Writing the Apocalypse

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsToday we welcome Laura Bickle, author of Embers, Sparks, and the YA novel The Hallowed Ones. The Outside, a sequel to The Hallowed Ones, will be released later this year. Laura also writes the DARK ORACLE series under the name Alayna Williams. Her question for you today is: Where do you want to be when the apocalypse hits? One commenter wins a copy of The Hallowed Ones.

One of the great things about writing is getting to ask those “what-if” questions. When I was writing The Hallowed Ones, I knew that I wanted to unleash a plague of bloodthirsty vampires on humanity. But I wanted to also explore the idea of survival, and I gave some thought into who might be best-equipped to survive if such an apocalypse were to occur.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsMy answer was just a short drive away. The Amish. I live not too far from a large Amish settlement. When I was a child, my parents would take me to visit, and I was fascinated by a world very different than the one I lived in.

The Amish are incredibly self-sufficient. They’re not dependent upon things I take for granted in my world, things like electricity and cars. When the Amish came to the U.S. in the early 18th century, they effectively chose to stop the clock on technology. They remain physically and socially separate from the modern world, choosing not to use technology that would connect them to outside influences, such as power and telephone lines. Modern Americans (who the “Plain” Amish would call “English”) are very dependent upon others for food, power, and basics of survival. The Amish have inherited a tradition of autonomy, running their own farms, raising their own animals, and cultivating their own food. They preserve their own language, and many educate their children in Amish-run schools.

This kind of isolation and command of natural resources would provide a great advantage in a post-apocalyptic world. I thought that my survivors would have a better chance to fight back against the vampire plague in an Amish environment, where disruptions in mail, power, gasoline supply, law enforcement, and even fire protection would have minimal impact. It’s a way of life, not doomsday-prepping. This was an interesting thought-experiment for me, and as I continued to research the Plain way of life, I became convinced that the strongest position to be in during a time of crisis would be theirs, a path of independence.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsIn the vampire plague I created, the vampires are bound by traditional rules, such as avoiding daylight and holy ground. The Amish, by virtue of holding church services on a rotating basis at residents’ homes, are also in the enviable position of living on sacred ground. It is, as I learned, very much a lived faith.

That’s not to say that there would be no obstacles. The Plain people that I created for The Hallowed Ones suffer from lack of information about what’s happening in the outside world as the crisis develops. The protagonist, Katie, a young Amish woman, watches as a helicopter plummets from the sky into the fields near her home.  There are no survivors to tell her what happened. She watches as cars speed down the highway and vanish, the trickle of traffic draining away to nothing at all. There are no planes in the sky and no messages. No lights in the countryside from English towns, only rumors of unrest.  Fearing a contagion, the Elders of her Amish community declare that no one is permitted inside, and no one may leave.

The isolation, then, becomes both a great power and a weakness. The Plain people in Katie’s community can continue life much as before… but they suffer from the fear that something terrible has happened to the world, something that cannot be confirmed or denied unless they open the gate and venture outside.

What about you? Where do you want to be when the apocalypse hits?

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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  1. April /

    I want to be way deep down in a fully stocked bunker that includes a full paper library. I don’t happen to have one of those at the moment but since we’re wishing anyway I might as well go whole hog. Perhaps I’ll meet someone someday with his/her own personal, fully stocked, library included, bunker.

    I’ve always been a fan of knowing how to do things on your own – which is why I decided long ago when I wanted to be a hermit and live in the woods that I’d have to turn vegetarian because there is no way I’d be able to kill and slaughter my own meats. So I’ve thought some things through and I know the basics of survival. I guarantee I’d be lacking in many respects but I’d probably bump along nicely. Vampires might prove to be my downfall though I’d have no hesitation in killing them.

    • I love the idea of the fully-stocked paper library!

      I’d be a total failure at gardening in an apocalyptic world. I can manage houseplants just fine, but I’m always doing something wrong with the tomatoes outside.

      • April /

        Tomatoes are funny – in some places you can just basically give them regular water and they’re happy as clams in mud. In other places, they want x hours of light and x inches of water daily…of course that is likely how they will be come the apocalypse (insider tip, they do really well inside houses near a window – make them a houseplant!). Good thing I’m picking up tips from my home gardening friend in Texas, she practially lives in the apocalypse now.

        • We had a really hot, dry summer last year. I’m hoping that this year is better and that perhaps my tomato experiments will be more successful! I’ll try them indoors – thanks!

  2. Whenever people talk about the apocalypse, I wish I were more into the Survivalist movement. I keep meaning to read Neil Strauss’s Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life (which is his story of getting into the survivalist movement), but I have to be honest and say that’s as far as I’ve gotten. :)

    The one thing I’ve got going for me in an apocalypse setting is that I’m pretty good at surrounding myself with really competent people!

    • I saw a television commercial for a prepper store that just opened in my city. I keep meaning to go and see if I can glean some story fodder!

  3. sandyg265 /

    I’d like to be in an underground library that would also be fully stocked with food and water for a long time.

    • I think I want my underground library to have vending machines! I’m a sucker for food in a crinkly plastic wrapper that has no expiration date.

  4. Out on a very remote ranch in NM. Was visiting my parent’s “ranch” this past week. No vampire could live long enough to get out there to kill one or two people. He’d never make it back to civilization.

    Cell phones work if you climb to the top of any of the hills/mountains. Well, usually. You could possibly download kindle books from there. Better stock up on books and food. More important than all that: Water. It’s a desert.

  5. I’d like to be at my parents’ house. They live on the coast in Florida and most of the plants in their yard are edible. Sweet potatoes grow under the ground, there are lime trees, mangoes, avocados, beans, broccoli, tomatoes, all types of lettuce and herbs, bananas, oranges, papaya, grapefruit, and even sugarcane. As long as I’ve got enough rum, it’s an almost endless supply of mojitos, which is definitely something you need for the apocalypse. I think they could use a few more guns for defending the place, so I’ll bring guns and rum.

  6. April, you win a copy of The Hallowed Ones!
    Please contact Marion with your US address and She’ll have the book sent right away. Happy reading!

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