Sunday, April 10, 2011

Life Without Basics

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 incorporat
es 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.

James has completed seven novels and one short story, and intends to continue writing in the Contemporary Fiction and Paranormal Comedy genres. He has five titles with xoxopublishing.com and one with Solstice Publishing.

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







Tina Donahue said...

What a fascinating blog, James - I had no idea that so many of our innovations (miracles, really) were in the recent past.

Aftermath Horizon sounds wonderful. Just the kind of story I enjoy reading.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

What a huge undertaking it must have been to get all the different elements in place to write this story. Most authors begin their stories after the hard work of re-establishing order have already taken place in the aftermath of a world changing event.
I love this kind of story. I also like how you were realistic in your rebuilding process. Aftermath Horizon sounds like a wonderful, well thought out story.
I do remember my grandmother and parents canning everything. They made their own catsup and fiddled with the recipe so much is was never the same year to year. In the 1950's my grandfather, born in 1866, still had an outhouse--most unpleasant. I well remember a time of no computers--not even calculators or cell phones. We did just fine.
A wonderful blog, James. As always, you entertain and interest us.

Anonymous said...

James,Your post was really informative and I loved the excerpt. As a child of the 50's I got to help my grandmother can food and yes she even had a 3 hole outhouse. She also had a wash house. Washing the clothes was really an all day chore. She also raised chickens and had a cow. I also got to hand pick cotten. That was an experience. I'm adding "Aftermath Horizon" to my to buy list.
BTW I'm looking forward to seeing you at the end of this month, at the "Books 'n Authors'n All that Jazz" event.
G W Pickle

Cheryl Pierson said...

Hi James,
I enjoyed this post! It's nice to get to know more about you--and now that I do, I will have to pick your brain sometime about your career, etc. My son is wanting to go down (somewhat) that same road with a Ph.D. in physics. My daughter would love this book of yours, James. She is very interested in knowing how to keep all these things alive--raising our own food, canning, home remedies--she would have made a very fine "pioneer woman." I'm going to add "Aftermath Horizon" to my list to get so she and I can both read it. I am old enough to remember some of those days--the outhouses at my great uncle's house and my grandparents', putting up endless ears of corn and okra (I'm a native Oklahoman, so that was and is a staple) and tomatoes, though not so many of those made it to the canning shelves since I could eat them any time of day or night. LOL

Great post!

James L. Hatch said...

Hi Tina -- It is amazing, isn't it, how lucky to be born at a time we could ride the wave. It is my sincere hope we can keep it, but it is such a dangerous world and everything is so fragile. Even I have begun gardening.

James L. Hatch said...

Hi Sarah. Aftermath Horizon was really fun to write. Like you, I remember many of the "old ways". My father logged in Idaho with a team of horses. We grew our food and hunted. Canning was a must. The self-reliance was incredible. Could we do it now? Some probably could. They would be the survivors.

James L. Hatch said...

Hi GW. I remember all too well the two holer...and the flies. Eeeewwuuu! I live out from the city, so we don't have sewers here. However, the State now requires each home have a treatment plant similar to the one the city uses. The old septic systems aren't even allowed, making us even more reliant on technology. If anything awful ever happens, I guess I'll have to dig a hole. Gross.

James L. Hatch said...

Hi Cheryl: Wonderful that your son wants a Ph.D. in Physics. The country needs that. I read yesterday there isn't a job shortage, but a trained person shortage. High-tech jobs are not being filled. Good for him! And I agree fully with your daughter. That is our mind-set as well. We are gradually converting to more self-reliance. I will eventually have solar and wind power, and a huge fenced garden (even on the top) to keep the deer and rabbits away. I'd love to recover the knowledge my father had. The guy was incredible. He could even make a hydraulic valve out of melted aluminum cans!

Michael said...

Hi James, waives and hugs.

I have often thought what it would be like not have just the bare necessities.

Funny I consider my internet to be one of them. LOL

I do think about how sometimes I take things for granted. The older I've gotten though, I've learned to appreciate it more.

Great blog and much success!

S.Lira aka Michael M and Rawiya

Delaney Diamond said...

James, I enjoyed the excerpt. Very intense.

I think we're too dependent on technology, but I have to admit I'd be loathed to give up my conveniences (car, phone, electricity).

The area where I'm most willing to budge is in the food department. I'm a strong believer in holistic and hormone-free, and I've all but eliminated convenience foods from my diet.

Preparing wholesome meals isn't as time consuming as many people think. I feel like we've been brainwashed into thinking that we're in a time crunch and need prepared items, but does it really take that much longer to bake a cake from scratch than to use a box cake?

And at least you know what the ingredients are!

Thanks for sharing.

James L. Hatch said...

Hi Rawiya. Let's hope we never have to find out what it would REALLY be like. I love the comfort, but will still prepare. BTW, Internet IS one of the necessities in Aftermath Horizon. It's installed before colonies are allowed to settle. Just a thought. Thanks for the comment!

Diane M. Wylie said...

Hi, James. Your background is very impressive and probably provides you with lots of material for your books. Aftermath Horizon sounds fascinating and the kind of book I would enjoy. I also find it interesting that a male author, such as yourself, would choose to present the story from a female POV. I am curious to know what made you decide to use a female, rather than a male for your main POV?

Ari Thatcher said...

I like the idea of a community that sticks together. The book sounds great!

Paris said...

Hi James,
The world you've built and the story you've created sound fascinating and I'm definitely adding Aftermath Horizon to my TBR list.

Renee Vincent said...

Great to know more about you James and your work!
Wishing you all the best in your career!

Fiona McGier said...

Hey James, I guess you are more optimistic about the human race than I am. I have read many books with dystopic views of the future, and the more I study human beings, the more I fear that will be our future. There seems to be little correlation between our advances in technology, and our empathetic responses to each other. We are still tribal in nature, only rarely aspiring to greatness in recognizing that as human beings, we are more alike than different.
But Gene Roddenberry was a dreamer like you, and he achieved much success from his visions. I wish you the best also.