I kinda sorta fancy myself a connoisseur of post-apocalypse fiction. With one or two exceptions I’ve pretty much read them all. As of late I’ve been reading a few different ones but I always find myself drawn back to “Alas Babylon”. I hadn’t given it much thought, but that’s the one book of the genre that usually finds its way to my nightstand more than any other. I think the reason is because if you look at 99% of the fiction out there its just one long shoot-em-up after another. “Alas Babylon” has one major shootout and it isn’t nearly as detailed as contemporary ones, where every characters gun is lovingly described in the most painstaking detail. (Does it matter if the bad guy is shot with a ‘revolver’ rather than a ‘six-inch Metalifed Colt Python’?) I understand that the majority of readers of this genre would happily identify themselves as ‘gun nuts’ (although I prefer the term ‘Ballistic-American’) and therefore theres going to be a certain amount of ‘fan service’ in the form of major gunplay. However, I think many times it detracts from the story. Every so often, to amuse myself, I’ll pick up a recently published book and count how many pages I can randomly turn to before I find one that doesn’t have the word “gun”, “ammo”, “shoot”, “rifle” or some other firefight boilerplate in it. Not easy.
Some books pretty much dispense with the pretext and just generally devolve into gun pr0n. The classic example is Ahern’s “The Survivalist” series which was a lot of fun to read in my teens but now comes across as just formulaic pulp.(But I do admit to re-reading it sometimes for nostalgia’s sake.) A worse example (or, more accurately, a better example of worse behavior) would be Johnstone’s monotonous “Ashes” series. I genuinely believe each book was identical with only locations, names and ‘threat of the month’ being changed from book to book. Its end was unusuaully unglamorous and the authors new works didn’t seem to have anything new except a bizarre and uncharacteristic religious overtone. The only truly notable thing about Johnstone’s book was its promotion of a political philosophy that for a while had some rather devoted followers.
The end of western civilization will certainly have its violent moments, no doubt. However, I don’t think it will constantly be a day-to-day gunbattle with roving biker gangs and UN/federal/foreign troops as suggested by most contemporary fiction. I’ve become more interested in the more mundane aspects of preparedness and like to see how they’re handled in fiction … lack of refrigeration, medical care, fuel shortages, etc, etc.
Now, before anyone calls me a hypocrite, I freely admit to having some modest amounts of firearms and ammo tucked away. I may not believe the end of the world will be one long running gunbattle but I figure it wouldn’t hurt to be prepared in case I’m wrong. While we’re on the subject of fiction, Im going to recommend a book that isn’t necessarily TEOTWAWKI but still has some value – Starship Troopers, by Heinlein. The book has almost nothing to do with preparedness per se, but does give much food for thought regarding why we fight and sacrifice, live within codes of conduct, etc, etc. For the love of Crom, don’t think the book has anything to do with the craptacular movies of the same name. Read the book. Skip the movies.