Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Apocalypse Then

Apocalyptic movies and stories aren't new. The first movie I saw was Mad Max. And in the ensuing years, they haven't changed a lot. The vision remains much the same through the different versions both in books and movies.

In embarking on my own version I've inevitably hit a few snags. How bad are things? Really. For instance, in several movies I noticed that such things as electricity and water seemed to work. So...who was running the shop if those services were still available? I mean, in one movie, there were supposed to be no humans left. So how was this working?

The ugly truth is humans are necessary on a fundamental level to run things. Computers can do a lot of things, but when resources run out, it takes a human to arrange a resupply. Much of our electricity is generated using a variety of coal, gas, wind, solar collectors... and eventually, something somewhere runs out or breaks down. Humans must be available to fix whatever needs to be fixed.

So in the apocalyptic movies and books, it always startles me when the characters have electricity, phone service, mail delivery, internet service, television, water not to mention fresh milk and orange juice and other oddities.

A true apocalypse would look more like the chaos in Haiti--with no one ever arriving to help. Lots of people would die. There would be no resources except the most primitive. And those resources would belong to the most powerful/most ruthless of the survivors. Whatever it would be--it wouldn't be pretty or poetic. Most men would likely have beards because hey! No razor blades. No coffee. No sanitary products. No disposable diapers. No toilet paper. For that matter, maybe no toilets.

The creation of a post apocalyptic world requires thought, thought about the most trivial things we take for granted. No gasoline produced=no vehicles running. No vehicles running=none of the most basic items except for those things locally produced. However if that production requires fuel=no production.

In a discussion of these points a woman I was talking to said, "Well, I'll just sew our clothes."

"Interesting," I replied. "I never knew you were into growing cotton (or wool), carding it, spinning it, weaving it so you could make clothing."

"Of course I wouldn't do that. I'd buy the fabric at the store!"

"What store? There are no trucks to bring the fabric from the fabric mills. And certainly no imports."

Hmmmm. Maybe I'll just keep those containers of fabric and yarn in the closet. If all else fails, I'll have clothes.



  1. I'm working on a post-apoc book, too, Anny, and have been for years. I think I've found some ways to make things 'work' but it does require a lot of thinking ("if A, then B" kind of thinking). I find it fascinating, which is why I'm writing it. I doubt I'll find a publisher since I'm planning 10 books in a multi-generational series & most publishers aren't interested in such things. But hey, it's my world, and I'm going to do what I want!

  2. It IS a fascinating world. There are so many things we take for granted. And I wonder how creative and inventive people would be. Best wishes with your books!

  3. Anny,
    They do seem to have "prettied" up quite a few aspects in the movies since Mad Max and now you've made me wonder where I put granny's knitting needles. I think my spinning wheel is still in the attic;-)

  4. I look at the post-apoc world much like a historical setting. Perhaps imagine what the world might be like in say, the early colonial age. Except that people would have to "re-learn" how to produce those things necessary to survive. And there would be some knowledge of technology. A "tech geek" might be able to make his world easier if he could get his hands on enough parts and adapt things to solar power...

  5. Yep, lots to consider. There's a series my dh reads, where a lot of the people who have done well were the historical reinactors. Many of those groups do have someone who cards, spins, etc., and someone who's studied historical agriculture. Something to think about...

  6. Ahhhh. Thank you for that tip! Also campers, survivalists, ex-military, and experts at museums, etc. Gardeners, crafty persons...lots to think about.