Post Apocalyptic

Days Gone - A Flawed Gem

I recently bought, finished and got the Platinum Trophy for Days Gone. Getting the Platinum is not something I usually bother with, usually I only put in the effort for games that I love the most. They’re all Post-Apocalyptic, open world games too - Mad Max, Horizon Zero Dawn and now Days Gone. There’s probably something too that, but I’ll look into it later. This post is specifically about Days Gone, and how I put in the extra time after the main story was complete because I thought the game was worth it.

Spoilers. Duh.

Look, I’ll deal with the negatives right off the bat. This game isn’t complete, and despite first being announced way back in 2016, only to be delayed until 2019, it could have used a lot more time in the oven. There are many technical issues that just seem like small things that a more experienced studio or director would have been able to handle. Dialogue popping up at weird times, often in the wrong sort of tone. Cut scenes and conversations that looked like they were meant to be cut from the game, somehow made their way into the game alongside their replacements. A few weird character animations. It’s all really minor stuff that just looks silly and would’ve been easy enough to fix. I don’t know why these issues are still there, especially when they could just be patched, but they are. Despite all this, the biggest issue I ran into was the load times, which were consistently atrocious. This is the biggest issue I had and it’s far from a deal breaker, just a niggling annoyance, so make of that what you will.

In terms of story, you’re cut off from whole sections of the map until they game wants you to go there. But instead of blocking you off organically, with something as simple as a fallen tree across the road or blocked tunnel, you get this big warning on your screen and then you’re teleported back to the play area. Along with this, cut scenes were filmed to play with certain time/weather settings, so the clock would always advance until the developers had things playing out exactly how they wanted. It worked overall, but it never really felt as organic as it could have. It’s like the developers wanted an open world game, but one with a very linear and controlled story.

That’s the negative out of the way, and so now onto the positive - I freaking love Days Gone (pun intended). The world is pretty well thought out, and the Freakers are an ever present threat that’s constantly evolving as the story progresses. Two years prior, an infection spread across the globe, and still-living zombies (picture the infected from 28 Days Later) are rampaging across the globe. Deacon St. John, a member of the Mongrel Motorcycle Club, throws his injured wife on a helicopter to get her to safety while he helps his fellow gang member, Boozer, get to safety. He looses track of his wife, spends the next two years acting as a Bounty Hunter and Freaker Killer until the events of the game. He’s a fairly typical Post-Apocalyptic protagonist, out for himself and those closest to him, but eventually he starts opening up and helping out others. It’s actually a pretty well played out character arc, and this is in no small part to the acting of Sam Witwer, the actor who lent his voice and appearance to Deacon St. John.

It’s a pretty stellar performance.

It’s a pretty stellar performance.

One of the interesting things about Days Gone is that you’re pretty consistently killing women and children. Now, that sounds like a weird point to make, so let me clarify. In zombie games, you often kill female zombies as well as male zombies. They’re already dead, so it’s never been that big of a deal to kill them. Living female enemies, however, has often been something of an issue. People just don’t like gunning down women, even when they’re trying to kill you first. I remember there were female enemies in Horizon Zero Dawn, but they were few and far between - far, far rarer than the male enemies, which you would kill en mass. Mad Max only had male enemies to kill, except for a single woman that you fight in Thunderdome. Even the shining beacon of Feminist gaming, The Last of Us, had you murdering female Infected, but no uninfected females during game-play. So much for equality?

But then in Days Gone, there are plenty of women who are Marauders, Vagrants or Rippers - and you’re killing them pretty consistently. Along with this, there are children enemies in the game too. Granted, they’re Freakers called ‘Newts’, so they’re basically still under the umbrella of “zombies are already dead, so who cares?” but they’re there none the less. It’s nothing compared to the gunning down of orphans in Fallout 1 or Fallout 2, but still there’s this strange feeling of uncomfortable awkwardness when you smash a Newt into the ground with a baseball bat. I’m not one who takes pleasure in mowing down women and/or children, merely someone who likes to see that aspect of the world realized realistically. At one point, the characters themselves even discuss how uncomfortable killing a Newt makes them feel.

Small time predators roam in packs…

Small time predators roam in packs…

It sounds weird, but if you want a realistic game then this is what you want. Why aren’t there female Hunters, or Infected children in The Last of Us? Where are the females fighting for the Roadkill or Buzzards in Mad Max? If women are equally as badass as men, which Horzion Zero Dawn purports to proudly put forward, then where are the rest of the female enemies? This is something that Days Gone gets right, because there are women fighting right beside the men. They’re not just NPC’s selling wares or defending camps either, they’re rushing in to kill you with baseball bats and rifles. It just makes sense, from a Post-Apocalyptic standpoint and from an equality standpoint. Good representation isn’t just about having more female protagonists, it’s about having more females everywhere - including in the role of cannon fodder for the games protagonist.

So, yeah… that rant explains why I’m so awkwardly happy to be killing women and kids in a video game.

The world of Days Gone is amazing. Set in the ruins of Oregon, Days Gone has you riding a motor bike through back hill forests, sandy deserts and blasted tundra. Your bike starts out noticeably shit (because where do you go if you start off with the best gear possible?) but as the game progresses you steadily upgrade it, and it quickly becomes a joy to ride. You get better and better weapons to fight the Freakers, and this is probably my only other issue with the game. You’re getting this ever expanding arsenal of firearms when I would have preferred to see something like in The Last of Us. Bigger and better guns are cool, but it doesn’t exactly help push the Post-Apocalyptic narrative, so for me I would have preferred to have a few guns that get modified. You’d still get the ever improving firepower, it’s just that it’d be the same guns being tinkered with, which is basically what the Post-Apocalypse is all about. Nothing speaks to the hardship of the world’s end than not having access to the firepower you once did, instead having to modify and make do with your initial weapon.

It’d be quite a nice time without all the psychos and infected cannibals…

It’d be quite a nice time without all the psychos and infected cannibals…

Anyway, you ride around helping out various camps, each with their own flawed views and methods of survival, and you quickly find yourself wrapped up in the greater events of the world. The main things you do in Days Gone is collecting scrap and hunting Freakers - both of these activities remain consistent throughout the game. Far from the eclectic junk bonanza of Fallout 4, collecting scrap in Days Gone is streamlined and simple. Scrap, fuel, kerosene, cloth - you only really need to collect the basics. In terms of hunting Freakers, you can take them on one by one but the real draw is against the Hordes. Literally hundreds of Freakers all swarming their way across the world map in a constant migration between their nests and feeding grounds. These Horde battles can be dramatically intense, but it usually just ended with me running and gunning, cheesing them with Molotov’s and Heavy Machine Gun Fire. They’re fun, but due to game-play mechanics they rarely play out as intended.

Though they don’t vary that much individually, when you’re facing a horde you never lose sight of the forest for the trees.

Though they don’t vary that much individually, when you’re facing a horde you never lose sight of the forest for the trees.

In terms of characters that fill the world, there’s a pretty decent swathe of personalities to encounter. There’re a lot of assholes, but there’s usually some sort of justifying reason behind why they are the way they are. Whoever they are, and whatever their defect is, it’s always interesting to watch Deacon interact with them. Say what you will about an ex-Army outlaw biker being married to a researcher with a Ph.D. in Botany, it allowed the developers to craft a story that was both world shaking and personal at the same time.

There’s a cult of psychos known as the ‘Rippers’ and while yes, they do go around ripping the shit out of people - they’re actually named that for the way their leader ritualistically carved “R.I.P'“ into his own forehead. Let the past die, wash away the mental suffering with physical suffering and you’ll be free to “Rest In Peace.” It’s a nice little bit of word play that I’m kicking myself for not thinking of. Anyway, the point here is that people are talking about the Rippers hunting down two bikers from the Mongrel Motorcycle Club, which is obviously Deacon and Boozer. Deacon thinks they just have it in for them because they’ve killed a few of them, but eventually you find out that the leader of the Rippers, Jessie, is actually a former member of the Mongrel Motorcycle Club as well. The thing is that Jessie had his gang tattoo burnt from his back with a blowtorch before the apocalypse, by both Deacon and Boozer. He started the Rippers cult because he was obsessed with the way that a persons whole identity could be burnt away in a flood of pain. He inflicted suffering on hundreds of survivors in a twisted attempt to free them, because he admired the way the Freakers were free from suffering.

Safe to say that he never really got over the experience…

Safe to say that he never really got over the experience…

Eventually Deacon and Boozer team up to go kill Jessie, and the story spirals upward to more world spanning heights. You eventually find your wife, and she’s working with a paramilitary organisation who are trying their best to preserve humanity. They’re well armed and supplied, and it looks like they may be able to save mankind, but there’s the little issue of their leader being a religious zealot who executes anyone who doesn’t adhere to his strict moral code. Eventually you work with your wife, the botanist, to learn that her research was used in the creation of the Freaker Virus. So while Deacon helped create a monsters of man that plagued the survivors, his wife helped turn men into monsters that plagued the survivors. It’ll admit that it strains credulity, but it was a neat way to personally tie your characters into the story beyond being just some guy and girl who’re saving the world.

You deal with this paramilitary force, going in and taking them out in your usual explosive style, and then you and your wife are finally united and free. After the game, the government agent who helped you find your wife lets you know of a far greater conspiracy that he’s involved in. He’s infected with the Freaker virus, though he’s somehow managed to avoid turning into a mindless Freaker. All the good stuff with none of the drawbacks, except being ugly as sin. I’m sure we’ll find out more about this in the sequel, which I hope takes less than 3 years to be released.

Despite the issues, it’s still got a great character in a great setting.

Despite the issues, it’s still got a great character in a great setting.

Days Gone is a pretty fantastic game if you’re into open world survival simulator or just Post-Apocalyptic games in general. I didn’t realize how sick I was of the Fallout series’ 50’s schtick, until I was cruising through the ruins of a realistic and modern looking Oregon. People lamented not having photos of loved ones, because everyone had used smart phones to store their photos, and high tech medical facilities sprung to life once you started the generators. It was a breath of fresh air to see a more serious Post-Apocalyptic tone, as opposed to the more lighthearted and gimmicky alternatives. Days Gone is a flawed game, but despite that I still think it’s a fantastic Post-Apocalyptic title that is well worth playing.

Return to Form... and an Old Post-Apocalyptic Book!

Hey folks, sorry for the massive hiatus, literally three months since my last update, life has been sort of hectic of late. Living overseas is never easy, and some days are a lot more stressful than others. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about, I’m here to talk about updating the Post-Apocalyptic Writing Guide!

The cover was a very expensive gag… that nobody has got, so I will be changing it to something a bit more appropriate.

The cover was a very expensive gag… that nobody has got, so I will be changing it to something a bit more appropriate.

It’s been a year since I released the guide, and it’s garnered some great comments and reviews… but the things with guides is that they have to stay current. With that in mind, I’m going to update and re-release the guide. A version 2.0, if you will.

Because of this, I’m opening the floor to my Post-Apocalyptic tribe - if you’ve got something you think should, or shouldn’t, be in there, then let me know! I’ve got my own changes that I want to make, sure, but I’m happy to listen and take on board any thoughts or criticisms that Post-Apocalyptic creators and fans have. I want this to be the quintessential guide, and for that I need all of you. There’s already a long list of names in the front, people who’ve helped out, and I’m more than happy to have yours in there too.

If you’ve already got a copy, then flip through it and take some notes. If you haven’t got a copy, then just email me at JJShurte@Gmail.com and I’ll send you one for free. One of the tribe, S.T. Campitelli, has already written up a five page document that’s full of some really helpful stuff, I’m seriously impressed and doubly grateful. But I don’t care who you are, as long as your a fan of the genre, I’m open to any and all input.

Thanks in advance, and best of luck out there!

PS - Yes, I’ll try to update more.
PPS - Yes, I’m still working on my fiction… when I can.

Van Helsing - Really That Bad

So, I sat down and watched season 3 of Van Helsing and despite what I said in my last blog post on the subject - it’s doubled down on the man-hating social justice rhetoric and become a clusterfuck of a show. Along with the ridiculous propaganda it’s peddling, the storytelling of the show has devolved into absolute absurdity. It’s not trying to appeal to a broad audience anymore, it’s not even pretending to appeal to a wider audience, it’s purely a radical feminist girl-power romp through the post apocalypse.

Vanessa Van Helsing is a fucking joke of a protagonist - she snarls and stomps her way through this season. I guess they’re trying to show her devolution into a vampire-like being, but she’s just an absolute arsehole. As an example - Axel, the marine with multiple tours of combat duty before the vampire outbreak, is trying to enter a building with some form of tactical awareness, but Vanessa just gives him the finger and waltzes inside. I get that they’re trying to portray her as an experienced combatant who is also superhuman, but this “badassery” would be described as “toxic masculinity” if it were in a male character. She literally kills an innocent man, just to drink his blood, and then forgives herself in the next episode and it’s never brought up again. She even admits that she killed a guy in the first season despite knowing he wasn’t the murderer in their group, simply because she wanted too. To put it as bluntly - she’s just a cunt of a human being.

It’s just this all season - a snarl and this weird cowboy stance.

It’s just this all season - a snarl and this weird cowboy stance.

And the show has totally reverted to it’s original anti-male narrative, where if something bad is happening then it’s typically a man’s fault. A male nurse hits on a side character, who rebuffs him because she’s a lesbian, and he ends up attacking her in a psychotic rage. Both those things already happened in the first episode of season one, but they decided to reuse it for some bizarre reason? If the leader of a group is male then they tend to be evil, or they’re gay and get killed, or they’re female. It’s a female prisoner, who is chained to a really weak and effeminate male, who stages a riot on a prison bus which allows everyone to break free. Axel finds his long lost sister, just like Vanessa found her long lost sister… just like Mohammad found his long lost sister… and it turns out she was kidnapped and used as a sex slave by some guy who ends up having memory loss.

She was alive the whole time, trapped in the basement of the guy he worked for as a kid… and she survived the apocalypse and somehow managed to learn how to use a gun?

She was alive the whole time, trapped in the basement of the guy he worked for as a kid… and she survived the apocalypse and somehow managed to learn how to use a gun?

And the worst example, the one that nearly had me evacuating my bowels out of sheer outrage, was the castration. There’s this twitchy vampire that’s been awkwardly convulsing his way through the series and in this season he’s decided that he wants to join this sisterhood of badass vampires… and they decide to let him join, but only if he has his nuts taken off. As ridiculous as that is, the worst part is that he actually fucking begs them for it…

“Yes, do it. Make me like you. Make me a sister.”

Sorry to break it to you, but having your nuts taken off doesn’t make you a woman - it just makes you a shitty male. And not only does he have his nuts chopped off to join an all-female order of vampires, they go ahead a lop off the sacks of a whole bunch of other male vampires they force to join their ranks. They’re fucking undead, they don’t even procreate. I guess there’s the symbolic gesture of it, but what’s the point of the castration in terms of the story beyond some appeal to a batshit insane form of feminist extremism? How about I write a story about women being forced to get hysterectomies in order to join a gang… let’s see how long I survive after writing that.

This dude is just pathetic, that’s all there is to it.

This dude is just pathetic, that’s all there is to it.

Beyond this inane pandering to an ideology of victimhood, the storytelling itself has completely gone to shit. All the main cast of characters are either immortal or immune to the vampire plague, even though there’s multiple strains of it now. Someone is even healed from near death by being bitten by a vampire, despite also being immune to the virus. The vampires can’t figure out if they’re burning in the sunlight or if the clouds provide enough cover for them to walk around without protection… but it doesn’t even matter anymore because there are “Daywalkers” now. And no, despite making a joke about the shows similarities to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, they couldn’t even give a nod to the fact that they stole the term from Blade. I guess Buffy gets a nod because that had a chick lead, but since Blade was a dude then he can get fucked.

Blade - the one and only Daywalker.

Blade - the one and only Daywalker.

The secret organisation Blak Tek also plays a bigger role in this season but they’re just as stupid and just as mustache-twistingly evil. They’ve set up a safe zone in Denver but it’s all about experiments on unwilling human test subjects and forced labor in prison camps. There’s a bunch of elder vampires who are two dimensional and a prophecy being told by some literal hag who just appeared this season, and it all ends with an ascended Sam standing off against Vanessa and her newly resurrected Van Helsing ancestor. And you just know that the fight isn’t going to happen at the start of season 4 because it’ll be forestalled somehow and dragged out for the entire bloody season.

She lost her sister and gained a great great grandmother… it all balances out.

She lost her sister and gained a great great grandmother… it all balances out.

Van Helsing at least appeared to be correcting it’s course by the end of season 2, but it totally reverted in season 3. It’s shit storytelling combined with a failed attempt to pander to ideologues that’s created this absolute abortion of a show. Vanessa Van Helsing isn’t a strong female character, she’s a shitty male character being played by a woman. There’s still a few half decent characters in this show, but they’re few and far between… it’s like wading through an ocean of shit to find a dime or two.

These are probably the only decent characters in the show, base level humans (or thereabouts) who have real problems and character growth.

These are probably the only decent characters in the show, base level humans (or thereabouts) who have real problems and character growth.

I’m sure I’ll see season 4 at some point, because it got renewed for some reason, simply for closure more than any interest in seeing where the story goes. It’s clearly not written for people like me, it’s a show that preaches to the already converted under the guise of trying to illicit social change… and it can’t even tell a half decent story. But for some bizarre reason these Van Helsing posts are some of my most popular content - which both perplexes and irritates me to no end. Gotta give the readers what they want though, even if it’s a crazed rant about a lame-ass show. I’m just glad I haven’t had to pay to watch this tripe…

How I felt going into each new episode…

How I felt going into each new episode…

The Ultimate Career Goal

So I’m sitting here thinking about all the different apocalypses that I want to bring upon fictional versions of Earth, or some other human-inhabited planet, and I got to thinking about my long term career goals. What do I actually want to do in terms of being an author, especially one that focuses so heavily on the post-apocalyptic genre?

Well, I wrote a writing guide for the genre (which can be found here), so that’s one milestone already done. But something else I can do, is put my time/money/sanity where my mouth (or fingers?) are and actually write a story for each and every post-apocalyptic scenario that I listed in the guide. That’s a grand total of 36 different possible scenarios to work with. Now, planning to write 36 books is a hell of a lot easier than actually writing 36 books, but as the saying goes - anything worth doing is going to be bloody hard work.

Or maybe that was just my old man’s version of it?

Anyway, as I’ve said before in various locations - you rarely get just one single type of post-apocalyptic scenario at a time, there’s a cascading effect that tends to ripple through the system. For instance, you’re always going to get an Economic Collapse and Social Decay scenarios when you end the world… that’s just a natural byproduct of everything going to shit. Now, I can try to tap into this and use those ripples to get ticks in multiple boxes from a single story, but that’s not really what I’m going for.

With that in mind, although it’d certainly be easier, I’m looking at the long term achievement of having a story written in every single scenario. By the time I’m done, I’m hoping to have a catalog of post-apocalyptic stories that cover every possible scenario imaginable. I don’t want to write EMP or Zombie Apocalypse stories over and over - I want what variety I can get while also staying within the genre.

And to be honest, each of those 36 scenarios has some serious fucking wiggle room. That’s a lot of different ways for the world to end, and I’m confident that I can bring something unique to each and every scenario there is. As always, the only real issue is time. It’s not gonna happen overnight, but it will happen.

Just pray I don’t run out of steam and fall back on parody…

Just pray I don’t run out of steam and fall back on parody…

Why a House Can't Always be a Home After the Apocalypse

You see it in Post-Apocalyptic stories all the time, people living in anything and everything except houses after the world has ended. It’s not just for shits and giggles, though the reasons are not always readily apparent either. Why would people choose to live in a baseball stadium, a hotel, an office building, subway stations, military bases, shopping malls, prisons, casinos or a dam? Why not just live in a house like a normal person?

Well, the answer is because Post-Apocalyptic times aren’t normal, and neither are the people who live in them… and they certainly don’t have the same needs that we do in a pre-apocalyptic world.

Plenty of fresh water, possibility of power, easy to defend - what’s not to love?

Plenty of fresh water, possibility of power, easy to defend - what’s not to love?

The thing with Post-Apocalyptic times is that there’s generally something out there that wants to kill you. If it’s not radiation, zombies or mutants then it’s other people. For that reason, a simple house just won’t cut it as a base of operations. You need something that you can easily defend and most modern houses aren’t built to protect you against determined assailants, let alone radiation. Windows are a massive weak point, and even a dead-bolted door isn’t going to save you. And this is all assuming the house is still relatively new as well, add a few years before the apocalypse, let alone after, and you’ve got a seriously insufficient structure on your hands.

It’s remote… but one Molotov and your tiny shack is up in smoke!

It’s remote… but one Molotov and your tiny shack is up in smoke!

Next, you’ve got resources to consider. Chances are that running water is going to be a serious concern for your survivors… primarily because they’d like to continue being survivors. Most modern houses, oftentimes whole towns or sometimes even cities, aren’t build close to fresh water. With our modern water network, people can live in the middle of a desert and still have fresh, clean water at the turn of a tap. That kind of luxury generally dries up once the apocalypse kicks in. Once the taps stop working and all the bottled water runs out, you discover why towns were historically founded on river banks.

High walls, almost impossible to break into, the potential for mass amounts of fuel or other supplies. This works.

High walls, almost impossible to break into, the potential for mass amounts of fuel or other supplies. This works.

Now, it’s entirely possible that you live in a remote town with a river running through it - the zombies don’t know where you are and you’ve still got a reliable source of fresh drinking water. Good for you, you get to keep living in your home. Maybe you can shore up your defenses; board the windows and make some kind of wall… but whatever is out there will likely get through eventually. Why not just move into the local super market? It’s a lot closer to the river, it’s packed full of food and it’s a massive building made from steel and concrete. Besides not having that “homey” feel to it, it’s got everything you’ll ever need.

Busted in windows, having to climb up and down stairs every day to get water… not ideal.

Busted in windows, having to climb up and down stairs every day to get water… not ideal.

There’re a lot of things to consider when choosing where to live after the world ends; space, resources, defenses. You’ve got to weight each of these things against the others, because each site will have it’s own pro’s and con’s, and their viability will depend on what sort of apocalypse you went through. What’s good in a Zombie Apocalypse won’t be as effective in a Nuclear War scenario, and vice-versa.

You’ve just got to find the best place you can, then settle in. The primary paradoxical problem is that the better the location is, the more likely it is to be a target for other survivors. Which is just another factor to take into account when choosing your Post-Apocalyptic housing.

The Bastard's Curse

On the first of September last year, I did a Twitter poll, asking people to help me come up with a random plot. As with any kind of crowd sourcing, it turned into an absolute clusterfuck and spiraled out of control. And so here we are… 166 days later… and the project is finally being released.

It took way longer than expected, but there was a fair amount of real world drama and the core idea changed a fair few times… but it’s done.

Professional Criminal + Environmental Collapse + Social Decay + Forces from Outer Reality + Paranormal =   The Bastard’s Curse  .

Professional Criminal + Environmental Collapse + Social Decay + Forces from Outer Reality + Paranormal = The Bastard’s Curse.

Writing in the 3rd person was actually a pretty big challenge for me, it took an interview with the main-man Evan C. to figure it out - but I usually write in the first person because I have a background in oral storytelling. So yeah, 3rd person was difficult, but I’m happy to report that feedback has been good and I’m content with sending this out to the public… for free.

Well, kinda free? I’ll give it to you, for free, if you sign up to my email list… yeah, that’s what’s happening here.

If general opinion of the story warrants it, then I’ll be happy to write other short stories in this world. It actually turned out to be a pretty unique setting, and I’d like to explore it further. Combining Lovecraftian Horror with the post-apocalyptic genre came with some interesting challenges.

Feel free to rip the shit out of it, as always I’m always more interested in getting better than having my ego stroked. This is a slight step outside my wheelhouse, so I’m more than willing to take on some creative criticism in order to get better at it. Whether you love it or hate it, let me know what you think!

Anyway, without further rambling - if you’d like to collect your free copy of The Bastard’s Curse, then just click here!

Let me know if there’re any drama’s with the links… I’m no good with this high tech wizardry.

It’s scary, how much I relate to this character…

It’s scary, how much I relate to this character…


"That Would Never Happen"

When it comes to Post-Apocalyptic stories, the nay-sayers are pretty quick to point out how unrealistic a scenario is. There’s always some factor or instance that, they think, would undercut the apocalypse and forestall subsequent doom. The problem with this view is that the Post-Apocalyptic genre isn’t stories of the world almost ending, it’s blatantly about scenarios where the world hasn’t ended.

It’s far more likely that the world doesn’t end in some apocalyptic event, that’s a given. If we woke up every day and had to deal with the dread of some random apocalypse transpiring, we’d never get anything done. We wouldn’t have even moved out of our caves, why would we have bothered? The point is that 99.9999% of the time the world will not end, but Post-Apocalyptic stories are about that “perfect storm” scenario where it does. The catastrophic clusterfuck of an apocalypse is found in the insanely infinitesimal.

Your characters can also have absurd ways of surviving the apocalypse. Why not just sleep through the end of the world? ( The Walking Dead  stole this intro from  28 Days Later , not the other way around…)

Your characters can also have absurd ways of surviving the apocalypse. Why not just sleep through the end of the world? (The Walking Dead stole this intro from 28 Days Later, not the other way around…)

Nobody cares about an averted zombie apocalypse. One guy gets turned undead in a lab experiment, breaks free and then infects the scientist, the zombies run rampant through the top secret military complex but they’re eventually taken out by special forces, or a nuke… it doesn’t matter. A recently killed woman rises from her grave and hunts down her murderer, but a local deputy sees her shambling corpse and blows her head off then drags her back to her grave and buries her again. The Post-Apocalyptic genre isn’t about how the world is almost destroyed, they’re your simple Action/Thriller/Drama/Horror stories. The Post-Apocalyptic genre is about the cascading failure that does, despite all odds, result in absolute destruction for humanity.

Sure, there’s enough security around highly virulent diseases that the chances of one of them breaking free and causing a pandemic are slim, but this is about the time that the precautions in place juuuust weren’t enough. There’s a crash while the vials are in transport, the vehicle’s containment cases weren’t locked properly, the virus gets out. A fire causes a black out and the old generators fail to kick in, all the doors unlock due to the fire, the virus gets out. A scientist caught his brother sleeping with his wife, he goes to work and thinks “fuck the world” and… the virus gets out.

Or maybe a group of misguided eco-terrorists frees some monkeys that are clearly fucking psychotic? As in  28 Days Later .

Or maybe a group of misguided eco-terrorists frees some monkeys that are clearly fucking psychotic? As in 28 Days Later.

A lot of small things need to happen for an entire world to collapse, and total ruin could potentially be averted if any of them fail to happen. Go Google those times that the world was nearly drowned in nuclear hellfire because of a flock of birds, or because of some sunlight refracting off of clouds. As difficult as it is for an apocalypse to eventuate, in spite of all the precautions, it’s often in the cracks of absurdity that it slips through.

It’s not about how unrealistic the scenario is, as long as the author has put in the work to make it as realistic as possible, then it’s as realistic as it needs to be. If you’re working on a Post-Apocalyptic story, don’t think of it as destroying a functioning world but instead think of it as creating a destroyed world. Think of how it could happen, don’t get bogged down in all the ways it couldn’t. Sometimes simple bad luck can ruin your life, and it can do the same to the world.

You try to do the right thing, but save the wrong kid - suddenly the virus spreads to a whole new continent… and the whole world is fucked.

You try to do the right thing, but save the wrong kid - suddenly the virus spreads to a whole new continent… and the whole world is fucked.

Casualties of the Apocalypse

As much as stories are about stepping into the role of the characters to experience a different life, to instigate some thought into how you’d behave in similar situations, when it comes to Post Apocalyptic stories it’s paradoxically not about you. Because when the world ends, you die. There’s been countless claims that Post Apocalyptic stories are about wish fulfillment, about resetting the world to a “better time” where the “right people” are able to “rightfully take their place”. But the thing is, in a Post Apocalyptic story it’s usually the case that more than 95% of the world’s population has been wiped out. What’re the chances that you’re one of the five or less out of a hundred that survived?* The story isn’t about you, it’s about the people that survived in a world where you didn’t.

*That was a rhetorical question, I know basic math… (also,  The Day  was a terrible movie)

*That was a rhetorical question, I know basic math… (also, The Day was a terrible movie)

I understand how hypocritical it seems for a guy to write this when he’s also written a Post Apocalyptic novel about a fictional version of himself who survived the end of the world… but that actually gets directly addressed in the sequel. So try not to freak out about that apparent discrepancy too much. Also, despite how esoteric this will get, I promise that I’ll try my best to bring it home.

There’s no shortage of people who are so down and out on their lives that they actually hope for some sort of apocalyptic event to happen. They’re so at odds with modern society that they think the end of the world would give them a greater chance of success than just delving into the realm of self improvement. In this way, I can totally understand how Post Apocalyptic fiction could be seen as wish fulfillment. “Screw actually trying to succeed, just burn the whole thing down and let me survive by luck - then, when I’m the best by default, everyone will finally see how truly great I am!”

Yeah, no…

While a zero who survives the end of the world suddenly being forced to step up and make something of themselves can make for an interesting story, it has the potential to enable zeroes to stay as they are. That’s when Post Apocalyptic fiction becomes wish fulfillment. Why try to evolve and improve when you can just sit and hope for the apocalypse? I dunno, maybe because it’s better to be an active participant in your own life, rather than a passive one? Go out and do shit, rather than waiting for shit to happen to you.

Ah, there we go - that’s the link that’ll let me bring all this together.

Zombieland  actually did a decent job of portraying a pre-apocalypse loser stepping up to make something of himself in the zombie apocalypse.

Zombieland actually did a decent job of portraying a pre-apocalypse loser stepping up to make something of himself in the zombie apocalypse.

Season one of The Walking Dead starts off in the ruins of Atlanta, and the show generally sticks to Georgia and Virginia. Jericho is primarily based in the fictional town of Jericho in the state of Kansas. Fear the Walking Dead starts off in California, then they travel down south. Jeremiah is mostly set in Colorado. The Mad Max series is set in the ruins of Australia. The Road takes us through unnamed states in the United States. The Last Ship takes its survivors all around the world.

I know this was a weird list of Post Apocalyptic stories and their settings to rattle off, but there was a point. Unless you’re actually from one of these locations when you watched the show, it probably never clicked that you’re dead in that universe. You’re not Daryl Dixon, Vanessa Van Helsing, or Jake Green. You’re not special. You’re not the hero. You didn’t survive by luck, and you didn’t hide out in some bunker. You just died. You’re one of the innumerable dead digits that shows just how bad the situation is for the characters, that’s it.

Not one of these strangely stylish individuals is you.

Not one of these strangely stylish individuals is you.

Most stories are presumed to occur in the real world, or at least a parallel universe where everything is the same except for the fact that the story is happening. Now, this doesn’t matter that much for most stories because you can watch the show and just assume that a fictional version of you is out there, somewhere, in fiction land. You’re actually in all the CSI’s and Law & Order’s, you were also in Breaking Bad and True Detective, you were just in the far background and never seen. Now, by little more than random luck you might be able to presume you’ve died in said world if your home or place of business is destroyed, but usually your fictional self is fine and dandy and doing what you’re doing. That’s not so much the case with Post Apocalyptic stories.

When the world ends, especially when the story is set within your area, you can safely assume that your fictional self has been killed off. The death-toll of an apocalypse is so bad that they don’t even try to name the dead, they just number them. You become a digit in a statistic. Unless you see a fictional representation of yourself walking through the background of a scene, your fictional self is pretty much a goner. So much like with science fiction stories set in the far future, even when a Post Apocalyptic story is set in the modern day, it’s safe to assume that while you were once alive you’re now dead. Except, instead of it being the usual passage of time that killed you off, it’s the events of the actual story that did it.

You are technically part of these Post Apocalyptic stories, it’s just that you’re not front and center.

You are technically part of these Post Apocalyptic stories, it’s just that you’re not front and center.

As much as you’re reading/watching a story about people struggling to survive in a harsh world, you’re also reading/watching a story about a world in which you didn’t make it. You can identify, and connect, with the characters on screen, but you’re one of the billions that got bitten and turned into a zombie, got vaporized by nuclear hellfire, froze in their beds when the weather changed or were torn apart by demons.

Post Apocalyptic stories are an exploration of the world without you; and just like you can’t alter the events of a story, you also can’t alter the events of the real world after you’ve died. You can watch from some version of Heaven, or Hell, or as a lingering ghost who’s tied to your place of death, or simply as a soulless and rotting corpse... but you can’t influence things. The world ends when you die, for you, but it keep spinning for those that remain.

I think this is a key aspect of Post Apocalyptic fiction, and one that separates it from Prepper fiction. While both genres deal with characters who typically survive the end of the world by luck, Prepper fiction tends focus on improving the characters chances of survival via preparation. In this way, it’s got more in common with the “wish fulfillment” type of Post Apocalyptic story. Both have a massive extinction event for humanity, but while Prepper fiction is trying to convince and/or inform the readers, Post Apocalyptic fiction is simply an exploration. Prepper fiction tells its readers “this could be you, but only if you prepare.” While Post Apocalyptic fiction says “fuck you, you’re dead. This is what those who aren’t are doing.”

You’re not even this guy in most scenarios. Don’t wish for this.

You’re not even this guy in most scenarios. Don’t wish for this.

Again, I have to admit that Maralinga Marquardt is based on me… but he’s just different enough from me to be a different person. I know what he’s doing in January of 2019, and it’s certainly not writing a blog post through an earthquake in Taiwan. With that in mind, I’ve no problem if there’s also a more accurate version of myself in the story. I know exactly where he was and what he was doing when the world ended on March 25th, 2011 - and I can tell you, the truer fictional version of myself wouldn’t have cared if he’d died that day.

As bleak as people think Post Apocalyptic fiction is, it can be viewed as a motivational (if not a positive) force. The sad, unifying, fact of the matter is that we’re all going to die. Even if you do survive the apocalypse, by preparation or sheer luck, you’ll eventually die anyway. And while Post Apocalyptic stories very rarely deal specifically with your death, as they’ve got to be applicable to everyone, they can serve as a reminder that our window of opportunity to influence the world is limited. You can’t change the events of a story, and you can’t change the events of the world after you’re gone. How you choose to view this fact is up to you. Does it break you and leave you in apathetic stagnation, or does it inspire you to make the most of this fleeting existence?

You’re gonna die, eventually, whether the world ends or not. So go out and do some shit, rather than waiting for shit to happen to you.

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Fucking Annoying Frequently Asked Questions

A while back I wrote a book, Days Too Dark, and while it’s been pretty well received there are a few questions about it that keep popping up. While I’m always down for some creative critique, answering the same questions over and over becomes a little tiresome.

So that’s why I’ve written this handy FAQ for people who’re reading Days Too Dark! If you’ve got any questions, then check this before you come and ask me…

Is Mars you?

Ugh… yes! How is that not clear at this point? There’s literally a photo of me in the damn book.

You just wish you were as badarse and cool as Mars is!

Did you even understand the point of the book? Does he seem like he’s happy, about anything?

A protagonist who’s a straight white male? That’s sooo original… you Alt-Right Nazi!

Well, it’d be weird if I wrote a story about myself… but then I wasn’t who I am in the real world.

Also, just FYI - there’re multiple fleshed out characters who aren’t straight, aren’t white and aren’t male. There’s also a heap of handicapped characters, too. They’re all in there, I just don’t make a big deal out of it.

So, basically… #FOAD

Did you really kill someone and take their lungs?

No, but then the whole world didn’t end in 2011 either… because that’s the point of divergence.

Why is this written so weirdly?

Have you ever heard Australians talk? We’ve got a pretty weird accent and most people have trouble understanding our lingo. I figured that after two decades of no outside influences (like American television) the dialect would only become more pronounced.

If you don’t like it, then ya shit outta luck ya bloody drongo!

Why did you call it “the Gloom”?

It’s a metaphor for depression!

Did you really get in a car crash?

Yes!

Did your mum really drive you through a bus fire?

Yes!!

Were you really in a cyclone?

YES!

Did you reeeeeeea-

YEEEEEESSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Why do mushrooms grow from corpses?

Ever heard of “waiting until the sequel”?

A spear, a bayonet and a trench knife… pretty weird weapons for a post-apocalyptic story, don’t you think?

They’re symbolic. One was his fathers, the other his grandfathers and the final belonged to his great-grandfather. He’s inherited their weapons, as well as their demons, and he’s carrying on their fight.

But why a spear?

It’s the most widely used weapon in human history.

The spear looks totally different in different pictures, you fucked up!

I know it does. No, I didn’t.

Brisbane is on the east coast of Australia, not the south. Wtf is going on?!

Just read the bloody book.

Mars is such a Mary Sue, he even has different colored eyes!

1)      I don’t think you know what Mary Sue means…

2)      I have different colored eyes, hence Mars having different colored eyes.

Mars is sleeping with a woman who is fifteen years younger than him, that’s nothing more than disgusting wish-fulfillment!

There’s not a lot of options for either of them, and neither are mentally or emotionally healthy enough to be in a relationship. It’s not an ideal situation for either of them, which is kind of the point.

Why do all the characters have such weird names?

They’re not weird, they’re just not Western European. Russians have Russian names and Pacific Islanders have Islander names, etc. The only character who’s got a truly weird name is Maralinga, and even then it’s a name that’s found in the country of his birth and it has narrative significance. So basically, shut up.

The military being the bad guys is such a cliché, this story sucks!

I know it’s a cliché…

What’s with all the roses?

Inside joke. Count them and then google it.

There’s an awful lot of 9’s in this book.

There’s a good chance that there’s a lot more than you think there is…

What’s with the cover?

It’s one of the cards from the Rorschach test. Can you guess which one?

This is a blatant rip-off of The Last of Us!

Why? Because it’s got an arsehole protagonist and lots of mushrooms?

I started writing this before the Last of Us was even announced. I did a university speech on the Cordyceps Virus jumping to humans and creating fungi-zombies before The Last of Us was even announced. Trust me, I don’t need to steal anything from The Last of Us.

The Last of Us is one of those interesting titles that achieved such mainstream success, that people start to see shadows of it’s influence where ever they look… regardless of whether or not the connection is actually there. They’re both character driven, Post-Apocalyptic stories that focus on broken men and their relationships with those around them. It’s easy enough to see how people could think I was “inspired” by The Last of Us, but that simply isn’t the case.

That’s it, probably only for now though… I’m sure there will probably be more questions that get asked over and over and I’ll update this FAQ accordingly.

Twitter Poll Project

At the start of September I had this random idea that I didn’t really put much thought into and it sort of sprawled in such a fashion that it’s totally fucked up my schedule. I put out a poll on Twitter asking what sort of protagonist people would like to see in a new Post Apocalyptic story, and so people voted.

Poll the 1st!

Poll the 1st!

I didn’t actually think anyone would vote, but it turns out a decent amount did. I chose a bunch of random character ideas, some would say they’re cliche but I’d just call them bare boned at this point, and threw them all together on a poll. We ended up with a Professional Criminal as a protagonist, which is certainly a character that allows for a lot of possibilities - especially in a Post Apocalyptic story.

But then I did a second poll…

Poll the 2nd…

Poll the 2nd…

Instant. Fucking. Derailment.

While I was hoping for a single category of post apocalyptic scenarios to choose from, this poll ended up in a three way draw that meant I’d need another three polls just to get the basics of the plot down. While it’s true that an apocalypse is never simply a single event, you’re pretty much always going to get an Economic Collapse as well as whatever primary scenario you’re working with, this was far more than I was expecting. But then a multifaceted apocalypse is always going to be pretty damn interesting, and so I jumped into it.

3rd poll

3rd poll

The first category I asked about was the Environmental category; ends of the world that tend to be about the physical world itself, while not being anything supernatural or overly strange. They’re you more down to earth, mundane apocalypses. In the end, the public wanted an Environmental Collapse. Crops fail, whole species go extinct and in general the natural world starts falling apart at the seams. That’s not a bad start, but let’s see what happened in the Social/Political scenario!

4th poll

4th poll


Social Decay.

This is a difficult one to nail down, because typically in Post Apocalyptic stories the social bonds fall apart in response to the apocalypse. In this scenario, however, the actual apocalypse is the breaking of those very social bonds. Humanity loses any sense of cohesion for whatever reason and tears itself apart. Politics, religion, some new technology, whatever the reason is we just can’t go on together and so turn on one another.

So the natural world is collapsing and so is the human world… okay, interesting. Let’s see what the final poll comes up with from the Reality scenarios and maybe we can tie it all together?

5th and final poll

5th and final poll

Shit…

Reality scenarios are the ends of the world that are just bat shit insane; gods giving up on us, reality breaking or time itself fracturing. With that in mind, somehow we managed to get two of them. So that’s totally not going to complicate things at all, is it? We ended up with Forces from Outer Reality and Paranormal apocalypses. So we’ve got Lovecraftian creatures from beyond time and space coming in to cause madness at every turn, as well as ghosts and the afterlife to deal with.

So, just to recap. We’ve got a Professional Criminal who survived a Environmental Collapse/Social Decay/Forces from Outer Reality/Paranormal Apocalypse… that it some complicated shit right there!

If you look back at the dates of the polls, they went from September 1st to September 6th. At the time of writing this it’s the 23rd of September, so clearly it’s been a few weeks since I did the polls and there’s still been nothing written. That’s because this is a seriously complicated set up that I wanted to properly tackle, so I took some time and thought about it. I caught up with some mates last night at a bar and a song came on that gave me the keystone I needed to lock all these disparate building blocks into place.

I don’t want to go into too much detail, but it’s still going to be a short story though I don’t know the exact length. It’s going to be a mindfuck, I know that much. Any story with elder gods and ghosts is sure to be a little weird in parts, so we’re going to have something of a less than conventional Post Apocalyptic story. I’m okay with that.

I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to complete, but this is going to be something that I’m publishing so it’s going to need a cover and everything so despite its low word count it’s not going to be a quick release. On the same page it’s not going to be a Days Too Dark-esque 7-years-in-the-making situation either. So this whole post is basically just a status update. I am actually working on the project and I have made significant progress.

Fret not, those irritating polls weren’t for naught!