When was the idea of the post-apocalyptic future invented? I went to Blockbuster tonight in hopes of renting some clever comedy. Because of the unavailability of certain titles, recommendations from staff, delayed consequences from my trip to Morocco, and random factors, I ended up watching Children of Men instead. It makes for an uncomfortable accompaniment to my ongoing reading of The World Without Us. Then, there is Oryx and Crake and 28 Days Later. Even Half Life 2 had similar nightmare-future police-state fixations.
I wonder if it could be traced back, Oxford English Dictionary style, to the point where the first work of fiction emerged that envisioned the future as a nightmarish place. Furthermore, the first such fiction to envision human activities as the origin of the downfall. I wonder if ancient examples could be found, or whether it would all be in the last hundred years or so.