Every book has got to begin somewhere. Often the circumstances, though seemingly fantastic, say as found in a Space Opera, are still pastoral. Setting is the way life is, and the characters within have only ever known it that way. But in the world of Post-Apocalyptic fiction, or PA fiction, the change from pastoral to doomsday is part of the tale.
And that’s where readers of PA find the sweet spot…
They want the world turned upside down, shaken not stirred and served into a cracked martini glass at a roadside fortress gas station where everyone wears leather, drives souped-up Dodge Chargers and carries a shotgun. Maybe. Or at least some of them do.
But first we’ve got to depart the regular gas station, and that 44 oz. Big Gulp we can have any time we want. Or, life as we currently know it. To do that, the PA writer needs to set the stage. The opening act is the final act. Or simply put, the world’s got to go.
So for those who read this blog, I’ll outline how I blew up the world. I don’t do this in the book, The Old Man and the Wasteland. So, here’s how it all went down…
We start with a new 9/11.
A terrorist cell manages to poison most of lower Manhattan with a dirty bomb and then a Mumbai-style ambush against first responders. After a week, the last of the terrorists have been killed and the casualties are enormous and mounting, due to radiation sickness. Manhattan is finished and a global capital is effectively terminated.
An American President, politically moderate before the attack, shifts wildly to the militant-right as the nation calls for a bloodletting. American forces airstrike three middle-eastern capitals. Let’s go with Damascus, Tripoli, and Tehran. An American expeditionary force lands in North Africa with the intent of a Sherman’s March to the Sea-style invasion in an effort to devastate the Muslim world.
Mid-invasion, a charter airliner flashing the correct Homeland Security transponder codes, explodes at high altitude over the Northern Hemisphere of the Unites States. The powerful EMP disables most everything from cell phones to toasters to early warning radar detection systems (Unless they happened to be switched off at the time of the pulse.) Within hours the city of Dallas experiences a high yield, low altitude nuclear explosion delivered by terrorist cells operating out of Mexico and piloting drone aircraft.
The next day, it’s Seattle.
For the next two weeks, a city a day is destroyed by drone-piloted, nuclear weapon carrying aircraft. The bombs are mostly low yield but there are some medium-yield bombs.
Emergency services are strained and collapse.
American citizens abandon their cities en masse.
A coalition of Muslim countries announce that the drone strikes, funded and powered by Chinese technology stolen from U.S. developers, will continue until The American Army, currently driving toward Saudi Arabia, surrenders completely.
The President of the United States authorizes a full scale nuclear strike by bomber aircraft against all the major capitals of the Middle East. Bombers receive their codes and commence their attack.
A Chinese fleet preemptively strikes the Northwestern United States. The President authorizes the use of T-LAN nuclear ordinance to repel the invasion.
China launches her entire nuclear arsenal in response to the loss of her fleet.
Russia invades Central and Western Europe. Nuclear weapons are exchanged by France, England, and Germany against targets on their own soil and in Russia.
Pakistan and India exchange nuclear weapons.
News and information, accurate facts, a clear winner in any conflict is beyond determination. The world is beset by raging wildfires, disease, and starvation at heretofore unimagined levels. Within months, months of darkness due to the ash cloud that surrounds the earth, a mini ice age descends across much of the planet. A two year nuclear winter ensues.
Pictured from space by the few remaining Satellites that still circle the planet, the Earth is much the same. Except that it is completely dark on the sunless side of the terminator. Gone are the lights of cities and civilization that once burned in the night. Only the occasional large-acreage forest fire, burning out of control, can be seen in the night.
Thirty-eight years later, a survivor considered Seventy-Eight days unlucky, departs his village at dawn. He will either find something of use to his village or never return. His only companions are the words and wisdom of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. Thus begins…