Jack London, The Scarlet Plague [New York; 1912]
A brief post-apocalyptic novella that is more extended parable than story, with some Naturalist pessimism as a chaser. London's pulpy imagination is the strongest thing about it, far better than his grasp of bacteriology, linguistics, or sociology. As he was a firm believer in both social darwinism and socialism, he's always going to be a problematic fave: but the influence of this story on the emergent sci-fi genre is probably incalculable. It predicts everything from Metropolis-style inequality-poetry to present-day zombie movies; a half-decent screenwriter could make a properly downbeat thriller out of it.
August 6, 2017