Fiction rambling

Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

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.

5 thoughts on “Fiction rambling

  1. You may have read it already but if not I’d thoroughly recommend A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller. It’s not exactly survivalist literature, although one can look at it from the point of view of species\knowledge survival. It is however extremely thought provoking. I’d agree with you re. Starship Troopers, IMO Heinlein’s finest book and the movie lost the plot completely.

  2. Stirling silver

    On your recommendation I read “Dies the Fire” by S.M. Stirling. The first book was really good, it was initially a weird TEOTWAWKI (for those who haven’t read it – the premise was an EMP of unknown origin knocks out all technology, and alters physics to the point that gunpowder no longer burns quickly making guns and bombs useless and led to the survivors all being Renaissance Festival types.) Then, the next two books devolved into a two-volume set of Wiccan Feudalism for Post-Apocalyptic Dummies. I know there are two additional books of “The Change” but they are not really post-apoc fiction rather alternate future/history at this point.

    Most of the time when I mention post-apocalyptic fiction I get eager idiots who slaver to tell me about Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” since they heard about it on Oprah. I read it, I thought it sucked. It was bleak, it was numbing, it was depressing and it probably captured the average Joe’s experience in that environment, starving, hiding from bad guys and generally being miserable. The stream of consciousness format that it was written in gave me a headache more than once, and I stopped giving a damn about the two main characters about halfway through. I know there is a movie being shot of it with Viggo Mortensen in production and I am hoping that in this rare case that the movie will be better than the book.

    I would recommend Stirling’s “Islands in the Sea of Time” which is not exactly post-apoc but it explores many of the ideas that would face a society cut off from modern amenities. The basic gist is that a freak storm zaps the island of Nantucket off the east coast back through time into the Bronze Age. The technology the islanders currently have remains intact, but now is rare – no one is making firing pins for M4’s anymore or factory produced ammo, and things like food and crops are now paramount since there are no trucks to bring groceries. It’s clearly a precursor to the “Dies the Fire” series but is an enjoyable read just to see how the town deals with suddenly being thrown back 3000 years into the past. There’s quite a bit more to it but if you enjoy the idea of dealing with a vanished modern day society then I think you might like it.

  3. pulp survival fiction

    is just like the survivor tv show. wonder how you prepared types will suffer because you don’t have a “forever supply” when it is time to “make do without” ? bad enough when you gotta grow food or make improvised ammo,but wait till you need a fresh supply of antibiotics. can you cope with this possibility?

    til then, on with the show…… Wildflower 08

  4. Re: pulp survival fiction

    I suppose the answer to “what will you do when you run out of stored food” is “grow your own”. But we could go a few steps further…what happens when you run out of fertile soil? What happens when you run out of water to irrigate? What happens when the hydrogen in the sun burns up and you run out of power for your growlights? What happens when the oxygen in the atmosphere is too poisoned to grow things? etc etc

  5. Re: pulp survival fiction

    god question there. probally living elsewhere by then. not bad for a human! Wildflower 08

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