The Last Train of the Triffids!

03 Nov

Relax! I will get to some sort of explanation of the title in due course! 

But meanwhile…… 

If you ever pause at the top of my home page, rather than voraciously reading your way down my words so fast that all the other stuff slides quickly upwards out of view, you will find a heading called “Blogroll”.

 This is simply a list, which is there primarily for my benefit, of the other WordPress blogs that I read with some degree of regularity. It is, in other words, a list of  my favourites (or “favorites” if you are American or unredeemably computerised) and you are also welcome to go and browse them too. Just don’t make too many unfavourable comments on MY stuff after you do!

 Actually that last paragraph is largely irrelevant  because a major part of my regular readership seems to comprise the people who actually write the blogs I’ve listed! This would bother me were it not for the fact that we all list each other in our respective Blogrolls so I do have a chance of garnering some of their readers that way.

 I tell you this because I got the idea for this piece from an article I found by Cy Quick, one of this informal group of wise and reasoning beings  – or rather from his response to one of my comments on one of his pieces.

 Did you manage to follow that last sentence? Good – I’m not sure I did!

 My comment was to the effect that a recent news report that Humpback Whales are successfully breeding and are no longer endangered had really screwed up the basic premise of the movie  “Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home”. I also repeated a phrase used in Cy’s original article that struck me as relevant – “Earth abides”.

 And THAT remark brought forth a question from Mr Quick as to whether I had ever read the 1949 novel  by George R Stewart bearing that same title.

 I’m afraid I haven’t but I’ve now read a summary of the plot on Wikipedia and I’m really surprised that I’d never even heard of it!

 The surprise is down to it being a significant part of a literary genre which has held a morbid fascination for me over quite a number of years:

 Post-apocalyptic fiction!

 My interest in this started when, aged about 10 and having exhausted my own library of “Biggles” books, I started reading through my father’s bookshelf and discovered “The Day of the Triffids” by John Wyndham. I was immediately caught up with the variations on the theme of humankind having to rebuild on the ruins of our present technological and energy-squandering “civilisation” which has broken down catastrophically through reasons beyond our control. Or, sometimes, beyond our wit!

And after a few years of reading all of the stories I could find (way too many to list!) and watching anything I could find in the genre on TV and Cinema I decided to have a go at writing one of my own.

 I duly thought of an idea for the plot and set about composing it.

 Unlike my other “Novel” which, you may recall, has progressed to one chapter in eight years, this one has moved onto two paragraphs of the Introduction and half a page of plot notes! In the SAME eight year period!

 The problem is that every time I start doing any research I come across yet another previously unheard of story which, if I continued with my idea unchanged, would undoubtedly have me done for plagiarism in very short order! So it keeps getting modified. And modified. And modified!

 It now seems that the only way I’m going to ensure that I’m not accused of plot-stealing  is to make sure I’ve read and viewed EVERYTHING ever written in that category. So I have tried to do so, impossible as it is going to be.

 To give you an example of what I’m up against, a couple of years ago I discussed my latest variation on my original theme with a work colleague.

 “Oh !” he said, “That’s very like the plot for ‘The Last Train’ that was on TV back in the late 90s!”

 I vaguely recalled it and when looking it up online remembered watching the first couple of episodes before abandoning it probably on the grounds that there was something else on at the same time that my wife wanted to see. By that time I had given up videoing things like that as I knew I would never get to catch up!

 Anyway, now you can see how I got to the title of this piece.

 The online article that I read concerning “The Last Train” made references to other British examples of this type of story and amongst the authors mentioned was one I recognised  –  John Christopher. I recalled his name from the writing credits at the end of the 1984 Science Fiction series “The Tripods” (a post- apocalyptic story, naturally) which was adapted from his series of novels written in the 1960s.

It was not, however, those stories that were mentioned but “The Death of Grass” which I had never read before but suddenly realised was  familiar because it was in a box of my late father’s books that I had inherited.

 And would you believe THAT took out yet another potential storyline!

 So, all in all it looks as though I’ll have to give it up and find something more cheery and original to write about.

Right up until the end of the previous sentence I had absolutely no idea where this article was going or how I was going to end it but the thought of something more amusing has given me an idea.

 A long time ago when I used to live just outside Cambridge and could cycle home from the office via three different library branches I used to read all kinds of stuff – still mostly Sc-fi novels but some collections of short stories too.

 In one of those collections I found a short story that must be the only example of post-apocalyptic writing that has ever made me laugh out loud.

 The story (as far as my imperfect memory can recall) concerns a Californian scientist who has discovered incontrovertible proof that the San Andreas fault is about to cut loose with “the big one” but no-one will believe him or assist him in attempting to evacuate the population from the western side of the fault.

The day before the earthquake is to happen he goes on a massive drinking spree in San Francisco or Los Angeles (I can’t remember which) and wakes up AFTER the quake should have occurred.

 Relieved to have been proved wrong he looks out of his apartment into the rising sun only to discover that the quake did happen, California is intact but the REST of the North American continent has sunk without trace into the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans!

 I wish I could remember who wrote it so that I can read it again!

Does anyone out there know?



Posted by on November 3, 2010 in Uncategorized


7 responses to “The Last Train of the Triffids!

  1. littlealfie

    November 4, 2010 at 12:08 am

    Bad form to comment first on your own post, I know but I now have the answer thanks to one of my friends reading this on facebook (where it appears under my own name).

    The story is called “A Slight Miscalculation” by Ben Bova and there is no “final binge” scene! I was confusing THAT with “Inconstant Moon” by Larry Niven.


  2. Vincent

    November 4, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    This is kinda off-topic, but you know how sometimes a particular episode of a series stands head and shoulders above the others?

    Well, such an episode is one of the pretty good late-Sixties Lew Grade show called “Department ‘S'” – it was entitled “Last Train To Redbridge”.

    The plot entailed a train turning up there, with all of the passengers in the last carriage DEAD.

    It turned out they had witnessed strange goings on in a then-closed station, when the train had been stopped by a signal, with its last carriage in the closed station.

    There were posters saying “Stop Hitler Now” in it – and Peter Wyngarde spent half the episode wandering around (having been drugged) murmering these words.

    Jokes aside, it was a GREAT episode.

    Yet, despite several episodes from the series having been made available on VT – then disk – “Last Train To Redbridge” has never been among them. I wonder why?

    While I’m here – check THIS out…

  3. sumpnado

    November 8, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    I love off-topic, myself, but the following is half on-topic… I was in the market on Lemon Hill, in Truro, in 1987, and I spoke to the man on the book stall. “I would quite like to read again some of the SF titles I read years ago. One is Earth Abides”, I said, “but I do not know the author”. “George R Stewart” a man piped up. Then I bought the Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction from the Book Club. I got rid of it to a mate when I went to LA. It was SO useful!

  4. sumpnado

    November 8, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Uh-oh… I just thought of some other brill SF books not seen for ages… Rites Of Passage, Flowers Of Darkness, Level Seven… stories that I particularly liked.

  5. littlealfie

    November 9, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    I’m not familiar with the last two you mention but I’m assuming the “Rites of Passage” you mention ISN’T the work of that title by William (Lord of the Flies) Golding.

    I’ve no doubt that typing “LotF” will set our friend Vincent off about our disgraced English teacher but I’ll risk that!

    I hope that you were referring to the story by Alexei Panshin that STILL after about 40 years resides on MY “Favourites” shelf, along with most of the output of Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, even though it’s starting to fall apart from so much use!


  6. sumpnado

    November 20, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Quite. The R of P that I mean is (by Robert Anson Heinlein I think) the one about the guys and gals tele-plonked on a strange planet for a fortnight of survival challenge. What a shame when the tele-plonker breaks down. But…

    The Flowers of Darkness are the edible fungi that bloom by the water that streams through the world. The people of the world, living and loving, find their way around like bats. But terrifying periodic invasions by aliens who project a disabling force means the people must escape to the starvation of far below…

    And Level Seven is about a multi-level radiation-proof shelter. Unfortunately, the war does happen after all. Oh well, the important people are OK, civilisation is preserved. The top brass are on luxurious Level 1 of course. No-frills Level 7 is for the geeks (as we call them now). Uh-oh: the top dudes begin to feel poorly…

  7. Carla

    November 30, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    i’ve got to admit that i didn’t bother reading most of this. but i saw something about The Last Train which i somehow managed to catch most of despite mum telling me it was probably too scary. it was really good. that is all.


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