What if the world already ended?

Every now and again, I watch the news on TV. I don’t usually watch the news because it tends to be worrying and depressing and makes me wonder the hell the world is coming to when every other story is about a murder, a bombing, a shooting, or some other neighborly thing like that.
Anyway. While recovering from a session with my personal trainer last week, I sat in the women’s locker room and watched CNN. (Before you ask, the locker room TV was tuned to CNN, I didn’t actually change the channel.) CNN was showing a segment about the Colorado movie theatre shooting (which, unless you’ve been living under a rock or possibly on Mars, you’ve heard about). The newscaster was talking about previous mass shootings, such as the one in Arizona that injured former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Virginia Tech, and, of course, Columbine.
All that positivity had me thinking, “What if the world has ALREADY ended?!”
No, really. Bear with me here. Remember last year, when Harold Camping predicted that the Rapture would happen on May 21? And then nothing happened and he was all “WTF?” and the world was all “Bahaha loser.”?
BUT. What if something DID happen? What the Rapture actually WAS on May 21, 2011, and NOBODY WAS SAVED?! (Yes, I’m well aware I probably just offended half a million people with that statement. Sorry, Bible Belt.)
What if we’re currently in the middle of the Tribulation?
Just a thought.
And now I’m going to go hide from all the really mad Christians who are offended because I suggested they weren’t good enough to be Raptured (luckily, I no longer live in the Bible Belt).
 

So, I don't know what day it is.

Mental health and emotional well being are about more than being depressed or not being depressed, being sick or not being sick.
Sometimes it’s just about being in balance and taking care of your self– more than physically.

Apparently today is Thursday. Has been all day. Unfortunately it took me until about 5:00pm to fully come to terms with this. I don’t know how or why, but I seem to have skipped a day and lost track of time.
I was there, at work actually, for all of these days. I think.
I even looked at my calendar last night and thought I’d placed things in the wrong days because I was convinced yesterday was Tuesday. I was convinced that my calendar was wrong and I didn’t have any appointments today so I could use this spare time to prep for my Thursday meetings.
Oh, today is Thursday?! Well… Now, I have a 10am meeting, a post or two to write, and a looming deadline tomorrow.
While I can’t give any insight as to how or why this happens I think either I had a stroke and didn’t realize it or Char isn’t the only one suffering from being disorganized. And Ann isn’t the only one suffering from sleep deprivation.
Taking care of self and making the time to make sure you’re in a healthy, sane space will make present and post-apocalyptic life safe and bearable.
Normally everything is a joke to me. But today I was concerned. How had I be going so hard that I didn’t know what day it was? Why couldn’t I remember where I disconnected from the functional basics of daily life?
We’ve talked about mental health and morale here before. And while I’m not a medical professional or a patient, as a person, I can — sometimes not soon enough– recognize my own signs of damage.
For instance: I should know what day it is. I shouldn’t feel sad about waking up. I shouldn’t feel overwhelmed at the thought of adding buying toilet paper to my to-do list.
Mental health and emotional well-being are about more than being depressed or not being depressed, being sick or not being sick.
Sometimes it’s just about being in balance and taking care of yourself– more than physically.
Check out this checklist from Lisa Kift Therapy of some questions you should ask yourself every once in a while.

There is no right or wrong with this checklist but can hopefully guide you either celebrate the great place you’re in or to consider further work around sensitive areas.

So now I know today is Thursday and tomorrow is Friday and I have to take the time to sit down and honestly ask myself how I’m doing sometimes.
Then, if I don’t like those answers I owe it to myself and my family to course correct.

In the post apocalypse, I will be sleep deprived

I recently realized that in the post-apocalyptic world, I will be horribly sleep deprived. That is, assuming I actually survive and aren’t eaten by a horde of hungry zoo escapees because I’m too fuzzy brained to realize that the panda coming toward me has run out of bamboo shoots and hey, I’m Asian so I’m basically the same thing (only with more meat. And fat).
When did I come to this realization? I’d say it was probably the last time I was trying to do stuff with my kids, but zoned out because I was rather close to falling asleep. Or possibly the last time I slept in and was late for a session with my personal trainer (I haven’t the foggiest idea why I didn’t set up my appointment time later in the morning–clearly more evidence of my muddled, sleep deprived brain).
It’s probably not as big a deal now, when, in the grand scheme of things, life is fairly leisurely and easygoing. I mean, in comparison to what life will be like after the world bites the dust and we’re running around trying to fend off hungry pandas who may or may not know kung fu. That’s not to say it’s healthy though, because it’s not. After all, I’m less productive, end up sleeping through my alarm, and am just generally cranky. But I’m not running around trying to beat off…uh, things and having to stay on my toes and develop spidey senses just to stay alive.
But let’s face it: sleep deprivation means sluggishness and slow reaction time. When quick thinking and ingenuity might just save your life, having your brain go at the speed of molasses will probably get you killed.
Which means, of course, that I will most likely get eaten by an escaped zoo panda who has substituted me for bamboo.
That actually sounds like a terrible way to go. I should start getting some sleep then, shouldn’t I?

But…how will I stay organized?

If you’ve noticed, I’ve been having a much harder time keeping on top of my Monday posts lately. This, I assure you, is not intentional. But let’s just say that ever since we moved back to Canada and I lost my full-time childcare, the days have started running together and most of the time I can’t figure out which way is up. I have a hard enough time remembering what I ate for breakfast, let alone what I need to do on what day. (Seriously, if my head weren’t attached to my body, I’d have lost it a long time ago.)
I’m a little frazzled.
A thought occurred to me the other day, when I realized that it was actually Monday and not Sunday and my post was late: how will the scatterbrained people like me remember to do all the stuff they’re supposed to do after the world goes kaput?
Continue reading “But…how will I stay organized?”

Author Feature: John Xero.

Long-time readers may remember John Xero from his brilliant short story Ragestorm Requiem. Well, those of you who liked it will be pleased to hear he has a book out. This is The New Plan is a collection of his short stories and flash fiction, and what’s even better, most of them are apocalyptic or dystopian in some way.
As for why I’m not reviewing this, John Xero is actually a personal, real-life friend of mine, so I don’t feel like I can. Still, taking that into account, I still think it’s a bloody good book. Just bear in mind I’ve known him for long enough that I pretty much have to say that. (No, seriously, it’s great.)
We asked him some personal questions, because we’re always secretly judging people by their answers.
 

 
 

1. Who are you, I mean, really?

Presumably this is where most people say, “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.” The truth is so numbingly boring you’d probably kill yourself just from hearing it…
And so I become this adventurer, I travel to worlds, chat with gods and spacemen, witness wars and births, dance with stars and mourn over broken cities. And do I send you back a ‘wish you were here’ postcard or a lame ‘I <3 the Multiverse’ t-shirt? No. I bring you back stories.
That doesn’t really answer the question, does it? 😉

 
2. What is it that you do?

When I’m not stumbling into timeslips, lunching with deities (minor and major), or practicing my interstellar cartography, you mean? 😉
Well, OK. I play games, I read comics, I sell books, I write. My day job is bookselling, I run the science fiction and graphic novels sections for a branch of Britain’s biggest bookselling chain. And I get up extra early every morning to write.
Writing is my great passion. I love stories and storytelling, and I just want to give back some of the excitement and thrills other writers have given me over the years.

 
3. When did you first realize you wanted to do that thing?

Ah, I kind of made this difficult to answer now, didn’t I? Let’s start with the bookselling…
I dropped out of university the first time round, struggled to find a job, and ended up in data entry. Yay. Then I applied for a job in this awesome little SF and cult shop called Kulture Shock, and I got it. Surrounded by the stuff I love, all day, and getting paid for it? Yes. OK. I can do that. And have, ever since.
I started writing in my late teens. Told myself it was worth pursuing if I could stick it out and write a book.
I wrote a book.
I daren’t look at it, I do have it somewhere, but I’m sure it’s awful. It started me on the path though. I fell in love with writing. I’m not in a rush to get anywhere, but I’m slowly getting somewhere, I think, and that’s fine.

 
4. Where are you from (and how do you feel about that place?)?

I don’t really know the answer to this. I’m mostly English with a dash of Scottish, but then English is a medley of so many things already. My dad built roads, so we moved around a fair bit. I guess you could say I grew up in East Anglia, I’ve settled in Norwich though, just about the most parochial city you’ll ever find, but it’s a beautiful place and I’m happy here.

 
5. Why would you make a good apocalypse party member?

Why do tribes need storytellers and shaman?
Do you want your party to be the one that descends into savagery or the one that sparks the rebirth of civilisation?
Need a modern set of moral and cautionary tales for living in a dark and dangerous new world, ones that maybe incorporate the ideas of a golden age and a bright future? Come to me.
So it probably helps that I’m a thinker and a problem solver. And I’m physically fit and capable, so I won’t slow folk down when there’s running to be done.
And basically, I’ve already walked the dusty grounds of a thousand apocalypses in my mind, you need my experience…
 
Blogs at xeroverse.com
Tweets at @xeroverse
Editor at 101Fiction.com

Reality: Because you're not as skilled as you think.

A few months ago, I started doing semi-regular apocalypse walks. These are a really good idea, and I thought I was getting super fit. Certainly skil enough to take a job that involves walking for five hours a day.
If you could hear me, you’d hear hollow laughter.
Oh yeah. It turns out that most people assume they are better at stuff than they are. I assumed I was fitter than I was because I could walk for up to 10 miles at a fairly leisurely pace. Of coure, I stopped regularly on those walks, carried very little and generally treated it like a fun excursion. It’s a bit different when you have to walk at speed for five hours, in the sweltering heat, carrying a backpack, and still have to do your job.
So you really need to be aware of this stuff. Unless you are actually a fully trained professional in something, you’re probably not as good at it as you assume.
So what can you do about that?
Learn your (actual) limits:
Don’t assume that you can do something based on limited or no experience of it. Actually go out there and do it – or something as close to it as you can. If you think you can walk for hours at a decent pace, in all weathers, carrying a backpack, GO AND DO IT. When you have done it, you’ll know how good you are, and whether you need to practice more.
Don’t underestimate how much work it takes:
The things we discuss may seem easy to you – but you have to remember that when you do them you’re CHOOSING to and you have the option to stop at any time. It’s fun to live off the land when you have the option to return to central heating. It’s nice to choose natural childbirth when there are hospitals available to help you out if you get in trouble. If you have no other choice than these things, you might find they become more stressful and dangerous.
Self-Awareness:
Easy to say, hard to do. Effectively, you need to be well, aware of yourself. How you react. Your strengths and weaknesses. And you need to be honest about those things or you’re going to get yourself – and other people – into trouble.
So, how to do it?
As I said, try and experience things for yourself. Measure your acheivements against others – you can’t expect to be as good as an expert, but compare yourself against the average. If you aren’t good in comparison, you’re below average. Simple, yes? Be honest with yourself about this – I know your ego relies on being awesome, but there’s no shame in not being good at something – and you can always get better.
Of course, the people who always think they’re experts aren’t ever going to understand this is about them. Fortunately, they’re gonna die pretty soon. Hopefully they won’t take any of us with them.

Post-Apocalyptic Would You Rather

Would You Rather is a game where you’re tasked with choosing between two terrible things you don’t want. Today’s Theme: The Apocalypse!

Would You Rather is a game where you’re tasked with choosing between two terrible things you don’t want. It’s usually nasty things like, “seeing you parents have sex or your parents seeing you having sex.” Ew. Not a game I like playing.
So I changed it up a bit. I’m curious about what everyone thinks is a better or worse apocalyptic scenario. Keep in mind, my day job is in market research so I’m kind of curious and inquisitive by nature AND training.

Would You Rather: Aliens or Robots?

Aliens could swoop in and just burn this place to the ground, or they could infiltrate and slowly destroy us from the inside out.

Robots, usually through some failing or hubris or man, would likely become a vital part of our societies then snap like JLo in Enough.
[poll id=”6″]

Would You Rather: City or Country?

Surviving in the City would not only mean scavenging and crumbling structures, but also pre-made everything to use or live in.
Surviving in the country would mean starting from scratch, catching or growing food, and braving the wildlife.
[poll id=”7″]

 Would You Rather: Slavery or Rebellion?

Both seem like so much work! At least with slavery you have food and shelter and consistency. On the other hand, rebels can take naps and drink and fornicate at will.
[poll id=”8″]

Would You Rather: A Dictator or Anarchy?

While I never paid much mind to government, I hear dictators make it their business to be touch the lives of all their subjects in some way. Fall in line and it could be a good way.
Anarchy could be chaotic and upsetting, or you could just slip out the back and go check out the country living. And when the bandits come to raid your homestead you’re free to shoot them and string them up as a warning to any who come after.
[poll id=”9″]

 Would You Rather: Lose everyone at once or Lose everyone over time?

It’s like pulling of a band-aid, do it fast and then get over it.
Alternatively, you could utilize the skills and build relationships with people overtime.
Both would probably drive you mad. *shrugs*
[poll id=”10″]

Would You Rather: Eat People or be a Vegan?

They both have their downsides. Murder on the one hand and being Vegan on the other…
[poll id=”11″]

Would You Rather: Lose an Arm or Lose a Leg?

Things are going to fall, lasers might be fired… Which do you value the least, your arm or your leg?
[poll id=”12″]

Would You Rather: Survive with your Mom or you Dad?

Yup. When you think of people the least likely to survive an apocalypse, you’re parents are probably on there. Mine are. Bare in mind that you’ll probably have to watch them die when they lose their glasses or stop and ask a bandit for directions.
[poll id=”13″]

Would You Rather: Your Co-Workers or Your Neighbors?

Honestly, I wouldn’t know my neighbors if the walked up and punched me in the face. They don’t look especially durable…
Co-workers, well, I spend eight hours a day with them and certainly don’t go home and miss them…
[poll id=”14″]

Would You Rather: Candy Forever or Dehydrated Fruits and Vegetables Forever?

Imagine you and your band of survivors come across a factory that you can defend and live in. Inside is a nearly unlimited supply of food… Kind of.
[poll id=”15″]

Would You Rather: Be Hunted and Loyal or Be Safe and a Traitor?

So say there’s an antagonist, be it the government, or aliens, or an oligarchy, or Amazons. This antagonist finds out that you and yours are not playing like they’d like you to be.
They offer you a choice, give up the goods and help them find the others or take a head start and try to protect your neck.
[poll id=”16″]

If you have any suggestions for other tough choices or would like to elaborate on your decisions above, talk to us via the comments below.

Meta-Post: Writer-Type Announcements.

Now, this isn’t strictly speaking apocalyptic, but if you like my writing style and you want to read my opinions about games, gaming and the games industry, you could do worse than pop over to PlanetIvy.com now and again, as I now write for them. My first post can be found here, and trust me, there are more where that’s coming from.
Planet Ivy like gonzo-style journalism and opinionated people, so if you like those things too you’ll fit right in.
I hope to see you over there!

Review: Dinocalypse Now by Chuck Wendig

Dinocalypse Now  is the first book in The Dinocalypse Trilogy – Evil Hat’s first move into fiction, written by Chuck Wendig, and set in the wild-and-crazy early-20th-Century pulp universe of Spirit of the Century. In it we follow the adventures of six heroes, Centurions of the Century Club (including one talking ape!), as they take on a world-spanning invasion of psychic dinosaurs from beyond time itself. [1. Review copy provided by Evil Hat]

YES. YES YES PLEASE FUCK GOD YES.
Oh I am so bored of Zombies and Guns and something this crazy is JUST WHAT I NEED RIGHT NOW.
It doesn’t hurt that I’ve long been a fan of Chuck Wendig – his writing advice is brilliant, and his novel Blackbirds is one of the best I’ve read this year – and I’ve played a few Spirit of the Century games too – that whole alternative past with fantasy elements thing is MY thing.
Dinocalypse Now manages to completely avoid ALL of the problems I talked about in this post. It features interesting, unique characters who seem like real people, a breakneck, unusual plot – I actually cannot fangirl about it enough, so…
Let’s start from the beginning.
Dinocalypse Now is a book that is almost impossible to describe. If you try, it sounds like a mess… but it works. Oh, it works.
In Dinocalypse Now, the Centurions are the heroes of the Century club, a group of protectors. While trying to protect the president, they are attacked by Saurians… and from there the plot takes off with ridiculous speed. There are so many fantasic things about this book that would be spoilers if I explained them.  But suffice it to say the events grab the reader and take them away on a journey that would seem ridiculous if I explained it, but seems believable as well as fun when you’re reading it.
The writing in Dinocalypse Now is sharp and competent and descriptive, the characters well sketched and believable, and the whole thing is a wild ride of awesomeness. It’s sheer pulp, with airships and dinosaurs and talking apes and beautiful wench wrenches and love triangles and… and… and.
It’s a quick read, which I know is important for some of you (though myself I prefer a slightly more leisurely pace – that would be my only real criticism here).
Look, I find it really hard to review stuff I genuinely love. Is Dinocalypse Now great literature? No. Is it hella fun? Yes! Is it perfect? No. Is it utterly readable? Yes! Is it for everyone? Almost certainly not. But I love it. And if you like ridiculous, cracky plots, excellent characters, sharp writing, and a well-captured pulp sensibility, you’ll love it.
I look forward to the others.
You can buy it here.
I give it [4/5 stars]

Apocalyptic Literature: What I want to see.

Because of ICoS I now read more apocalypse-related books than ever before. I buy them with my own money AND get them sent free for review, and then I tell you about them, whether they’re good or bad. Hell, some of the books I write are apocalypse-related. So, after more than a year of reading about the apocalypse, I have a list of things I want to see  more of in future apocalyptic literature.
Better Writing:
It’s not that the writing in these books is bad. It’s usually perfectly competent. But it could be more powerful, more evocative – just more – with harsher editing. If you’re writing apocalyptic literature (especially if you’re going the self-publishing route) I’d recommend two books which will help you get it as good as possible. The Elements of Style and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. You should pick up Chuck Wendig’s books as well, but they’re less about editing and more about kicking your arse to get writing your crap, already, so that one is up to you. But the other two? Please, just do it. I’ve read loads of books with really interesting stories let down by poor editing.
Better female characters:
Most of the apocalyptic literature I’ve read was by men. The problem was, a great many of their female characters were cliches – irritating, insulting cliches at that. Remember that women are human beings rather than a collection of stereotypes. I don’t mind if one woman in your story is useless, but I start getting suspicious if she’s the only character that is, and then I’m outright judging you if ALL your women are useless. When I say ‘Better’ I mean I believe in her as a human being. Having her display some personality traits other than ‘screaming chick who needs to be rescued’ would be great. I sincerely doubt that post-apocalypse we would have time or room for ‘traditional gender roles’ anyway. While we’re at it, can we stop writing it so that even the good guys are enacting forced breeding? It’s rape, it’s skeevy and the good guys shouldn’t be forcing HUMAN BEINGS into a position where they are being abused and brutalised.
Better characters IN GENERAL.
While I find believable, relatable female characters are few and far between in apocalyptic literature, I also find that in nearly every book I’ve read the same character archetypes pop up. The grizzled, damaged war veteran. The girl who’s only a bitch cause she was raped. The creeper who betrays the group. Look, character archetypes exist for a reason, but if I can predict what your characters will do within the first 10 pages, it’s BAD. Do something new with them, something unexpected. Make the war veteran a perky, cheerful man with no dark past. Make the creeper loyal and caring, just socially awkward. Make the woman a bitch because she’s figured out that being bitchy gets stuff done. Stop relying on old, well-worn paths. Make your own.
More imagination and ingenuity:
By which I mean – write something different! There are no new stories under the sun, but there is a trick to this – write it in such a way that seems new. Add something, take something away, I don’t care what it is, but just write something different. The books are starting to blend in together now, because they’re all so similar.  The main reason I’m getting bored of zombies is that not only are they everywhere, but they’re the same bloody thing in each book. CHANGE SOMETHING. Write as though you’re setting a new standard and starting a new trend. Please? For example, check this out:  Dinocalypse Now. It’s apocalyptic literature, but it avoids the tired old tropes and boring setting, and it looks loads more fun.
Actual Research:
How would the area you’re writing in respond to an apocalyptic event? Desert, jungle, overgrown woods? Research it. How many bullets can that gun fire without jamming? If it’s been uncared for for 18 months? Research it. What does a nuclear bomb do? RE-FUCKING-SEARCH IT. If you get it wrong, people who KNOW that you got it wrong will be pulled out of your story immediately. Sure, it’s fiction. But fiction needs to seem as if it’s real to the readers, and if you get it wrong… For my current novel (which is terrible and will never get published because MY GOD) I am researching radios. My girl is a ham radio enthusiast, so I need to know at least the basics of the different types, how they work, how you’d fix one. If you’re writing a novel – even one based in a world where everything has changed – and there’s a siege, you need to research seige warfare. RESEARCH.
Bottom line: This is writing. It’s not a thing you should do because you think it’s easy money or fame (it’s really not). It’s not something you can just churn out and have it be OK. It’s something you do because the love of it means it’s the only thing you CAN do. Which means you need to do the best you can, write the best, most amazing thing you’re capable of. Don’t be scared, or small, or dull with it. Get down right into the filthy guts of it all, and be incredible.
Please, I’m begging you.
What do our readers want to see from post apocalyptic literature in future? Talk about it in the comments.
If you have something tasty and apocalyptic that you’d like reviewed, we’re always happy to do it. If your book fits these guidelines, you’ll get a much more positive review than if it doesn’t. Just email anninyn at incaseofsurvival dot com and I’ll get back to you.