A couple of notes. First, I’d like to say that I’ve found a good substitute for phone books as far as surnames go. Movie credits. Especially big-budget movies with massive crews. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it years ago. Second, Patrick Hodges, a friend and a great author himself, is branching out into scifi/fantasy and has just released the first book in the Wielders of Arantha series. Check it out.
But now it’s time to talk about some of the books that have inspired me in the writing of Altered Seasons. One of the main ones is Earth Abides by George R. Stewart. I don’t think I’d ever read a book before that shifted so smoothly in perspective between the global/omniscient and the human point of view. Altered Seasons owes a lot to Earth Abides and Storm, and (with the shifts in perspective between the different human characters with different sets of problems and access to different levels of information) possibly something to the alternate histories of Harry Turtledove.
Then there’s War Day by Whitley Streiber and James Kunetka. This was the book that introduced me to the concept of the semi-apocalypse. The limited nuclear exchange of the title doesn’t end the world or lead to the total collapse of civilization, but the United States is a battered, hungry, constrained version of its former self. In addition to exploring the different parts of the United States and how they were affected, the authors explore the impact of the war on everything from agriculture to the economy to society. I learned a lot from them about the need to think about every aspect of a given possible disaster.
A more modern example is World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks, who takes a seemingly ridiculous premise and explores it in all its ramifications. Brooks looks at every part of the world, and shows how the disruption of modern life by the zombies is at least as lethal as the zombies themselves.
But I think the best example is the 1632 series by Eric Flint and many others. The premise: the “Ring of Fire,” a disruption in the space-time continuum created by super-advanced but careless aliens, causes a small town in West Virginia in 2000 to be transported to central Germany in 1631… which, as you history majors know, is right in the middle of the Thirty Years’ War. The townspeople — badly outnumbered, but easily the best-armed force in Europe right now — make alliance first with the refugees fleeing the fighting, then with other towns in the area, and finally with Gustavus Adolphus himself, with the goal of building a modern society that can fight off the various power-hungry assholes fighting over Germany.
There are now so many books and stories in this series that I haven’t read them all and am not sure I could, but a big part of the books is the “up-time” West Virginians and their friends among the “down-time” Germans trying to solve the various problems they face — making antibiotics, getting the economy going, building an industrial civilization with the hardware and knowhow that came through the “Ring of Fire” and what’s available in the seventeenth century. This is a classic kind of science fiction, the kind that’s about problem-solving the way romance novels are about love.
Now, more than ever, I think the world needs books about problem-solving.