Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

To write, or not to write

Written By: Bob - Oct• 27•11

I’m been toying with the idea of writing a novel for the last few months or so, or rather, the idea has been toying with me.

As a reader I tend to get on genre benders (note I said genre, not gender, Chaz) and devour everything I can get my hands on by a specific author ,or in a given type of story. For the last half-year or so I’ve been burning through one post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction after another. One Second After, The Raggedy EdgeLights Out and a dozen similar books have all flowed through my Kindle (and no, I don’t get any sort of a kickback or Amazon referral to those links) lately.

I’ve become fascinated both with the worlds I found the protagonists trying to survive in, and I’ve become just as fascinated in the worlds that the author’s had their character’s so quickly flee.

In each and every one of these books, there was a distinct “head for the hills” mentality in place. Metropolitan cities are inevitable death traps and their suburbs are pillaged and burned out as people become little more than human locusts fanning out into the countryside in search of survival. That’s a solid basis for a plot, as endless successful variations of that formula have attested.

But I’ve often wondered… what happens to those that stay behind? A great many would simply die from lack of food, medicine, and sanitation (disease), but there may be those that have the sort of resources, and skills that give them a better chance trying to ride things out where they are instead of trying to flee.

The story I have in mind would hinge upon a middle-age father, his wife and their two kids, a set of grandparents (the reason they can’t really move even if they wanted to) and some neighbors that decided to stay in a suburban neighborhood on the edge of rural areas to their south and urban areas to their north and west.

The drama would hinge upon many of the same factors that these other books are based upon, with a twist of trying to farm, forage, and when necessary fight among the “mcMansions.”

The question is: would anybody out there read something like this, or would I be wasting the reader’s time?


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  1. John Richardson says:

    I’d read something like that in a heartbeat.

    If you haven’t read Alas, Babylon you need to add it to your list. While written in the 50s, it still feels modern.

    The only caveat that I’d add was to avoid making it anything like James Wesley, Rawles “Survivors”. It was a big disappointment.

  2. Mark L says:

    I have had nearly a dozen books published and regularly review books for my local paper, so I know the issue of writing from both sides — producer and consumer.

    To answer your two final questions “would anybody out there read something like this, or would I be wasting the reader’s time?” I have to say . . . it depends.

    It depends on the author of the book. If you tell a sufficiently entertaining story (a) people will read it, and (b) you will not be wasting their time. Doesn’t matter what the story is or how many times the basic plot has been retold. If it is entertaining enough it will be read and appreciated.

    The real question is whether you will be wasting *your* time writing it. Fiction is the hardest type of book to sell, unless you have already sold it before. While I have had some fiction published (all short stories), 99% of what has been published (what I was *paid* to write) has been non-fiction. And I have several novel proposals, lead chapters, outlines, and all, moldering in file cabinets and on hard drives to prove that. So don’t write it unless you can take pleasure out of the act of writing it. Statistically that is going to be your only reward. But, to rephrase Dirty Harry Callahan’s line, you might get lucky. T. M. Doran did.

    (By the way, suburban survial after a catastrophe is one of the elements in John Ringo’s “The Last Centurion,” which is a heck of a fun read, if you have not read it. Not the main focus, but one of them.)

  3. Matt says:

    Mark L is correct. Write it if you will take pleasure out of writing it. If you just want to write it and get it out there, there is always the “self” publishing route on the Kindles and the Nooks.

    Good luck!

  4. It sounds quite interesting. I believe most people would try and shelter-in-place in an unexpected disaster, because they wouldn’t know what else to do.

    Just, no zombies please. Been done to death (no pun intended).

  5. Joe says:

    In case you weren’t aware of it, November is National Write a Novel Month. Web search nanowrimo for more information. You’re just in time to get started.

  6. tjbbpgobIII says:

    I have read two of the books you write about. I consider mmyself a fast reader, but by no means a speed reader. I would read an online book in a heartbeat an have many times, ie “Sispsy Street” that to my knowledge has never been finished. I hope MPV gets to finish before the fed assholes get him down.

  7. displaced2 says:

    I really liked the book Preppers Road March which told a fictional account of surviving after a solar flare takes the grid out.Fast read and thought provoking. I think the book you propose would be a great addition to survialist and dystopia fiction.

  8. BigSoph says:

    I guess I am with the ‘it depends’ crew
    What is your hook? The comic series Walking Dead (much better than the TV show, by the way) has the characters 90 issues in and they still have no clue as to what caused the dead to rise nor are they in any position to find out. The first half of Mel Gibson’s Signs (before it started to make no sense) was great – these were ordinary people who had no idea what the big picture was. And no way to find out, especially when the TV went out. Did we surrender? CAN we surrender? Did we win?
    If you have the story as ‘we survive’, you need a spark to avoid what would be a very depressing story as everything runs down to die
    You also cannot have a ‘miracle’ solution

  9. I’d buy it. More to the point, I suspect others would as well, given the published success of David Crawford’s “Lights Out,” which started as an internet posting and deals with much the same topic…

    …especially as I believe you’re a much better writer than Crawford. I liked “Lights Out” very much, but it took years of editing to get it to its current publishable state.