The last few weeks, I’ve spent a little time researching disaster scenarios and post-apocalyptic plans from everything from FEMA to hard-core survivalists. I’ve seen places that buy emergency food stashes and companies that will turn that nice home of yours into an armored fortress with a secret underground level that will sustain you and your loved ones for months after the bombs drop.
Of course, it’s not all survivalist fringe cases. I’ve also been looking at documentaries on real-life disasters and looking up how people survive in a place without resources, everything from water to total anarchy resulting from a collapsed government or even a collapsed biosphere. I’ve been doing this for two reasons: the upcoming post-apocalyptic RPG I’m running and a story I’m thinking of expanding into a full-blown novel. Mary has also been outlining a story that takes place after a so-far-undisclosed catastrophe. All in all, it’s been very informative.
I’ve also grown to expect the complete collapse of society at any moment.
Our finances are in the toilet, we’re using 99% of the available growing space on Earth and can’t feed everyone, the environment is heading downhill, and interconnectivity has made us more vulnerable to a world-wide catastrophe than ever before. In a way, I understand the people who hoard food and bullets. There are courses for teens, parents, people in urban areas, etc. Some of the things these sites suggest make sense. If you live in an area prone to natural disasters, for example, keep plenty of food and water and other supplies in case of a prolonged scenario.
I understand all that. It’s a scary world.
What I still don’t understand is the mentality that this sort of preparation must be done 24/7. I’ve come across more than a few sites and books that all made the claim that we need to disaster-proof every aspect of our lives. We should hoard water and food and guns and bullets RIGHT NOW. Everything we do must be geared towards survival.
I’ll admit that knowing what to do in a disaster and being prepared are one thing, but I’m not about to spend my life getting ready for something that may never happen. I would rather have preparations to survive and live than prepare for something that may never happen. Glenn Beck made a living out of telling people they had to prepare for the impending holocaust that liberalism would bring. In uncertain times, people can easily pitch relief, information, or affirmation.
My take on all this? Have a plan, have supplies, know what to do, and then go out and live.
With that said, I’m going to leave you with a little music for the end of the world. Enjoy.
The apocalypse has been a recurring topic in the office lately.
I’ve been doing research for an upcoming game. It’s set decades after a failed alien invasion, and though I wrote about it last year and we gamed for several weeks, my players asked me to restart it. I’ve been doing a little research because we’re going to do new characters and the setting will also be different in order to take the story and game to the next level.
That being said, I’ve been looking back at my notes and seeing the kinds of things this group of cryogenically-frozen would have been given before getting shunted into the future. I also need to familiarize myself with the kinds of things a post-apocalyptic society needs in order to run.
You know what? That’s a lot of stuff. Also, I know wish I had an NBC-proof bunker stocked with food and weapons.
The research, though, has helped me flesh out the world as it exists decades after the invasion. I’ve looked at survival kits, bunker designs, and what cities would do without a hundred years of human maintenance. Not only am I seriously considering hoarding food and toilet paper now, but I’ve re-learned that society needs a LOT to keep functioning. The lists of supplies could easily fit in a book. The sheer number of medical supplies is enough to stock a hospital, even if you cut the list down to the things you could expect a well-stocked team to carry around. In a perfect world, I could use all this information to create a very rich, textured world full of possibilities.
I’m not going to do that, though.
Then why do all the research, you may ask? Why not use all this information?
I’m not going to use all of it because it would be a waste of notes. When my players ask me what they find when they raid a medical base or a hospital, for example, I’m going to give them a general idea and if they need something specific, we’ll just assume they have it. I’m not going to keep track of individual aspirins. The game is supposed to be fun and move along, not concern itself with the minutiae of inventory. The game should be about making it past the next flooded section of the city, finding that weapon stash before the bullets run out, or evading the aliens hunting them for food.
That same kind of research is also essential in writing. I have pages upon pages of research on Charcoal Streets, for example. The mythology is extensively written and based on two thousand years of Christian mythology and legend.
However, I’m not going to put everything I find on the page. For example, I refer to Carmen as one of the Fallen Sons (or daughters) because the nephilim, half-human, half-angels, are cited as having existed before Noah’s flood. I figured such a title would be indicative of a race of people who were shunned by Heaven. Likewise, Carmen usually uses Glock pistols. I chose these guns because earlier models had interchangeable parts and someone like Carmen could use this to her advantage. Likewise, Glock pistols have a slender profile an assassin could use to her advantage. Plus, I think they look cool and, since many government agencies use them, they evoke professionalism.
I know all this, but it’s not going to go on the page.
Research is a tool to figure out what kinds of details should go into your writing. It’s the thing that lets you know if there are mountains near your city and if they once had mines you can use as a location for your epic final confrontation. Research lets you know the kinds of supplies post-apocalyptic survivalists would hoard. You don’t NEED to show all this, though, but it’s important to know how and why.
Think of research as the practice before an athletic competition. You get all the kinks out and figure out what kinds of moves and warm-ups to do before the big game. Once game day rolls around, you just do it and it makes sense.
I have a love-hate relationship with conspiracy theories.
When I worked as a legislative correspondent in Congress, it seemed like 10% of the mail we received was for legitimate concerns and questions, 30% was rehashed party lines and mass mailings, and the rest were paranoia and craziness from South Texas. You wouldn’t believe some of the theories I read, everything from a secret president ordering mass executions, the end of world brought on by the economic crisis knocking Venus out of orbit, to the Jewish cabals seeking to control us.
And that’s just dumb.
We all know it’s Dick Cheney, in the patented Cheney-Cave, who’s controlling the world.
While theories like this are dangerous because they rely either on illogic or false information, they are also quite fun. What can I say? I get a thrill from watching people jump like Chicken Little at the slightest things.
Lately, though, from Obama’s birth certificate to the allegations that global warming are a scientific hoax, it seems that conspiracy theories are more rampant today than they were even when the X-Files was still airing new episodes. Just for laughs, here are two of the funnier theories I’ve heard.
Oh you know me… I can’t start my day until I listen to good ol’ Rush Limbaugh. Man’s like a shot of caffeine right to the eye, and in the last few days, he’s been accusing Obama of blowing up the oil rig that has now created one of the worst ecological disasters in history.
It’s very simple. See, Obama and his radical left-wing progressive sociocommunazi friends want to force environmental protection regulations that will save us from that fakey global warming hoax. Control carbon emissions today… world government tomorrow! Blowing up the rig, says Limbaugh, gave Obama and the eco-terrorists the ammunition they need to pass bans on off-shore oil drilling.
This disaster serves as an example of just how bad things can get if we don’t act now.
So… environmentalists polluted hundreds of square miles of ocean, killed several workers, killed untold amounts of plant and wildlife, and have created a gaping wound in the ocean floor that still floods the water with toxins… all in an effort to save the environment?
By conservative estimates, the oil spill is worse than the Exxon-Valdez accident. There will be repercussions for decades. Entire ecosystems are destroyed. This is a bit like saying that Saddam Hussein secretly instigated the Gulf Wars in order to boost tourism to Iraq. Also, did you notice how Rush ended his segment? He’s just “asking questions.” Yeah, but you have no answers. Asking the question is not the same as addressing it. Hey Rush, did you take so much OxyContin that your ability to use higher brain functions has been destroyed?
I’m just asking.
Okay, that one was fairly easy and could be attributed to political paranoia, so let’s look at another theory that’s… special.
Did you know Earth actually has two suns, just like in Star Wars, and NASA is spraying chemicals to hide the fact from us? Oh yes. Our sun actually has a twin star and, if conditions are right, you can see this elusive second star.
Nibiru, which the cameraman mentions, is an object that is supposed to collide with Earth and cause mass devastation.
The theory for this video and others like it is actually very simple. See, the government is trying to hide this from us because… wait, no, it’s the GLOBAL government! It has to be since this has been viewed as far as Russia. Yeah, they’re spraying chemicals in the sky to hide the second sun from us because…
Yeah, this one is stupid to the extreme. While there are videos and photos of these two suns, it’s actually a very simple effect called a sundog. And if you honestly believe that NASA is hiding evidence of a second sun… where was this second sun, oh, say, the last five billion years? Even if there was a star with one percent the output of our parent star, we would see it and FEEL it! For it to be that far in the sky, it would have to be on a large orbit!
Dear gods, people… a second sun and the government is hiding it?!
Why do people buy into this stuff? Part of me wants to just say that people are stupid and will believe anything. I want to blame a lack of education. I want to blame it all on the laziness to investigate, to really use the scientific method as it was intended instead of coming to a conclusion first, then finding evidence to support it. If you follow that route, you can justify almost anything. Combine it with a public that is frighteningly ignorant of basic science, history, and critical thinking and you get little nuggets of laughter like this woman:
It’s fraking refraction and reflection through water, lady! It’s not a government conspiracy to sterilize you, although, seeing this video, I would endorse such a measure for you!
Conspiracy theories do have one thing in common. All of them have some small basis in truth. They also rely on information that is either wildly contested or on the fringe of data sets. For any scientific experiment of report, there will be lots of numbers, and geniuses like Beck and his “research” team and others looking for the “truth,” any slight inconsistency in the data means that it’s not reliable in the least.
Let me put it this way. Say you want to measure the height of a building and you have a ruler, a yardstick, and a tape measurer. You use all three and come up with 350 inches, 310 inches, and 333 inches. Most people would see these numbers and simply assume, rightly, that there are imperfections in the method used to gather information, but all methods point to a rough height between 310 and 350 inches or about 30 ft.
It takes a special kind of nut to say that the building must be 500 inches high because someone told you that was the height of the building and no one can prove you wrong, so you must be right.
Personally, I love deflating these little conspiracy bubbles. There are few things I hate more than misinformation or the bastardization of science for these kinds of things. I’m all for keeping an open mind about the world, but people, please, learn to think critically. I know the best conspiracy theories have the big bad villain(s) lying to you, forcing you into blind obedience, and making you the victim… but come on!
Next thing you’ll be telling me is that Kennedy and Michael Jackson are hiding in Puerto Rico with Tupac.
If you have any conspiracy theories you’re fond of, share them in the comments below. I’m always on the lookout for more crazies.