P for… Prep for Doom – a review

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Prepper  –  NOUN  –  chiefly North American

A person who believes a catastrophic disaster or emergency is likely to occur in the future and makes active preparations for it, typically by stockpiling food, ammunition, and other supplies:there’s no agreement among preppers about what disaster is most imminent whether you’re a doomsday prepper or simply like to be prepared, emergency foods should be kept on hand

 

Since I’m working on Gossamer Flames, a post-apocalyptic series of interconnected tales, I’m looking for similar fiction to read, not just to see how the best fiction works, but for the details about preppers and how they behave. “Prep for Doom” was therefore a must read. So on to the review.

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From the imaginations of twenty authors of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction comes PREP FOR DOOM – an integrated collection of short stories that tell the tale of a single catastrophe as experienced by many characters, some of whom will cross paths. What begins with a seemingly innocuous traffic accident soon spirals into a global pandemic. The release of Airborne Viral Hemorrhagic Fever upon New York City’s unsuspecting populace brings bloody suffering within hours, death within a day, and spreads worldwide within a month. An online community called Prep For Doom has risen to the top of a recent doomsday preparation movement. Some have written them off as crazy while others couldn’t be more serious about the safety the preppers could provide in a global disaster. But when AVHF strikes, their preparation may not be enough to save them.

 

Prep For Doom” is a clever anthology by different authors, each contributing a stand-alone story connected by the pandemic apocalypse, so building into one large story from multiple points of view. The level of collaboration on this project must have been impressive, as is the resulting work.

The characters of each story reflect different reactions to the growing crisis, some more intense and visceral than others. Each protagonist takes the stage in a unique way, and plays out their fate in the disaster – some as victims, some as opportunists, even killers, and some as saviours. Some are committed preppers or have known one for good or bad. But most are ordinary people trying to survive.

Much of the time I was asking how I would react in such a situation. Panic? Help?

Each of the writers tells a facet of the story in their characters’ words. So inevitably, some stories are stronger than others, painting more vivid images. Most wrenched at my emotional responses.

Many characters reappear in other stories, whether in supporting roles or even as people in the ‘crowd’. Some get swept up as casualties, others survive and give hope. Memorably one antagonist is seen in one story from a victim’s viewpoint, yet later another writer vividly shows that antagonist’s desperation and driven fall from survivor to killer.

I wanted to give “Prep for Doom” five stars, but a few things let it down in my opinion.

Setting: although the virus spreads worldwide, we only get to see its impact on US communities, predominantly around the epicentre of New York. The opening chapter is the exception as it’s set somewhere in Africa, but I wanted a few more non-US viewpoints.

Resources: food runs out fast as does water, which makes total sense so some people are surviving on granola bars. The desperate looters feel realistic, but I kept wondering why cell phones worked for so long? Why do some people have the power to keep watching the world die on TV? For a few days perhaps, but this felt longer. Since the hospitals are swamped very quickly, I struggled to believe that some services survived for long. Maybe the emergency facilities are far better than I thought, or Americans are better prepared.

Chronology: inevitably many of the stories start at roughly the same point – the virus release – so the editors will have struggled to place them in order. Unfortunately, at times I was lost and wished there were clearer indicators of time and date in some instances. But most were clear from the words.

Stereotyping: in most cases, the race/sex/religion of the characters didn’t adversely reflect on their actions in an unrealistic way. But one crucial episode grated as the minority concerned gets a trite apology and the story gives them a raw deal. Not wishing to spoil the plot, I will say no more.

Missing elements: there were a few things left unexplained, although maybe there is more to come. For instance, I wanted to know about the initials PFD, which appear throughout and not just for Prep For Doom. Is the link a coincidence, or a reasoned choice?

However, these criticisms are minor and don’t detract from an excellent anthology that I recommend. It has the right blend of realistic actions and reactions, weaving a sense of despair as the reader is carried towards hope.

As to my own post-apocalyptic saga, I feel there are lessons to learn and I will attempt to embrace them.

And for my next read, I am tackling a very different novel in this genre – far bleaker and darker… like grey ash: The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is there life or death in the Apocalypse?

Different World ~ Image courtesy of manostphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Different World ~ Image courtesy of manostphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Are you prepared for the apocalypse? Or have you been scared off?

On the one hand some people, especially agents, have had enough – or so they say. Yet, there are still books and movies in the apocalypse genre being released – e.g: The Colony. Is the genre going through an operatic death as the back-log dries up? Lead times in production are long, so in a year or two the apocalypse could have gone the way of vampires. What can we believe?

Unless it becomes reality – no longer the stuff of speculation.

I say this because I realise that I’ve been committing the mortal sin of writing in a supposedly dying genre. So what do I do? Admit that I’ve erred big time? Put the manuscript on a back burner for a few years? Turn it into a romantic comedy?

I keep wondering whether I can simply redefine it by changing the frame of reference. It’s not really post-apocalypse. Yes, there is a global disaster and society is breaking down. But there is hope. There are relationships. It goes beyond survival. But I’m not a hardened science fiction writer, who has ready every book in the genre. I’m an eclectic reader, hopping from mysteries, to fantasies, to historicals.

Apocalypse ~ Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apocalypse ~ Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Of course, apocalypse has got a bad press – blame Hollywood. It’s often seen as the end of the world, a cosmic cataclysm as described in the Book of Revelation – or rather that’s the simplistic interpretation. According to the online Oxford English Dictionary the word originates from “…Greek apokalupsis, from apokaluptein ‘uncover, reveal’, from apo- ‘un-‘ + kaluptein ‘to cover’.”

So it’s all about a revelation – as the Book says. In a useful examination of the genre Fantasy Faction said, “The term apocalypse originally did not mean mass extinction, destruction and death, but rather related to enlightenment in a biblical sense. And before that, the term translated as “a great change.” 

Might be worth looking forward to – once we’ve got beyond War, Pestilence, Famine, and Death – plus zombies, aliens, Justin Bieber, and Kim Jong II.

Maybe my take is different enough from all those that have trod the path of apocalypse before me – not that I have read all the books in the genre… too many given my reading speed. For a pretty comprehensive list, see Michael White’s Chronological list.

I can claim to have read some of the definitive novels, such as John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids, Arthur C Clarke’s Childhood’s End, John Christopher’s No Blade of Grass, and Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley.

Apocalypse ~ Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apocalypse ~ Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My attempt is called ‘Storm’s Compass’ and the collection of short stories will be Book 1 of The Gossamer Flames Saga. Provisional blurb is:

“What lies ahead when the world is devastated by a solar storm? Who will choose to build the future?

Eight tales of unfolding disaster have repercussions that will affect posterity. From the arid deserts of India and the United States, to the wild beauty of Norway, the future could be sown.

Storm’s Compass is post-apocalyptic fiction, with folklore in the shadows and greenpunk in the workings.”

What do you feel is the future of the apocalypse/post-apocalypse genre? Does ‘Storm’s Compass’ sound enthralling? Do you want to be among the beta readers?

Please tell me what you think in the comments.

Staying on Track

Dewy Cobweb ~ by Norman Hyett

Dewy Cobweb ~ by Norman Hyett

Two weeks into September and I am on track with the Multiple Sclerosis September Challenge. Thus far, I have met my target to write a short story a week.

The aim was to focus this month on writing (and editing) four tales in my “Gossamer Flames” saga, so I have been working through them chronologically. The first two were written before the month started, along with Nos. 4 and 8. Another four will complete the first Book of the Saga – Dust & Death.

Two down and two to go. Halfway and the challenge looks feasible. Donations are very much welcome – all in a very good cause.

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I am trying to vary my style a little, especially in terms of POV.  I have been attempting to write ‘deep/tight POV’ and it has been a real test. I am also having to edit as I go, or at least by working through each day’s writing before continuing, then doing some final edits before each week is out. Fighting the trials of the MS has added to the challenge, but I am winning.

However, I am aware that these edits may not be enough. I need volunteers as beta readers – to see if the tales work and make sense, whether the POV rings true, if my grammar sucks, etcetera. Volunteers please contact me. The beta readers for my opening tale found enough to warrant a revision, or two.

If you sign up for my newsletter, you will receive the final version before anyone else sees the ‘Book’. Beyond that day, I will release “Dust & Death – Book I of Gossamer Flames” as a collection.

Looking ahead to October, I know that I have to put some time aside to do my tax return – not that I make a fortune. Then I need to devote some time to the re-location of “Fates Maelstrom” from Dartmoor to Snowdonia.

For now it’s back to killing some vermin in Scotland – just don’t ask me what they are voting… it won’t matter when the Solar Apocalypse comes.

 

Welcome to the Gossamer World

Photo of a cloud illuminated by sunlight. ~ by Ibrahim Iujaz from Rep. Of Maldives

Photo of a cloud illuminated by sunlight. ~ by Ibrahim Iujaz from Rep. Of Maldives

For some months I have been posting about my “Gossamer Steel” world, but now that world has evolved. Welcome to its new incarnation.

Gossamer Flames” is a series of short stories and novellas set in the post-apocalyptic world that arises after a catastrophic event leaves the planet ravaged and divided. Society is forced to adapt to a changed world where the surviving enclaves need to make use of their remaining resources. Only two regions are known to survive, Bhārata, formerly the Indian sub-continent, and The Country, comprising parts of Scandinavia. However, there are pockets of survivors in other areas, including within the desert areas of North America, in some remote mountainous regions of the Andes, and on some islands. Most of these are totally isolated from each other post the apocalypse.

The two principal enclaves of The Country (Scandinavia) and Bhārata (India sub-continent) have adopted economies that are regenerative and structured around renewable energy. Bhārata has the advantage of being built on the Republic of India’s self-reliance policy, although it is also hampered by the scale of the challenge. In The Country myths have come alive again and permeate society, but not all the forces favour re-building the world. The Ravagers, the people that pushed the technological fixes and exploitation of the Earth, are committed to destroying the greenpunk solutions that could be the future.

My 2014 posts in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge focused on various aspects in this future world, which at that point was still called Gossamer Steel, as in the Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) that provides the mystery in my cyber-crime novel “Wyrm Bait”. In the MMORPG the two main playing zones are Bhārata and The Country and the game touches on aspects of the tales.

MY BLOGGING FROM A TO Z APRIL CHALLENGE 2014 POSTS:

A is for Array ~ B is for the Blood-Marked ~ C is for Corylus Avellana ~ D is for Duskweald ~ E is for Energy ~ F is for Feeniks ~ G is for Garuda ~ H is for Herders ~ I is for Ithaka ~ J is for Junk ~ K is for Kitsune ~ L is for Lorelei ~ M is for Mojave ~ N is for Native~ O is for Outcasts  ~ P is for Punk ~ Q is for Quisling ~ R is for Ragnarök ~ S is for Seiðr ~ T is for Technology ~ U is for Urdu~ V is for Vidda ~ W is for Windsong ~X is for Xerarch ~ Y is for Yggdrasil  ~ Z is for Zephyr

Although “Gossamer Steel” had a good ring as a game, I felt that I needed a different title for the series of tales. An author needs a title that doesn’t require explaining, just one that sparks interest. I suggested various options to my followers, and after assessing your feedback, Gossamer Flames seemed the most appropriate and the most popular. Warning – explanation ahead!!

Dewy Cobweb ~ by Norman Hyett

Dewy Cobweb ~ by Norman Hyett

Gossamer as in spider silk that makes such intricate webs, although technically gossamer is the silk used by spiderlings for ballooning or kiting to reach other locations. Spiders are often among the first inhabitants to recolonize a devastated area. Thus after an apocalypse Gossamer allows for new life and in my stories it also reflects the light touch of healing the planet. However, spider silk is both delicate and strong, exhibiting a unique combination of high tensile strength and extensibility. Most important, weight for weight, spider silk is stronger than steel, thus a force that cannot be ignored even amid the harshness of industrial solutions to the devastating problems remaining. Steel then is a contrast to Gossamer but I needed something even more evocative, hence ‘Flames’.

Flames have multiple meanings as in energy and passion as well as the destructive sense.  Flames can also generate ‘steam’, which covers the Steampunk’ elements in some of the tales. Flames can be both the devastating forces that threaten the world from the outset, and the passions that drive many of the characters forward towards the Renascence at the end.

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As my Gossamer Flames tales are released, I will post more details on the new Gossamer Flames page.

 

Y is for Yggdrasil

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Y is for Yggdrasil: To the shaman that follow the  seiðr path in the world of Gossamer Steel, their practices revolve around Yggdrasil, the Nine Worlds, and the Well of the Norns,.

In Norse mythology, Yggdrasil is an immense tree that is central in Norse cosmology, in connection to which the nine worlds exist.

According to Encyclopedia Mythica, “Yggdrasil (“The Terrible One’s Horse”), also called the World Tree, is the giant ash tree that links and shelters all the worlds. Beneath the three roots the realms of Asgard, Jotunheim, and Niflheim are located. Three wells lie at its base: the Well of Wisdom (Mímisbrunnr), guarded by Mimir; the Well of Fate (Urdarbrunnr), guarded by the Norns; and the Hvergelmir (Roaring Kettle), the source of many rivers.

Four deer run across the branches of the tree and eat the buds; they represent the four winds. There are other inhabitants of the tree, such as the squirrel Ratatosk (“swift teeth”), a notorious gossip, and Vidofnir (“tree snake”), the golden cock that perches on the topmost bough. The roots are gnawed upon by Nidhogg and other serpents. On the day of Ragnarok, the fire giant Surt will set the tree on fire…”

"Die Nornen Urd, Werdanda, Skuld, unter der Welteiche Yggdrasil". The Nornic trio of Urðr, Verðandi, and Skuld beneath the world tree (called an oak in the caption) Yggdrasil. At the top of the tree is an eagle (likely Veðrfölnir), on the trunk of the tree is a squirrel (likely Ratatoskr), and at the roots of the tree gnaws what appears to be a small dragon (likely Níðhöggr). At the bottom left of the image is the well Urðarbrunnr. ~ Ludwig Burger (1882)

“Die Nornen Urd, Werdanda, Skuld, unter der Welteiche Yggdrasil”. The Nornic trio of Urðr, Verðandi, and Skuld beneath the world tree (called an oak in the caption) Yggdrasil. At the top of the tree is an eagle (likely Veðrfölnir), on the trunk of the tree is a squirrel (likely Ratatoskr), and at the roots of the tree gnaws what appears to be a small dragon (likely Níðhöggr). At the bottom left of the image is the well Urðarbrunnr. ~ Ludwig Burger (1882)

Y is also for Years of Dust & Death, the years of chaos and survival immediately after the apocalypse.

PREVIOUS A TO Z POSTS:

A is for Array ~ B is for the Blood-Marked ~ C is for Corylus Avellana ~ D is for Duskweald ~ E is for Energy ~ F is for Feeniks ~ G is for Garuda ~ H is for Herders ~ I is for Ithaka ~ J is for Junk ~ K is for Kitsune ~ L is for Lorelei ~ M is for Mojave ~ N is for Native~ O is for Outcasts  ~ P is for Punk ~ Q is for Quisling ~ R is for Ragnarök ~ S is for Seiðr ~ T is for Technology ~ U is for Urdu~ V is for Vidda ~ W is forWindsong ~X is for Xerarch

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The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behaviour.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. Please visit other challenge writers.

My theme is ‘The World of Gossamer Steel, the SF-fantasy setting for a series of short stories and novellas that portray the tales behind the MMORPG that is central to my crime novel ‘Wyrm Bait’.

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014] (1)

R is for Ragnarök

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R is for Ragnarök: In the world of Gossamer Steel the apocalyptic events caused by a massive Coronal Mass Ejection are seen as Ragnarök by some in The Country (Scandinavia).

In Norse mythology, Ragnarök is a series of future events, including a great battle foretold to ultimately result in the death of a number of major figures (including the gods Odin, Thor, Týr, Freyr, Heimdallr, and Loki), the occurrence of various natural disasters, and the subsequent submersion of the world in water. Afterward, the world will resurface anew and fertile, the surviving and returning gods will meet, and the world will be repopulated by two human survivors. Ragnarök is an important event in the Norse canon, and has been the subject of scholarly discourse and theory. However, Ragnarök does not mean “Twilight of the Gods”; that phrase is the result of a famous mistranslation. “Ragnarökr” or “Ragnarøkr” means “doom of the powers” or “destruction of the powers” (where “powers” means “gods”).

A scene from the last phase of Ragnarök, after Surtr has engulfed the world with fire. The surrounding text implies that this is Ásgarðr (Asgard) burning. ~ detail from Walhall, die Götterwelt der Germanen by Emil Doepler. ca. 1905. Photographed and cropped by User:Haukurth.

A scene from the last phase of Ragnarök, after Surtr has engulfed the world with fire. The surrounding text implies that this is Ásgarðr (Asgard) burning. ~ detail from Walhall, die Götterwelt der Germanen by Emil Doepler. ca. 1905. Photographed and cropped by Haukurth.

R is also for Rakshasa – Sanskrit (male) Rākṣasa, or (female) Rākṣasī – in Hindu mythology, a type of demon or goblin. Rakshasas have the power to change their shape at will and appear as animals, as monsters, or in the case of the female demons, as beautiful women. They are most powerful in the evening, particularly during the dark period of the new moon, but they are dispelled by the rising sun. They especially detest sacrifices and prayer. Most powerful among them is their king, the 10-headed Rāvaṇa. Pūtanā, a female demon, is well known for her attempt to kill the infant Krishna by offering him milk from her poisoned breast; she was, however, sucked to death by the god.

In Gossamer Steel the destroyers of the world are called Rakshasa by the people of Bhārata (India sub-continent), although in The Country (Scandinavia) they are known as Jötnar, as in the race that destroyed the world in Ragnarök.

PREVIOUS A TO Z POSTS:

A is for Array ~ B is for the Blood-Marked ~ C is for Corylus Avellana ~ D is for Duskweald ~ E is for Energy ~ F is for Feeniks ~ G is for Garuda ~ H is for Herders ~ I is for Ithaka ~ J is for Junk ~ K is for Kitsune ~ L is for Lorelei ~ M is for Mojave ~ N is for Native~ O is for Outcasts  ~ P is for Punk ~ Q is for Quisling

*

The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behaviour.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. Please visit other challenge writers.

My theme is ‘The World of Gossamer Steel, the SF-fantasy setting for a series of short stories and novellas that portray the tales behind the MMORPG that is central to my crime novel ‘Wyrm Bait’.

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014] (1)