Monday, October 4, 2010

The Plots Thicken

One of my favorite subjects is the situation people will find themselves in when the post apocalyptical world appears on their doorstep like some lost puppy with serious case of radioactive rabies. Given our daily lives of Facebook, espresso, and commuting to work, what happens when all of that disappears and we have to rediscover fire? What happens to the people living in the north when the heating oil and the electricity fail? What happens to the people in the South when the first CAT five arrives without much more warning than a few heavy showers? What happens to people when the things that make them who they are disappear without a trace?

I think I’ve already written about it once or twice, but one of my favorite stories is what happens when women stop getting pregnant. There is no reason for the event, but after a certain day, there are no more pregnancies, and no one can understand why. No amount of sex or science can produce a fertilized egg or embryo, and humankind stares extinction in the face in a matter of less than one hundred years. The story jumps ahead in stages of five years, and at each stage those things that existed for young humans disappear with them. In five years there will be no diapers, no baby bottles, no baby food, no training wheels, no kindergarten, and no more first days of school. In fifteen years, the last high school freshmen would begin class. In twenty years, underage drinking would be on the verge of extinction. How society would change if humans lost the ability to reproduce would be incredible.

I wrote a short story, and lost it in the Great File Transfer of 2009, about a society that launch an orbiting space station, with everything humanity would need to survive the turmoil that gripped the planet. The occupants were to stay in a state of cryonic hibernation for five hundred years, long enough for everything down below to settle itself, and then they would descend like angels to teach humanity how to live again. But the computer program written to awaken everyone added a couple of zeros and the ship stays aloft for 500,000 years. The ship crashes and the survivors are left being guided by robots who were supposed to function as house servants. The robots get together, decide there are too many people to survive with what they have, and tell the human they have to reduce the population in order for the whole to survive, interviews begin tomorrow.

There is also the story a virus that escapes the lab it was kept in, runs rampant, but spares those in isolated areas. The people in Fargo Georgia survive, and prosper, but they destroy the roads and bridges leading into Fargo, and become a village with folklore of the time when men flew in machines, and rode without horses. Older televisions become valuable sources of glass to make arrowheads, and the concrete bridges over the Suwannee River become oddities as the course of the river changes around them. They send out a sort of Lewis and Clark expedition after one hundred years to discover that they are indeed alone as far as anyone can tell after a year of exploration.

Somewhere I have a story where monsters from outer space show up and more or less used humans as toys for a while before they leave again. It isn’t pretty, and it isn’t very much fun for the humans and those who have survived by collaborating with the aliens are left in a ruined world, where just about all the other survivors are going to be very unhappy with those humans who turned on them.

One of my oldest stories is the one of a man with severe mental problems who survives just fine because he doesn’t know despair. The rives in South Georgia freeze, and people around him die, but he was told by his guardians to live in the attic and not let anyone see him so he does just that. He creates a cocoon of insulation, lives off canned goods, and likes to fish. The fact that the new ice age kills off most of the other people only decreases the social pressure on him to be normal. In the end, the so called normal people come to him for help, and they have to learn to live the way he lives in order to survive at all.

There’s the short story where people think it’s very nice the earth is being pelted with snowballs from outer space. They aren’t that big, and evaporate as they hit, leaving rainbow type vapor trails (questionable science here, but it is fiction) but this goes on for year and years until finally the water level on earth begins to rise. The more water that rises the higher the atmospheric pressure becomes so it’s a wet and painful way for the earth to end.
A more comedic end occurs as a man invents a machine that will raise the dead, in the form of ghosts, but he doesn’t just raise one ghost but all of them. Everyone who has ever died is suddenly back in ghostly form, and not all of them are happy about it. Imagine the population of people times three or four that many as ghosts. You couldn’t walk without passing through a crowd.
It is more likely the world will end simply for the lack of natural resources of some type and the ensuing chaos will not end us but change us. The way of live we have lived must end one day, in some manner, and history is replete with civilizations who failed rather than evolve. Those who have rolled with the changes, or created that change, have lived to see another day, while those who clung to the past are now part of it. I suspect the more dogmatic, the more idiocratic and resistant to change a culture becomes, the more likely it is they were be killed off.
It’s odd in my fiction, when I target some culture or group of people for disaster, they all begin by trying to cling to what they have always known, to help them survive the unknown.

Take Care,


  1. Just catching up reading your posts, still find you "think" like me on so many topics. Especially the ghost & graves, and this one about earth without people. Have you seen the History channel "Life After People" series? It was fascinating in that it went into technical details about what would happen 10/20/50/100 years after people disappear -- how man-made structures and nuke waste, etc would create disasters without maintenance. Here's a link if you haven't seen it:

  2. Hi CS

    I secretly believe "Life After People" was stolen from me. I never actually write it, but I did think about what it would be like after we were gone. I started a short story about a man who was the last person on earth, and for reasons he never could explain, immortal. He watched everything we had ever done slowly melt away after hundreds of years, and finally he turned into a tree.