Defining the end of the world

So I was talking to penmage about The True Meaning of Smekday (a very funny SF book I very much liked), and the whole subject came up of: what makes a book post-apocalyptic?

It’s not spoilery to say that The True Meaning of Smekday takes place after an alien invasion that had casualties and that changed life as we knew it forever–you learn that in the first few pages. But … the world doesn’t end, exactly. Life goes on, even in the immediate aftermath of that invasion.

But then, life goes on to some extent in almost every post-apocalyptic book, or there wouldn’t be a story to tell.

So what makes the changing of the world dramatic enough to be post-apocalyptic? How do you define the end of the world?

Does it even have to be the whole world? Or just your own corner of it? It’s as much a matter of defining “world” as “end,” really.

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