When the Ocean Strikes Back: Frank Schätzing’s Eco-thriller The Swarm and the Pop-cultural Imagination of Global Environmental Disaster

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The disaster scenario is one of the predominant settings we find unfold in the pop-cultural imagination, namely in films and novels. In recent years, as increased awareness of environmental issues affect the agendas of public debate, we also see local and increasingly global environmental disasters depicted in fiction. The most outstanding example of this tendency in German literature is Frank Schätzing’s internationally bestselling eco-thriller The Swarm from 2004, published in English in 2006 and planned as a Hollywood production in 2015. In Schätzing’s book, a global environmental disaster is evolving caused by an intelligent life form of the deep sea striking back at mankind. This article aims at discussing in what ways The Swarm uses elements and patterns of the pop-cultural disaster imagination, specifically the disaster and science fiction movie of the 1990s. Furthermore, it investigates how the ‘alienness’ depicted in the book differs from representations in pop-cultural tradition, challenges the position of the human species in the order of nature, and questions the capacity of humankind to prevent self-extinction. In concluding, a parallel to contemporary cultural theory (Dominic Pettman) problematizing the concept of humanity is drawn.
TidsskriftAkademisk Kvarter
Sider (fra-til)312-329
Antal sider17
StatusUdgivet - 2013


  • Frank Schätzing, global environmental disaster, eco-thriller, science fiction, German literature