The literary world has had its fair share of frighteningly apocalyptic events. Masterworks like George Orwell’s 1984 touched on dystopian futurescapes, and more recent additions like Max Brooks’ recently filmed World War Z cemented our cultural obsessions with the idea of an end-of-the-world scenario brought on entirely on zombies. But what about a narrative that tackles the scary after-effects of a worldwide baldness epidemic?
Now, we can check that one off the list, too.
Peter Tieryas Liu’s debut novel, Bald New World examines the state of Planet Earth after a plague known as The Baldness sweeps through all seven continents, leaving not a single follicle untouched. BuzzFeed recently listed it as one of its “15 Highly Anticipated Books From (Mostly) Small Presses” and sites like Hyphen magazine have already given it praise for its stark creativity.
“If you took the world building of Philip K. Dick, and added in the gritty reality and humor of Haruki Murakami, with a touch of Aldous Huxley (of course), you would get Bald New World,” BuzzFeed’s Richard Thomas wrote.
As far as the subject matter goes, the numbers suggest that baldness is still a ways away from becoming something that could realistically be looked at as some kind of national fear. Still, 35 million men in America current suffer from hair loss, with nine out of 10 men placing it as their top concern as they begin to age. The scary part — the part that actually could make for decent apocalyptic writing — is that a man could lose up to half of his hair follicles before he even begins to notice it’s gone, studies suggest. That’s the stuff nightmares are made of.
For Liu, it was more about focusing on humans’ ability to grow with changes in their environments. The zombie thing has been done to death, according to Liu, but baldness presented a unique opportunity for storytelling.
“You see a lot of books out there about the apocalypse and what I wanted to do was write about something where something dramatic happens in the world and everyone actually just adapts,” he told Hypen. “Humans just move on so quickly.”
Presently, going bald isn’t the end of the world for men across the U.S. Hair restoration treatments like transplant surgeries and scalp micropigmentation are creeping up in popularity, and medications like Rogaine and Propecia are available simply by getting in contact with your doctor. That means that baldness is still a long way away from being considered a damning diagnosis.
“The thing about men losing their hair is that it begins during different phases of each man’s life,” explains Bryce Cleveland, CEO of Scalp Aesthetics. “When an 17 or 18 year old goes bald, they might be dealing with a lack of confidence, a feeling of being judged or not wanting to expose their head. It could also start at the age of 35. Either way, there is only one thing that all men are left with, which is no hair. Each issue for each man is different. What we do is to make sure that they don’t have to hide anymore.”
As for Liu’s future writing plans? He’s got a graphic novel lined up with an artist friend, and so far, all characters are looking to have full heads of hair. For now, anyway.