My Take on the Post-Apocalyptic Genre

My current writing project The Book of Ten is a work of speculative fiction set in a post apocalyptic future America, a world that has been devastated by wars, economic collapse and famine times of biblical proportions.

Hundreds of years after the time of The Fallen–the phrase used by the fractured citizenry to describe the time-period culminating in the actual “destruction” of the world of man, though no one alive seems to know the exact date or circumstance of this catastrophe–the United States have dissolved into a loose collection of city-states ran by an assortment of thugs, gangsters, robber barons and petty tyrants, and vast stretches of untamed land from which exploratory parties go, but never return; the world has been broken seemingly beyond repair and the rule of the gun holds sway….

There is no power, electricity, or centralized government–my fiction postulates that the veil we now think of as “civilization” is but a thin insulation against the harsh wilderness, and that this veil once ripped away will be replaced utterly by that wilderness, and that those who survive and their descendants will dwell for a time in a period akin to the Dark Ages of European lore.

The story itself will be told from the perspective of an old man who arose from the ashes of civilization to take the reigns of society and bent them to his will, a death-bed desire to tell his tale to a trusted biographer in an effort to set the record straight concerning his red-handed reign, to justify his actions in the eyes of history–as a modern-day analogue to Alexander the Great, his tale is an odyssey of grief, bloodshed and cold-hearted nation-building.

The first act of his saga, his “historical account”, begins with this old man relating his earliest childhood experiences and takes him up until his young adulthood.

The story is primarily set in the area once known as the state of Montana, much of the early plot revolving around or near the city of Helena, and will explicitly reflect my love of the local geography, much the same as my novel Ballad of the Northland did for the state of Alaska.

Here is a brief (rough draft) excerpt taken from one of the early chapters–


The Crow raised me from infancy.

  My earliest memories were of rank woodsmoke coiling through the plaited roof of a wickiup; old mother sitting in a shadowed corner, chewing strips of antelope hide and spitting globs of tobacco juice into a little birch-bark cup at the foot of her stool; the sounds of dogs barking and the smell of fresh horse manure; goat’s milk, thick with cream lapping the rim of a ceramic pitcher inlaid with an aerie of hawks patrolling an endless green sky; drums pounding the distance.

  When I was big enough to walk, they made me tend their starving flock of goats with the girls of the tribe, and also to carry heaps of soiled bedding for the washerwomen to whatever area was assigned to the laundering of such things. When I grew a bit larger, I was sent out to the surrounding prairie to gather small sticks and clumps of dried manure to bring back for the cookfires.

  Many of the larger boys of the tribe hated me for my white skin and were very cruel to me, and once when I had wandered far away in search of fuel, a gang of them set upon me.

  There were seven of them that came out of a curtain of new snow softly peppering the stiff grasses, and they were all armed with oiled clubs and small pointed sticks meant for use as skirting pegs to nail down the wickiups of the tribe. I stood watching them as they formed a rough circle around me, and when they were done assembling I kicked the biggest of them between the legs and again in the neck as he sagged, and they brought me down and beat me with their clubs and their pegs and left me sobbing and bleeding in the new snow.

  Nobody came looking for me, and old mother tended my wounds when I finally limped back to the village, soaking a tanned skin in a warm solution of herbs and melted snow and washing the gore from my face. The next morning everybody watched me from the corners of their eyes and some even laughed. I dragged my body about to attend to my chores, and when I finally spotted the youth whom I had kicked in the groin sitting gray faced and shaking and wrapped in heavy blankets, I stopped before him and stared down into his dull eyes. Neither of us said anything nor did any of the adult braves who had suddenly become very attentive. We looked at each other for a long time, and when he finally dropped his gaze, I limped away.

  One of the braves, a sun burnished man with three wives and twice that number in sons, took me into his own hut and began to teach me the ways of the male members of the tribe. The birchbow and the slender lances they called lura; how to track the smallest to the largest of creatures and how to snare them and how to stampede the ones who were too big for snaring; the use of tinder and flintrock, and how to coax a flame from the belly of the earth itself; what a coming storm smelled like and how a party of mounted warriors sounded six leagues distant riding across the windwashed plains….

Thanks for tuning in–more to follow….

Image courtesy of dfoggknives

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