Skip to comments."Alas, Brave New Babylon" new fiction by Matt Bracken
Posted on 08/26/2013 6:20:36 AM PDT by Travis McGee
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My goal was to keep it at under 11K words. It’s a quick arc of story, with a fast windup and delivery into the message phase.
“How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,That has such people in’t! “
Shakespere’s “The Tempest” Act V, Scene 1
Kipling predates Huxley, though... 1919.
There’s a lot of exits it could be, but that part of I-81 put him close to the Appalachian Trail, giving him every possible survival advantage, including his trail supplies and a month of freeze-dried food. Water is so plentiful in those hills you barely need a canteen or water bottle.
Many thanks, Travis. Outstanding, as usual. :^)
Thanks, I spent more time on this story than any other short piece ever, including two road trips to the NC/SC/GA border area and the Appalachian Trail.
I noticed that myself a few years ago.
The poem was published in 1919; the book in 1932.
I don’t know when the phrase originated.
Before - Huxley wrote the novel in 1931, Kipling the poem in 1919. It's a reference to a line in Shakespeare's The Tempest.
I’m trying to set my literary bar high enough with pieces like this that even liberals and LIV’s will find it compelling. The plot in the first 2/3 is just a windup, to get the reader up in the tower with the historian, looking back. My target audience is not our choir, but the other side. As soon as I see that Salon or Daily Beast etc is mentioning “Alas,” I’ll put the .99 cent anthology in the Kindle free run for five days to encourage maximum downloading by the folks who need to read it the most.
If nothing else, I want people to think about how 100% dependent our entire system and society is on a freely running electrical system, forever with almost no prolonged, widespread stoppages. A simple “Carrington event” solar flare could trigger everything described in the story.
No, you don’t eat the berry. You let it ripen and harvest the seed, dry it and plant it.
You don’t eat the seed potatoes, either, once they turn green.
As for the Jerusalem artichoke, I’ll take your word for it. The ones here were highly touted to the farmers and the back-to-the-landers in the 70s by the local Extension as an alternative food. I’ve never dug them up. I vaguely recall someone giving us some tubers once, back in the day. Tasteless. Sort of like water chestnuts, IIRC.
I have them lining my drive. Pretty flowers.
It is fragile. But at this point, even if we could do something to revert to a more lotec way, most would refuse. And your scenario happens anyway.
You are a great and vivid writer Matt. Keep it up. Someone will listen. And maybe survive because of it.
I wrote and rewrote this story so many times, I had mentioned ham radios etc in other versions, but the story grew too long, and my primary objective was brevity. Before, I had the narrator mention that if anybody was running ham or HF radios on their own power, he had no way of knowing it. It didn’t really add much to the story, so I dropped it. But yes, hams could still be operating, if they wound up in a safe location, with food, and could make their own power. But to non-hams, they might as well not exist, unless some rumors were passed along. In time, hams might develop their own news programming based on the reports they heard and shared.
Thanks for sharing it; my goal is to get the other side to read it.
Yep, the military is falling fast too. Witness Hasan and Manning, two soldiers in good standing until their treasons.
If enclaves are to survive and re-establish civilization on this continent there will have to be conscious efforts to gather the skilled together, for survival and improvements.
The kids of today are often very surprised by the machinery our founders had for use, run by pedal or water wheel energy output.
Many electrically driven tools can be rigged to work via an exchange of driveshaft, to accommodate a water driven driveshaft.
An old old mill near me once had seasoned black oak drive shaft running the grinding, until an iron one could be purchased in my grandfather's youth. The location is even IDed as Flourville! The same wheel driving the grinding shaft-drive can be used to run machinery like lathes, drills, and saws.
Enclaves would lend to gathering various technical skills together to thrive as a community, which would eventually lead to forms of government and law enforcement.
I don’t know what a potato seed looks like, but I’ve got some seed pods that are green and about 1/2” in diameter - like an unripe grape tomato.
Cold and dark.
I've heard suggestions putting them in a brown paper bag also helps.
Yes, that is a great paradox I could not explore in such a short story with one isolated POV. Primitive folks living close to the land will be hurt the least by the cutoff of power. In some cases, they might only notice the lack of the glow of city lights on a distant horizon. But there are not too many of them left. Most depend on grid power to one measure or another, even if it’s to supply a trading post by truck. Power goes down, the trucks will stop coming.
God willing. All of the signs are certainly flashing red.
That’s why I put “Alas” on my anthology on Kindle, instead of as a new stand-alone. I want more folks to read “Music Stops,” “What I was at the coup,” etc.
I had a shallow well with a hand pump put in my back yard a few months back. It gives me a lot of comfort for the thousand bucks or so it cost.
Great story, Matt! It’s very depressing, but realistic. We truly have built our own Tower of Babel, just ready to fall.
I drove around the three-state NC/SC/GA region on two road trips to get the flavor. Hiked some of the trail in snow exactly like in the story with my daughter last March. Bridal Veil Falls outside of Highland NC was frozen solid, most impressive. Sky Valley GA, what can I say?
That entire area of western NC is amazing, and down into GA too. Who knew that northern GA has 4,000’ mountains? I didn’t.
I had to go a little hazy on the specific geographical details, to not get pinned into inconsistencies, but I think it’s pretty true to the region.
Thanks, your comment captured my feelings and intentions perfectly.
They’ll suddenly care when their TV, tuned to “Celebrity Addiction,” goes black, the lights go out, and the fridge defrosts. And the water goes to a gurgle and stops too.
Katrina was just a quick glimpse, quickly remedied and forgotten, so imagine NOLA at two months with no power, and no outside help coming, ever.
What I skimmed is excellent. Bump for a whole read tonight. Thanks for sharing this!
Wow, another feather in Kipling’s cap that he predated Huxley’s Brave New World in Copybook.
Thanks, Watchman Matt!
Ezekiel 3: 16 At the end of seven days the word of the Lord came to me: 17 Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 18 When I say to a wicked person, You will surely die, and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 19 But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.
20 Again, when a righteous person turns from their righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before them, they will die. Since you did not warn them, they will die for their sin. The righteous things that person did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 21 But if you do warn the righteous person not to sin and they do not sin, they will surely live because they took warning, and you will have saved yourself.
Shakespeare, amazing. A throwaway line cribbed by both Kipling and Huxley.
I hope so, that’s my goal.
Yes, that would be a nice outcome. A remote valley could run power machines off of water power the way they did centuries ago. Defend itself, maybe, depending. Plenty of water, enough to eat. “Foxfire Books” and similar printed literature would be essential to rediscover the timeless old ways to make soap, candles, butter etc.
We all have to do what we can, and not succumb to PC timidity.
At the moment, it’s very unpopular to discuss possible North Atlantic icebergs ahead of the currently unsinkable Titanic.
And in “Copybook” he foretold the next century.
Sounds like you have the pods containing the potato seed...check out the vid at post #92.
Get off the F*cking Freeway
Glad you posted it - you mentioned I think yesterday, and I searched online and couldn’t find it (not a good searcher person). I will email it around...
Bump for later
Kipling was particularly prescient, and his darkness understandable having lost his son in WWI.
Another piece of visionary writing is part of W.H. Auden’s “For the Time Being” from 1941-42.
“Reason will be replaced by Revelation. Instead of Rational Law, objective truths perceptible to any who will undergo the necessary intellectual discipline, Knowledge will degenerate into a riot of subjective visions... Whole cosmogonies will be created out of some forgotten personal resentment, complete epics written in private languages, the daubs of schoolchildren ranked above the greatest masterpieces. Idealism will be replaced by Materialism. Life after death will be an eternal dinner party where all the guests are 20 years old... Justice will be replaced by Pity as the cardinal human virtue, and all fear of retribution will vanish... The New Aristocracy will consist exclusively of hermits, bums and permanent invalids. The Rough Diamond, the Consumptive Whore, the bandit who is good to his mother, the epileptic girl who has a way with animals will be the heroes and heroines of the New Age, when the general, the statesman, and the philosopher have become the butt of every farce and satire.”
You have to wonder if the Rupture could be the end of European civilization. Europeans may not understand how to live without electricity, but I’m sure that many Middle Easterners wouldn’t be bothered. Europe crumbles, the muslims invade.
My intention with this story is that it is an enclosed set piece, over, done. It’s sort of like Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” for me, but shorter. Just an image of a world, with more back story explanation of how the calamity might have happened.
All of my novels have as a background some type of infrastructure decay or collapse. My Dan Kilmer novels will delve much more into outlaw radio, since their setting is a 60’ steel schooner with two equal masts, which any sailor knows is a perfect dipole setup, with 60’ of steel as the ground plate to the earth. A dipole antenna 90* to its target like that is a hot setup for long range comms, or so I am told.
Thanks. I hope it’s read by those outside the choir.
I need to read up on my Auden, thanks. None of these writings change anything, except at the margins among the reachable. Get away from herds, think about an escape pod, think about where your water comes from if the power stays out. Things like that can make a difference to a lot of folks, and they are plenty enough reason for me to write. And maybe just to get it on the record that a lot of us were looking forward with extreme foreboding, but could change nothing as the buffalo herd stampeded for the jump.
The inclusion of of technology in a survival story, done realistically as opposed to the “deus ex machina” plot device, can fatally complicate things. A HAM radio introduces it’s own necessary logistical tail, it brings in an element of the “stationary”. This story, I perceived as being very much about motion, keeping on the move, the survival skill of knowing when to get out.
My earliest years were spent on a subsistence farm with no electricity. I can vividly recall those days and how we got along just fine without any of the modern conveniences.
I sometimes thought I was pretty well prepared, I have a lot of rechargeable battery operated devices including a small 7” HD TV set. I also have a couple of generators and a couple of small converters so I could use the car battery for small recharging.
Well the electricity went out a few weeks ago. No problem, it usually comes back on in a half hour or so. This time it stayed off. I didn’t want to get out the large generators as the power would be back on fairly soon.
Well, I got out my little TV set and it ran for maybe 15 minutes before the battery ran out. I had just not kept it charged. No problem as I have 3 different battery sets with an almost infinite combination of converters. The only problem was I had not charged them in over a year.
I finally realized that I was about as dependent on the power as all the people I felt superior to.
Yes I could have fared OK for a few days or so if I went into full self contained mode. After that I would have to get more gasoline.
I now make sure all my rechargeable devices are charged. I got a good deal on Ray-o-Vac alkaline batteries and bought nearly a hundred dollars worth of various sizes. I doubt I will live more than 10 more years and those will probably last me most of the rest of my life.
I really liked it. Shorter, and less brutal than “One Second After.”
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