more than 60 years ago. And yet, we are still surprised when the inevitable happens. Again.

the EARTH ABIDES project

George R. Stewart was always interested in how humans react to ecological events, because he saw those reactions as defining human character.   Two of his best novels, FIRE and EARTH ABIDES, focus on such events – FIRE, on a great forest fire (and fire ecology); EARTH ABIDES,on a planet-wide disease epidemic which nearly ends the human species.

This last month California experienced fire, and some Californians had a lesson about disease.  There were massive and destructive fires, and a literary discussion of an epidemic which references Stewart’s EARTH ABIDES.

Build a home in the woods and, sooner or later, fire will come.  Defensible space is a great help; but in suburbia’s tiny lots, there can be none.   The fires of 2017 burned through the house-stacked neighborhoods so quickly that – as in the recent Oakland Hills fire – many people died trying to flee.   Entire neighborhoods…

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GEORGE R. STEWART’S WHOLE EARTH VISION REALIZED

To See: George R. Stewart’s Whole Earth Vision Realized

George R. Stewart was an “inventor” of the Whole Earth Vision – the recent realization that Earth, in an immense universe, is one small, blue, life-bearing place, only fully understood if it’s explored from two perspectives – that of the ecologist, who studies it from ground level, and that of the astronaut, who examines Earth from space.

Stewart used that vision for the first time in Ordeal By Hunger.  He begins the book by asking the reader to “imagine yourself poised in space” in what we would now call LEO or Low Earth Orbit, about 200 miles up.  In the book’s Foreword, he describes northern Nevada precisely, as photos taken by the International Space Station reveal. Stewart used the techniques of fiction to make the history dramatic and engaging and did it so well that some readers think they’re reading a novel.  They’re not; they’re reading history.

The book then moves into the ecologist’s point of view, ground level, as Stewart makes the case that the Donner Party’s tragedy was the result of the party’s ignorance of the ecosystems it passed through.  At the book’s end, he writes, “It should be obvious … I consider the land a character in the work.”

The land, of course, is the ecosystem.

Today, most of us can wander our ecosystems easily. So far, the perspective of the astronaut is restricted to a lucky few.  But, would Stewart not love this?

NASA Strategic Planner Jesco von Puttkamer suggested we are now living in the “New Enlightenment of Spaceflight.” The Enlightenment began with Stewart’s Whole Earth Vision. The New Enlightenment expanded its reach exponentially with the first photos of the Whole Earth from space, most dramatically “Earthrise” from Apollo 8. Von Puttkamer’s slogan for the age, borrowed by Star Trek for the series’ first movie, is:


Space:  The Human Adventure is Just Beginning

Today, we know Stewart’s pioneering Whole Earth vision from both perspectives – of the land, and from LEO.  We have joined von Puttkamer’s New Enlightenment of Spaceflight, and gained Stewart’s Whole Earth vision and have a greater understanding of and love for our home planet.

We have become enlightened.

earth_and_limb_m1199291564l_color_2stretch_mask_0

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University\

SOURCE: TO SEE: GEORGE R. STEWART’S WHOLE EARTH REALIZED

THE ANNUAL GEORGE R. STEWART-JIMMY STEWART CHRISTMAST POST

Annual George R. Stewart, Jimmy Stewart Christmas Post


If It’s a Wonderful Life can be a tradition at Christmas, why not this post from a year ago about the connections between that great film and George R. Stewart?  So here it is, with only minor editing to bring it up to date.

But it has a bonus at the end – a radio interview with one of the stars, who was – of course – doing charitable work in the Central Coast area when Tom Wilmer of local PBS station KCBX found him:

It’s A Wonderful Story


This is the time of year when most of us watch the classic Christmas movies.  A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sims, Miracle on 54th Street, A Child’s Christmas in Wales,   (An almost unknown gem, produced in Canada, starring Denholm Elliot); and, of course,  It’s a Wonderful Life.

Here in Arroyo Grande, the local theater,  owned by a man who loves movies, shows one of those classics each Christmas. The admission is a can of food or a toy, to be donated to those in need – in the spirit of the movie.  …To see such a film on the big screen, surrounded by local neighbors of all ages – to see how the children love the film – it is a reminder of what we’ve lost.  Now we watch movies on TV, but usually alone, and always less intently – a kind of digital sampling of the films.  Like a CD, we miss much when we do that.  But in the theater watching Miracle on Thirty-Fourth Street  we missed nothing.  And – how long since you’ve experienced this? – the audience clapped and cheered when the judge decided that, yes, Kris Kringle was indeed Santa Claus.  It was a fine traditional twentieth century American Christmas experience.

its_a_wonderful_life_002

For most of the people I know, It’s a Wonderful Life   is the Christmas movie.  So those who are George R. Stewart fans should know about the connection between that classic film and GRS.

George R. Stewart was raised in Indiana, Pennsylvania, where his mother’s family lived.  His maternal grandfather, Andrew Wilson,  planned to be a teacher, and even helped found a school nearby (which would become the prestigious Kiski School).  But he couldn’t earn enough to support his family; so he went into the mercantile business.  He  had a hand in a hardware store there, owned by another Stewart.  That Stewart’s son was James Stewart, also born and raised in Indiana.

George and Jimmy looked alike.  With all the similarities in family history, geography, and physiology, you’d expect they were related.  But they  shared only one possible distant relative.  And they lived in different worlds, in Indiana.  The George Stewarts went to the middle-class Presbyterian church on the flats; Jimmy Stewart and his parents went to the upper-class Presbyterian church on the hill.  GRS went to a public high school out west, Jimmy to a prestigious private school in the east.

Still, the lives paralleled in remarkable ways.  GRS and his family moved to Pasadena; he went to Princeton; and after marriage moved his family to Berkeley, California.  Jimmy went to Princeton, then moved to Pasadena; and spent his life in Southern California.  GRS wrote books, two of which were filmed.  Jimmy made films, like that grand Christmas classic we all love.   GRS worked at the Disney studios for a time, an advisor to Walt himself.  Jimmy worked at many studios, creating characters and stories that touched the hearts of millions.  Ironically, GRS did not like the media, and apparently did not attend movies often, if at all.

Their paths apparently never crossed.  GRS and his family left Indiana for California in 1905, when he was 12.  That was the year James Stewart was born. Out west, nothing in their interests or their work brought them together.  Since the film we now consider a classic failed in its initial run, it is unlikely GRS would have seen it even if he did go to the movies.

Yet, in this Christmas season, we should remember there is one thing they shared; and thanks to the film, we share it with them:  The experience of life in a small American town in the early 20th century.  Like a trip to Disneyland, a viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life enfolds us in such a place.  For a time, we walk the streets and meet the people of the town and the time where both boys grew up.

Please follow the rest of the story at: The Annual George R. Stewart, Jimmy Stewart Christmas Post

EARTH STILL ABIDES – GEORGE R. STEWART

Cover of "Earth Abides"

When I first read Earth Abides by George R. Stewart more than 40 years ago, it wasn’t newly published, but it was new to me.

Unlike many other books I have read and forgotten, Earth Abides has stayed with me. I’ve returned to it many times in recent years, but there was a period of almost 30 years when I couldn’t find a copy of the book anywhere. Nonetheless, I could recall it with remarkable clarity. It was especially remarkable considering the thousands of books I read every year. That I could remember this one book — not to be too punny — spoke volumes. It turns out that I was not alone. Many people found the book unforgettable, including many writers. George Stewart’s masterpiece became the jumping off point for an entire genre.

Earth Abides is a “foundation book,” one of a handful of books that you must read if you are a science fiction fan. It is frequently cited as “the original disaster” story. A foundation book it most definitely is, but classing it as the “original disaster story” rather misses the point.

Earth Abides isn’t merely a disaster story or post apocalyptic science fiction. Above all it is a book of rebuilding, renewal and hope. The event that initiates the story is a disaster, a plague resulting from either a natural mutation or something escaped from a lab that runs amok. Whatever its origins, it kills off most of Earth’s human population. As has been true of plagues throughout history, a small percentage of the population is naturally immune. Additionally, anyone who survived a rattlesnake bite is immune.

The plague is the back story. The front story of Earth Abides is how humankind copes with the tragedy as scattered remnants of people slowly find one another, form groups and gradually create a new civilization. Through marriage and the pressures of survival, groups become tribes. Simultaneously, the earth itself revives and finds a new balance.

Most diseases of old earth are eliminated by depopulation. New generations are wonderfully healthy. Along with physical disease, mental illness, archaic religious and outdated social structures are shed. New human generations have no memory of institutionalized bias and prejudice and the color line becomes non-existent. There is much that needs doing in this new world, but there’s an infinite amount of time in which to do it.

Ultimately, earth will be repopulated. But gently … and hopefully, in peace. The reborn world will contain bits and pieces of what went before, but without its demons.

The book was re-released as a 60th anniversary edition in 2009, including an audio version with an introduction by Connie Willis.

Cover of the 1949 Random House hardcover editi...

Cover of the 1949 Random House hardcover edition of Earth Abides. Cover illustration by H. Lawrence Hoffman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last time I read it was immediately after it was re-released. Seven years has given me time to be surprised by the book all over again. Be surprised by how much Ish — the main character — changes over the years, how much he grows and matures. How his belief structure adapts to new realities, how much more open his mind becomes. It’s a rare transformation from a literary point of view. Few characters I’ve read have transformed as much as Ish does in Earth Abides.

Earth Abides was published in 1949. In some parts of the U.S. and other countries, the issues with which the book’s characters grapple are still very much alive. They shouldn’t be. We have moved on but only to a point.

The technology stands up surprisingly well because it’s essentially irrelevant. All technology disappears, so it doesn’t matter how advanced it used to be. When the power goes off, it’s over. The world goes back to pre-technological. It has wind, water and sun. Books remain, so knowledge exists, but in stasis, waiting to be rediscovered and deployed. Meanwhile, earth abides.

The world ends, the world begins. Ish and Emma are the “mother” and “father” of the new tribe. Ish, in Hebrew, means “man” and “Eema” means “mother” which I am sure is not coincidental. It’s a wonderful story that suggests the human race has the capacity to not only survive, but reinvent civilization and make a better world.

Earth Abides is timeless. As is the Earth. There’s an entire site dedicated to George R. Stewart — The EARTH ABIDES Project. Definitely check it out!

It’s available for Kindle, Audible download, audiobook (CD and MP3), hardcover and paperback. There was time when it was difficult to find, but it seems to have found its way back into bookstores and libraries.  I’m glad. It remains among my top five all time favorite science fiction novels and if you haven’t read it, there’s no time like the present. I have a spare copy, just in case.

ABIDE | THE DAILY POST

AFTER THE END COMES RENEWAL: EARTH ABIDES

Earth Abides by George R. Stewart

I first read this book 40 years ago. It wasn’t new then having been written in 1949, yet it has stuck with me, despite having read thousands of books since.

Earth Abides is sometimes referred to as “the original disaster” story, but it isn’t a disaster story at all. It is, as the title suggests, a book of renewal and hope.

Although events are set in motion by a disaster — a plague that starts somewhere, no one is sure where — and kills off most of the population, that’s only the beginning of the story. A few people are naturally immune to the disease. Also, anyone who was ever bitten by a poisonous snake and survived is immune.

The remnants of humanity find each other and form groups, then tribes.  They repopulate the earth, creating a new society that has bits and pieces of what had gone before, without much of the baggage of the past.

The book was re-released in a 60th anniversary edition a few years ago, including a newly recorded audio version that has an introduction by Connie Willis.

Cover of the 1949 Random House hardcover editi...

Cover of the 1949 Random House hardcover edition of Earth Abides. Cover illustration by H. Lawrence Hoffman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I cannot count the number of copies of this book I’ve owned. I buy copies of it and lend it to people. It’s theoretically on loan, but the books are never returned, so i buy another copy.

The book is a bit preachy, but George Stewart is a lot less preachy than Anne Rice and I agree with him.

And, what seems ordinary today was revolutionary 63 years ago.

The book holds up well. Technology has moved on, but because technology is insupportable on a depopulated earth, it makes no difference what had or had not been invented. It is all useless without supporting infrastructure.

You can’t drive cars without gasoline, use phones without service. Our satellites might continue to circle the earth, but who would send or receive their signals? After our batteries go flat, it’s over for technology.

The world ends, the world begins. Earth abides.

Ish and Emma are the “mother” and “father” of the new tribe. Ish, in Hebrew, means “man” and “Eema” means “mother” which I am sure is not coincidental. It’s a wonderful story that suggests the human race has the ability to not only survive, but reinvent the world and be better than we are.

If you haven’t read this book, read it. It’s available on paper, for Kindle, and from Audible — an excellent recording with a fine narrator. I recommend it.

I love this book. I read a lot of science fiction, or used to … but I’m finding most of the new offerings in the genre bleak, to say the least. Hope is as scarce in recent science fiction as the visions of the future are barren and grim. Everything seems set in some version of an ugly, dystopian future emphasizing the worst traits of human nature. Granted we are flawed and there is much evil amongst us, but I don’t necessarily want to dwell in that wasteland.

Earth Abides is exactly the opposite. It is timeless — and rich with hope.

Rereading Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart

Cover of "Earth Abides"

When I first read Earth Abides by George R. Stewart more than 40 years ago, it wasn’t newly published, but it was new to me.

Unlike many other books I have read and forgotten, Earth Abides has stayed with me. I’ve returned to it many times in recent years, but there was a period of almost 30 years when I couldn’t find a copy of the book anywhere. Nonetheless, I could recall it with remarkable clarity. It was especially remarkable considering the thousands of books I read every year. That I could remember this one book — not to be too punny — spoke volumes. It turns out that I was not alone. Many people found the book unforgettable, including many writers. George Stewart’s masterpiece became the jumping off point for an entire genre.

Earth Abides is a “foundation book,” one of a handful of books that you must read if you are a science fiction fan. It is frequently cited as “the original disaster” story. A foundation book it most definitely is, but classing it as the “original disaster story” rather misses the point.

Earth Abides isn’t merely a disaster story or post apocalyptic science fiction. Above all it is a book of rebuilding, renewal and hope. The event that initiates the story is a disaster, a plague resulting from either a natural mutation or something escaped from a lab that runs amok. Whatever its origins, it kills off most of Earth’s human population. As has been true of plagues throughout history, a small percentage of the population is naturally immune. Additionally, anyone who survived a rattlesnake bite is immune.

The plague is the back story. The front story of Earth Abides is how humankind copes with the tragedy as scattered remnants of people slowly find one another, form groups and gradually create a new civilization. Through marriage and the pressures of survival, groups become tribes. Simultaneously, the earth itself revives and finds a new balance.

Most diseases of old earth are eliminated by depopulation. New generations are wonderfully healthy. Along with physical disease, mental illness, archaic religious and outdated social structures are shed. New human generations have no memory of institutionalized bias and prejudice and the color line becomes non-existent. There is much that needs doing in this new world, but there’s an infinite amount of time in which to do it.

Ultimately, earth will be repopulated. But gently … and hopefully, in peace. The reborn world will contain bits and pieces of what went before, but without its demons.

The book was re-released as a 60th anniversary edition in 2009, including an audio version with an introduction by Connie Willis.

Cover of the 1949 Random House hardcover editi...

Cover of the 1949 Random House hardcover edition of Earth Abides. Cover illustration by H. Lawrence Hoffman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last time I read it was immediately after it was re-released. Four years has given me time to be surprised by the book all over again. Be surprised by how much Ish — the main character — changes over the years, how much he grows and matures. How his belief structure adapts to new realities, how much more open his mind becomes. It’s a rare transformation from a literary point of view. Few characters I’ve read have transformed as much as Ish does in Earth Abides.

Earth Abides was published in 1949. In some parts of the U.S. and other countries, the issues with which the book’s characters grapple are still very much alive. They shouldn’t be. We have moved on but only to a point.

The technology stands up surprisingly well because it’s essentially irrelevant. All technology disappears, so it doesn’t matter how advanced it used to be. When the power goes off, it’s over. The world goes back to pre-technological. It has wind, water and sun. Books remain, so knowledge exists, but in stasis, waiting to be rediscovered and deployed. Meanwhile, earth abides.

The world ends, the world begins. Ish and Emma are the “mother” and “father” of the new tribe. Ish, in Hebrew, means “man” and “Eema” means “mother” which I am sure is not coincidental. It’s a wonderful story that suggests the human race has the capacity to not only survive, but reinvent civilization and make a better world.

Earth Abides is timeless. As is the Earth. There’s an entire site dedicated to George R. Stewart — The EARTH ABIDES Project. Definitely check it out!

It’s available in every configuration including Kindle, Audible download, audiobook (CD and MP3), hardcover and paperback. There was time when it was difficult to find, but it seems to have found its way back. I have owned at least a dozen copies of Earth Abides and keep an extra copy tucked away to give to friends who haven’t read it yet. I’m glad.

It remains among my top five all time favorite science fiction novels and if you haven’t read it, there’s no time like the present. I have a spare copy, just in case.

Frank Brusca interprets Pickett’s Charge

See on Scoop.itTraveling Through Time  – See on georgerstewart.wordpress.com

July 3, 2013, was the 150th Anniversary of Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg.  I’ve already done a long post which describes George R. Stewart’s book about the Charge.

Today, on a lighter note, I’m sending out a new map of the event.  Frank Brusca, who’s a noted Stewart Scholar with special expertise in Stewart’s work on the U.S. 40 highway book, has done a tongue-in-cheek version of the battle map.

Here it is, for your enjoyment.  Notice the lower left hand corner.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

When we were in Gettysburg, it was very much like this. Americana!! Compare to “real” map 🙂

Picketts-Charge

Pickett’s Charge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

See on georgerstewart.wordpress.com

Earth Abides — George R. Stewart

Earth AbidesEarth Abides by George R. Stewart

I originally read this book more than 30 years ago. It wasn’t a new book even then, but it was new for me. Unlike so many other books I read and forgot, it stuck in my mind and I remember it with a clarity that is remarkable considering how many thousands of books I have read since. Earth Abides stays bright and shiny in my mind.

I have heard the book referred to as “the original disaster” story, but that misses the point. It isn’t a disaster story, original or otherwise. It is, as the title suggests, a book of renewal and hope. Although events are set in motion by a disaster, a plague that kills off most of Earth’s human population, that is only the trigger. Some few people are naturally immune and anyone who was ever bitten by a poisonous snake and survived also is immune.

These remnants of humanity eventually find each one another. They form groups that grow into tribes. They grow and thrive. Ultimately, they repopulate the earth, creating a new society that contains bits and pieces of what went before, but redesigned in a new and hopefully better way.

The book was re-released in a 60th anniversary edition a few years ago, including an audio version with an introduction by Connie Willis.

Cover of the 1949 Random House hardcover editi...

Cover of the 1949 Random House hardcover edition of Earth Abides. Cover illustration by H. Lawrence Hoffman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I cannot count the number of copies of this book I have owned. I love it so much I buy copies of it, give it to people I think will love the story. The books are given theoretically on loan, but never has one of them been returned, so I buy another copy. I should get a volume discount.

The book is a bit preachy, but no  more so than many other popular books. It doesn’t bother me. George Stewart is a lot less preachy than Anne Rice  and he has better points to make and moreover, I agree with him.

Things we accept without a second thought today were revolutionary 63 years ago. When the book was first published both interracial relationships and rejection of formal religion were generally not accepted when the book was published. Attitudes have changed — more some places than others — there’s still more than enough racism, religious fanaticism and hatred to go around.

I’ve seen comments about how out of date the technology is. In fact, it doesn’t matter, not one little bit.

Our current technology has moved on considerably but regardless of  how advanced it’s gotten, any technology is insupportable on a depopulated earth. It makes no difference what had or had not been invented. It would be useless in any case. You can’t drive cars without gasoline and you can’t keep the pumps working without electricity. You can’t use telephones when there is no service. Our satellites might continue to circle the earth, but without signals, how would it matter? No batteries, no power? It’s all over when the power is gone and that, as the book shows, is at best a few years for even the most basic infrastructure. After that, we are back to a pre-technical world. Not a pre-industrial world. Industry existed before electricity: wind, water, sun … and the Earth itself continue.

The world ends, the world begins. Earth Abides.

Ish and Emma are the “mother” and “father” of the new tribe. Ish, in Hebrew, means “man” and “Eema” means “mother” which I am sure is not coincidental. It’s a wonderful story that suggests the human race has the capacity to not only survive, but reinvent civilization and created a better society. If you haven’t read this book, read it. It’s available in print and on Audible with a fine narrator. I cannot recommend it too highly.

Earth Abides is timeless. As is the Earth itself.

I discovered today there is an entire site dedicated to George R. Stewart — The EARTH ABIDES Project — by a man who knew him and has written his biography. The site contains pictures and other memorabilia. If you are a fan, this is a gift for us all.

This comment could not be transferred, so I have included it as part of the re-run of my original review.

Nice post about Earth Abides, and you found one of the easter eggs in Stewart’s book. But the photo (Note: I deleted the photo to which he is referring — MA)  is NOT of George R. Stewart. If you visit my blog —http://georgerstewart.wordpress.com — and follow the menu link at the top to the George R. Stewart web pages, you’ll see a photo of GRS. (I knew him, and have recently had a bio of GRS published.) You’re certainly right about Earth Abides — and you’re not the only one who feels that way. NASA’s Dr. Jim Burke, composer Philip Aaberg, Jimi Hendrix, Stephen King, Kim Stanley Robinson, Walt Disney — all were inspired by Stewart’s work or directly by EA. So thanks for the post. Cheers, DMS.