When the world ends, an underground 1-bedroom apartment and a 10-year supply of beans will totally justify devoting your life to end-times paranoia.
So I am now working on a new OF novel. (No, sorry, no good news about my SF novel. One agent was interested but ultimately passed, so I think it's going in the trunk for now.) It's a post-apocalyptic. Old school. What can I say, first I wrote a Heinleinesque teen space adventure, now I am writing my own version of The Stand. Never let it be said my writing is guided by commercial viability or original ideas. :P
(No, not thinking of self-publishing at this time. If I was gonna just see how many self-published ebooks I could sell, I'd adopt a new pseudonym and write M/M were-dinosaur erotica.)
So, anyway, survival in the post-apocalypse. My new book gives me an excuse to indulge in
Now and then I acquire temporary odd obsessions/fascinations. Right now it is with the whole "prepper" subculture (what used to be called "survivalists"). Currently they are predicting the imminent collapse of Western civilization, hyperinflation of the U.S. Dollar, Peak Oil, Obama herding people into FEMA camps, and various combinations of EMPs, superstorms, nuclear meltdowns, and roving cannibal hordes. Not necessarily in that order.
Of course these subcultures have been predicting imminent catastrophe since at least the 60s. And remember all that Golden Age science fiction about nuclear families emerging from their suburban bomb shelters after the atomic war to survey a shattered, post-apocalyptic America?
The fears of these survivalists are somewhat based on real threats. People were legitimately afraid of nuclear war in the 50s, though they had seriously optimistic notions about how survivable an actual global thermonuclear war would be. And watching the economy now, I cannot say that I think predictions of hyperinflation and/or a Great Depression-level collapse are absolutely, completely absurd. I would rate the worst-case scenarios as "unlikely," but it would be foolish to assume that the dollar is going to be as strong in 20 years as it is now.
That said, it's one thing to stock a little extra food and water and maybe even some hard currency just in case your city's grid goes down in a catastrophe, and another to seriously prepare for The End of the World As We Know It.
Doomsday Bunkers is a "reality show" that is not really that interesting — it's about a company that builds bunkers and storage pods for preppers. The interesting part is not their prefab steel shipping containers that they basically turn into 1-bedroom apartments and bury in a hole in the ground; it's all the scared white people (it's almost all scared white people) spending massive amounts of money on remote threats. I mean, one lady spent $150,000 on an underground bunker with NBC air filters because she lives 15 miles from a nuclear power plant and is worried about a meltdown. If you are that worried about a meltdown, wouldn't it be cheaper just to move away from the power plant?
Other preppers were these guys trying to put on an Alpha Wolf display (at least on camera), thinking that some gym muscles and a shaved head made them look hard, while they growled about how they are totally gonna Protect Their Families and shoot anyone who tries to Take Their Stuff, yo. Did they actually train with any of those expensive, high-end guns they were waving around? Did they think about long-term survival in a world where they and their family have to retreat to an underground shipping container because starving hordes of people who want to Take Their Stuff are ransacking their property?
If you are preparing for a serious TEOTWAKI event, then nothing less than self-sufficiency and/or a community of like-minded people all preparing for the same thing will suffice. If you are a suburbanite or even someone with a rural bunker, I cannot think of a more miserable existence than hiding in a can breathing reprocessed air for years. What's even the point? These are people terrified by death, plagued by irrational fears.
This is what a prepper looks like.
Not always this rich, but almost always this white.
They would probably laugh at a Manhattanite "prepper" like Aviva Drescher:
“I bought body gear, really expensive body gear, like the kind used by the Army. I went online and researched gas masks. I bought a gas tent for my baby. I was so crazy that when I took my baby out, I would keep a gas mask in the stroller. I stocked up on Cipro,” she said. (Cipro is used to treat people exposed to anthrax.) “I bought a bunch of giant rafts to go down the East River. Though I know,” she sighed, “all the big shots will probably have private planes and helicopters.”
I mean, seriously, carrying around a gas mask just in case of a sudden nerve gas attack in Central Park? This is what we call "poor risk assessment." If you were to list all the possible threats to your baby, the probability of nerve gas is way, way, way lower than more mundane threats that would be mitigated by much more practical measures...
But as amusing as the notion of a Real Housewife of NYC hobbling about in high heels and body armor may be, fundamentally Ms. Drescher's thinking is no more irrational than all the other scared white people who don't know what to do in the event that their environment comes to resemble... well, much of the world today. Where the police are not your friends and not going to show up to protect you, and walking outside without being shot at is not a given, nor is the ready availability of food. Go to any inner city and you'll find a large number of people who live like that today, in America. Survival skills are not necessarily hiding in a bunker with a horde of firearms or carrying gas masks in case of a Tom Clancy novel.
They aren't all crazy and irrational, though. It's easy to see how they get caught up in that mindset.
I have been reading Jim Rawles's SurvivalBlog, and it's a combination of hard, practical common sense and survival tips for when shit seriously hits the fan (and knowledge and skills that are useful to have even if it doesn't), and raving moonbat goldbugs, fundies, and gun nuts. These are people buying real estate in the "American Redoubt" (generally, Montana/Idaho/North Dakota and thereabouts) because they expect both coasts and all major cities to become Somalia. In fairness, Rawles himself is sane and reasonable, even if I disagree with some of his conclusions and most of his premises, but you can feel the fear and paranoia oozing from some of his letter-writers.
Grab yo' guns, fucker! It's time to start shootin' librulz!
There is also a subset of the survivalist subculture that isn't just fearfully preparing for society to collapse, but eagerly anticipating it. From those who want to literally burn it to the ground to those who won't do anything to immanentize the eschaton themselves but just can't wait until they can start shooting the
I call these people "Flaggians." It's akin to that famous cocktail party game about going Nazi — when the end of the world comes, who would join up with Randall Flagg? I have my thoughts on how you can predict who will be a wolf, who will be a sheep, and who will be a sheepdog.
In the meantime, I am working on zombie-proofing my house, and on my novel.