Friday, November 15, 2013

Surviving the Apocalypse with Larry Kollar

Survival? I have a thing for it. My books are adventure novels, centered primarily on survival in a post-apocalyptic world. So I was pretty excited when Larry Kollar, the author of the post-apocalyptic "Truckalypse" Series offered to stop by Writing Belle and talk about the very subject that fascinates me. Looking to survive the apocalypse? Here are a few pointers from Mr. Kollar himself:

Larry Kollar:
My two-book “Truckalypse” series, White Pickups and the conclusion Pickups and Pestilence, chronicles the strangest apocalypse ever and those who survive to rebuild. What separates an "apocalypse" from a regular disaster is simple: only one of them is permanent. In Chapter 13 of White Pickups, Johnny lists the four primary needs for surviving either one: food, water, shelter, and fuel. These are the things that you need for any situation, from storm damage to apocalypse. (Weapons can provide both food and shelter, depending on the situation.)
The result of a Truckalypse scenario is similar to a hyper-deadly pandemic, as depicted in Stephen King's The Stand: the human population largely disappears without significant damage to structures. A zombie apocalypse would be similar as well, with the added wrinkle of hungry undead. In any case, with no people to keep utilities (power, water, sewer, natural gas) going, everything would cut off after a few days. So let's go over the basic needs and how to address them:
Shelter would be the least worrisome. As Johnny says in Chapter 13, "we have more shelter than we know what to do with." A middle suburban location like Laurel Hills is nearly ideal: a fenced subdivision keeps out things you don’t want around, and close proximity to gas stations and grocery stores (and other abandoned homes nearby) makes scavenging a low-effort activity.
Food is, in a Truckalypse scenario, abundant at first. But as our heroes continue to use up what's available, they have to replace those canned goods with hunting, gardening, and foraging. It's best to think of scavenging as an interim step, buying time to get food production under way. In places where rainfall is at least adequate, the number of edible plants growing wild might be surprising. In the US, many lawn weeds were introduced by European peasants, who used them for salad greens. Thus, those weeds are edible, or would be if not for the pesticides.
Without humans (who have all but eliminated competing predators in most places), "prey" animals would multiply quickly, and would often end up on the dinner table just to protect the gardens. This scenario is depicted in the upcoming sequel, Pickups and Pestilence, and addresses how feral dogs might fill the predator niche. The first summer after a Truckalypse would be a free-for-all outside the fences, and would be no picnic inside due to rats and insects looking for their next meal.
Fuel becomes a critical item quickly. It's needed both to cook food and to stay warm through the winter. Gasoline can be siphoned from fuel stations, but will go bad in a few weeks without adding some kind of preservative. If surplus food is available, ethanol production is feasible. Where I live, making ethanol is a long-standing tradition (they call it "moonshining"). Making methane from sewage is a simple process, and the heroes of White Pickups use it for cooking.
Firewood is a traditional heating fuel. It can often be found on the ground after storms, and is safe to store with minimal precautions. "Green" firewood (cut from living trees) doesn't heat as well as "seasoned" (dry) wood, so it's best to let green firewood dry out over a summer where possible. The heroes in White Pickups "produce" as much firewood as I do—barely enough to keep the fire going all winter—but I might have exaggerated their plight since I have a day job.
Water is a problem, and our heroes address it in the last two chapters. In north Georgia, it's not uncommon to go four to six weeks without significant rain during the late summer and early fall. Groundwater is always suspect in suburban and urban areas, due to pollution from runoff. Over time, if streams or rivers were not used to dump toxic wastes, they will flush themselves clean. However, that may not come soon enough for comfort's sake. Rural areas usually have safe groundwater, but limited opportunities for scavenging.
You need a minimum of a gallon per person per day, just for basic drinking, cooking, and washing needs. More, if you want a shower or bath. "Grey" water (from washing/bathing) can be safely used in gardens, so you can at least get double duty from that water. Still, unless you're in an area with predictable rainfall year-round, you can't depend only on rain barrels for your water supply.

If this has made you think about your own situation, and what kind of things might really happen in your life, the CDC has an entertaining zombie preparedness page that will let you be ready for just about anything. For brief (two- or three-day) outages, an older blog post of mine, 48 Hours in the Dark, might be helpful.

About Larry Kollar 
Larry Kollar lives in north Georgia, surrounded by kudzu, trees, and in-laws. His day job involves writing user manuals—some of which may have been fiction, but not by intent. He has had short fictional works published in the Hogglepot Journal, the Were-Traveler, and the anthology Best of Friday Flash, Vol. 2. Longer works include his first novel, White Pickups, and the popular Accidental Sorcerers series. For more of his strange fiction, and even stranger reality: 
           Author Links:

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Get fictional - it's fun! Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you again soon!