We take so many things for granted in our modern world that many forget that less than one hundred years ago things were very different. People grew and slaughtered their own animals and grew their own vegetables and fruit. In fact, production of the modern refrigerator did not begin until after World War II, so they had to preserve foods by canning and salting.
The first commercial electric plant in the US was switched on in 1882, with sewer and water systems lagging far behind. In fact, it wasn’t until the mid 1800’s that people even began to link increased disease with lack of sewage systems, and even when they did, sewage was still dumped into rivers and bays as late as the early 1900’s. Lack of sewer systems gave Newark the distinction of the highest mortality rate in the country in 1890—more death from disease than before the Civil War. It wasn’t until 1924 that raw sewage was treated at a pumping station before being dumped into Newark Bay, and years later before real treatment plants came on line.
The hundred years that gave us sewers, clean water and electricity also gave us modern medicine. Penicillin wasn’t invented until 1928, and morphine as a pain killer wasn’t available until 1917! In fact, almost everything we know came from the past one hundred years. Now, if you will, imagine what would happen if all that went away. That’s the situation in Aftermath Horizon, my contemporary fiction novel released by xoxopublishing.com on December 23, 2010. How would society rebuild without the basics? How would individuals survive away from society?
There have been many (horrible) apocalyptic movies made about such a time, where people prey on each other, and the lowest elements of human society rise to the top. I avoided that situation because I don’t believe that would happen. Instead, I developed a close-knit community that needed each other to survive, and tried to consider how the world would re-develop with very few people if there was a need to do so.
Aftermath Horizon is told from the POV of a young woman (Beth) who is required to become a “Cultural Anthropologist” by the central computers that control everything. She must become part of the cadre responsible for resurrecting the technology of the past. She is devastated, believing she must now dedicate her life to digging up garbage and repairing salvageable items, probably as a welder, sheet metal worker or painter. Her subcategory of linguist makes things worse when she realizes she might be sent to dig up trash in an Old World foreign country. Even worse, her advanced linguistic training will take place in a remote colony on the East Coast called “Hope”, forcing her to leave her family and civilization as she knows it in Colorado.
In the developing world of Aftermath Horizon, communities are not established in haphazard fashion as they were during the original development of the US. Instead, advanced teams establish hospitals, sewer, water, power and communications before people are allowed in. Each new community is supported by older communities until it is fully self-sufficient, and then all contribute to the establishment of the next new community. Population expansion is slow, but carefully considered, with conservation of life and the “human gene pool” being the most valuable consideration in all cases.
As Beth’s adventures unfold, she learns the basics of survival on a personal level. Things we all take for granted, such as how to make soap and rum, and how to prevent scurvy. She also learns about love when she finds it where she is forbidden to look, and grows into a strong and resilient young woman as trial after trial is forced on her.
Aftermath Horizon was a joy to write, like stepping back in time. Beth is smart, quick-witted and has a strong moral compass, the kind of girl I’d fall in love with myself in similar circumstances. It is loaded with action, and despite many desperate situations, ends on a phenomenal high. I encourage everyone to enjoy this one.
Here is the blurb: In a world struggling to recover from biological warfare, Cultural Anthropologists, Beth Gooding and Professor James, work to resurrect the technology of the past without the brutality of the past. They lead austere lives typical of the early 1800’s frontier, until they become explorers in Old World Syria – where they investigate further back in time than anyone ever dreamed, and discover they can move their society further forward than anyone ever imagined. David and Beth endure many brushes with death, but with each experience their love grows stronger, and they come to realize life without the other wouldn’t be living at all.
A short excerpt follows. The novel was given a four-star review on January 28, 2011 at http://www.tonivsweeney.com/.
We follow the narrow rock shelf south until it intersects the mountainside and then begin a gentle, spiraling descent toward the southwest. David wants to cover about twenty kilometers a day, but the topography will determine what we can actually accomplish. Exhausted by the time we set up camp on our first night, we eat only a little jerky with water before sleep takes us both.
We spend a peaceful night in our small tent but wake in the morning to a new danger – snow. These mountains receive considerable precipitation in winter. If we aren’t careful, we could get stranded in the high country and starve to death. We break camp with new urgency, munching jerky as we travel. It’s not just the cold. Peter’s notes were made in the spring and summer, and we fear we could miss landmarks buried under a blanket of whiteout.
About midday, David urgently signals me to crouch down. A deer has been brought down by a wolf pack ahead, and he doesn’t want to surprise them. There are only three alternatives: stay on guard and wait them out, confront them, or try to hike around them. Before the decision is made, the lead dog senses our presence and issues the alert. They stop eating in unison and stare without fear in our direction.
David slowly removes his rifle from his leather backpack scabbard and stands ready for the unexpected. For a moment there’s a standoff, but in the next instant the largest wolf lunges toward us at blinding speed. David’s reflexes are far faster than the wolf, and the bullet rips through its flesh in midair. The animal plummets to the ground, burying its nose deep in the snow before momentum swings its hindquarters forward and up over its head. The other wolves continue to stare, growling menacingly as they wait for their leader to stir. This time David doesn’t wait for their decision, and another shot drops the second largest animal straight into the snow. Six remain, who begin to back away as we stand erect and begin walking directly toward them.
Either they will attack, or they won’t, but at least we’ll see them coming. Within seconds, another round blows a huge chunk of flesh off the third largest wolf’s neck, and it screeches loudly as it flails in the snow before bleeding out. The others back away farther, far more timid now, and then turn to run as we come yet closer.
We’ve been in the mountains for nearly seven months and have used about half our ammunition during that time. Three shots to dispel the wolves might have been excessive, but we now have enough frozen venison and wolf meat for the remainder of the trip home.
After taking all the meat we can carry and covering it lightly with our remaining salt, we try to put as much distance between the wolves and ourselves as possible. In all likelihood they will stay near the remainder of their kill and the other dead wolves, at least until that food source is gone, but we’re also carrying meat, as well as being food ourselves, and they could equally well come after us.
Author Bio: Although his Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D. are in Chemistry and Meteorology, James worked as a scientist and system/software engineer before retiring a third time, then turned to writing. Extensive travel, from Thule, Greenland to Australia’s Great Barrier reef – and to dozens of countries in between – provide the real-life experiences he incorporates into everything he writes. James enjoys boating, kayaking, skiing, traveling, hiking, tending nine grandchildren (no more than two at a time), and ballroom dancing, but his first love is writing.
Thank you, Sweet and Sexy Divas, for having me here today, and a heartfelt thank you to everyone who took the time to visit today.
Sincerely, James L. Hatch