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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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.”
My goal is just to open a door in the imagination of the reader, there are ten questions left hanging and very few are answered. I even left open the “Japanese holdout on Guam” option. This story could go in dozens of directions, but it’s only meant to flash a light on one possible outcome, and give me an excuse to philosophize. The first 2 sections are just dragging the reader up into the broken tower in what I hope is a plausible and entertaining way.
Around 20-25 years ago I was working at a religious retreat in Western North Carolina. I was working with a group called Centrifuge which the kids just love.
The preacher and another leader were maybe 20 years old. They both were in great physical condition, had charismatic personalities etc. One had just come back from Africa where his parents were missionaries and the other from a farm in Indiana.
One day they decided to take a trip to Catawba Falls. It was maybe a ten mile trip. I had been there many times and gave them written directions of which trails to stay on, which turns to make etc. This was in the Pisgah National Forest.
The next day they came in really scratched up, and I mean beat to heck. It turned out they had made it to the falls OK but climbed to the top then coming back got lost. They had a good compass and knew they just had to basically walk straight North. They made it but boy that is rough walking.
Thanks for the ping. I enjoyed it immensely.
I just sent it to an email list that has a lot of people, mostly choir members! but they can send it to others as well.
Sadly most non-choire members I’ve sent things to seem to not read them...
They prefer sleeping in dreamland. Maybe I’ll try again with this one - it’s a bucket of cold water on the head.
By the way, good story. Well written and you make several very good points about human nature.
In my earlier note I alluded to an experience I had. The country (Ecuador) actually went through an economic collapse in the late nineties. Their currency failed and they had to shut down the banking system while they figured out what to do. The banks were down a couple of weeks but it was about a month before people started getting paid again.
Accounts were instantly frozen and not returned for a year and a half and then at a fraction of the original value.
So people had to get by with what money they had in their pockets and what food they had in their pantry for about a month. So I usually use that as my mental benchmark for what a banking collapse looks like.
The thing is, people did make it through; neighbors and family pulled together. I remember guys disappearing off the job for a few days to take what money they had home to their wives. It was spooky but people there are used to hard times and it all held together. There wasn’t much more than the usual civil unrest.
Tourists probably didn’t notice. The homesteaders out in the boondocks didn’t notice.
Katrina is my other benchmark. It took about a month for things to get rolling again. Where neighbors pulled together, things seem to have gone passably well. Where they didn’t, it was hell on earth. The police were part of the problem, out of control.
When I think of economic collapse, I usually envision a third world situation after it stabilizes. Different, harder, but livable. The problem is the transition, where people do not yet know how to live, they don’t yet have the familial relations you have to have to survive, they don’t have the practical skills you have to have, and they haven’t yet formed the power hierarchy that fits the new reality. Until that happens, some people go bananas and the rest have to defend themselves from open banditry. Its that in-between between the old system and the new that is most dangerous.
But its remarkable to me the difference between Katrina, where people went crazy, and Ecuador’s complete economic meltdown that didn’t even hardly make the papers here, where people just pulled together and got on with things.
The story references the Nantahala Forest; didn’t Eric Rudolph spend several years holed-up there?
Very, very rough cross country off of trails. I had to keep it short, so I hinted at trails vs bushwhacking, but city folks really do not understand what it means to walk a mile on a road, a marked trail, and a compass course across constant deadfall. It’s like those civil war wooden barricades, I can’t remember the name, but they bored holes and drove sharpened timber through long planks in a series of X’s. That’s what it’s like, hiking through thick deadfall in a forest. Throw in cliffs, ravines, crevices, rapids, it’s pretty challenging country on foot! “Miles per day” is optimistic in some places. But a slow and careful woodsman can not only cross it (very slowly) but remain unseen at all times. Folks ask me what to do to get ready, I usually say, Find a hunter who wants to teach you how to hunt. Good hunters know what I’m talking about.
Thanks,,,,Food for thought may not be that far off,,,,
I was given Jerusalem artichokes by someone, planted some, tried to cook a batch of them just once.
I had to throw them away, after a few bites. I found them really loathesome. I suppose if I was starving I’d like them, if there was nothing else to eat.
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