What to read while waiting for the end of the world
October 6, 2016 7:43 PM   Subscribe

"The lists [of gear] are a point of complaint for some reviewers online, but the authors of these books know that they’re writing something that’s a cross between a novel, a shopping list, a survival manual, and a field guide; this is a wholly experimental form, and the results can be awkward." American prepper fiction.
posted by The corpse in the library (28 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
Vic Berger has done some great work parodying Jim Bakker (!)'s emergency food buckets.
posted by My Dad at 8:10 PM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Thanks for this post--it's a fascinating look into a literary genre I didn't know existed. I'm unsurprised but still dismayed to see that the books equate collectivism with stupidity or, worse, evil:

In more than one of these books, the prepper encounters people who expect him to share the resources he’s planned ahead to store. The analogy with communism or socialism is often explicit...In Rawles’ Patriots, the survival group halts a group passing by their retreat, then digs through their belongings, finding first “six English copies of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book” and then “three small human legs and four small human arms.” A horrified group member kills the baby-eating communists on sight.

About as subtle as a Chick Tract. But I guess what else should I expect?
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:22 PM on October 6, 2016 [16 favorites]


I've been watching the guy across the street transform his old Dodge pickup into ARK II -- he's the guy who pulls on his "Hillary for Prison" T-shirt every Sunday when the old hippies arrive for the Kensington Circus Farmers Market -- and I've been resisting naming him a Prepper, but today's addition of Jerry Can brackets on the back of the camper shell is worrying me about his post election expectations.
posted by notyou at 10:35 PM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Anyway, I am also concerned that the Slate writer didn't mention Lucifer's Hammer, the Niven and Pournelle collaboration that may be the Ur Prepper Novel.

Oh hey! Here's a prepper review of it!
posted by notyou at 10:46 PM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Anyway, I am also concerned that the Slate writer didn't mention Lucifer's Hammer, the Niven and Pournelle collaboration that may be the Ur Prepper Novel.

She did.
posted by atoxyl at 11:04 PM on October 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


After a certain point of disaster preparedness you're better off just putting the money in a 401k, but that kind of calculus will really mess with a doomsday fetish-addled mind.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:05 PM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Ahh, she did? I read right over it.
posted by notyou at 11:12 PM on October 6, 2016


There is a lot of immediate, hair-trigger violence in these books, and when the prepper doles it out, it’s always justified...

...you can rely on no one but yourself and your family and a carefully chosen group of likeminded allies; other people will try to take what you have, perhaps violently; you may compromise many of your ideals in defending what you have.

It never ceases to fascinate me how pervasive the fantasies of unambiguously justified, righteous violence are—and I certainly understand the appeal myself, strictly as fantasy—but then when you have the politically-motivated or religiously-motivated bombings and attacks around the world, so many people seem unable to relate it to that familiar phenomenon. Instead they go with something like "they just hate freedom" in imagining the mindset of the perpetrator.

I'll never forget the surreal experience of sitting in a theater watching Inglourious Basterds, well more than half a decade into war and counter-insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan, and seeing the crowd around me cheer for suicide bombers. But, y'know, American suicide bombers.
posted by XMLicious at 11:18 PM on October 6, 2016 [15 favorites]


pervasive... fantasies of unambiguously justified, righteous violence

it's what unites us as Americans. we just can't agree on who deserves it...
posted by ennui.bz at 12:41 AM on October 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


Prepper lists read like the equipment list from the liner notes of an old ELO album.
I still can't comprehend the mindset, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:56 AM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Two things:

ARK II

Oh my god, the sudden rush of nostalgia. I remember watching that as a kid in the late 70s. Also...

Here's a prepper review of it!

...is it me, or is that review borderline incoherent?
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:17 AM on October 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


It never ceases to fascinate me how pervasive the fantasies of unambiguously justified, righteous violence are

Isn't that largely what the success of shows like The Walking Dead is about?
posted by fuse theorem at 5:33 AM on October 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


Isn't that largely what the success of shows like The Walking Dead is about?

And superhero movies, with the added bonus of usually removing all moral weight from the violence.

Prepper books are an interesting genre. I haven't read much newer examples, but I remember reading a set of them from the local library when I was a teenager. This review kind of made me want to revisit these kinds of books, but I suspect the heavy handedness of the politics would get old really fast this time around.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:58 AM on October 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


There's also prepper (unsurprisingly) in Heinlein. cf: the page he devotes to the Lazurus Long's equipment list in Tale of the Adopted Daughter (part of "Time Enough For Love, 1973).
posted by Mogur at 6:54 AM on October 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Day of the Triffids, from what I remember, gets into this territory too.
posted by emjaybee at 6:55 AM on October 7, 2016


What kind of man gives cigarettes to trees!
-- Donald Quinelle
posted by lazycomputerkids at 6:59 AM on October 7, 2016


Isn't that largely what the success of shows like The Walking Dead is about?

I'm binging through the last season and I keep finding myself thinking "You know what would solve your problems? Society!" Instead the show seems intent on showing society as the source of the problems and only 'family' as a source of strength.
posted by srboisvert at 7:00 AM on October 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


I do some emergency prep, have to admit being rather glued to the news of hurricane Matthew. Most emergencies I've experienced are power and water outages, notably the great northeast ice storm of 98 and the blizzard of 78. I lived in town then, lost power only briefly, and provided hot showers and meals to friends who had severe outages. Prepper sites have quite a bit of violence porn and an affinity for gun culture, not surprising that the fiction would be similarly inclined. In Maine, your neighbors are likely to be your best resources. They may be hunters, having a hunting rifle or shotgun. They'll know how to help you out in a jam. So, yeah, society.
posted by theora55 at 7:20 AM on October 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


There was another FPP where people were hating on Lucifer's Hammer for revelling in the worst of humanity which confused me and I didn't want to get into it. Then this article mentioned the preppers in Lucifer's Hammer (and got seconded in the comments here) and I'm just like: what the hell, I read that book and no one is really a dick to each other in it it seemed like the best possible scenarios for the end of humanity....

So I went and did some googling, and it turns out that Lucifer's Hammer is a different book (with different authors even!) than The Forge of God, which is also apocalyptic but in an entirely different way.

For some reason, the idea of Prepper Fiction is somewhat comforting to me. Preppers, to me, seem like the evangelicals who are convinced that the Second Coming/Rapture/Revelation is going to happen relatively soon. It's all based on a fantasy of a better life for them and their's in the future. The difference is that I often worry that preppers could actually bring about the kinds of shitshows where their "preparation" is needed (see, e.g. Mahleur National Wildlife Refuge).

So, energy that goes into writing them prepper fiction, is energy not being put into actually trying to overthrow local governments. And if people can get their fantasy-life needs met by reading books that imagine their bright future for them, maybe some of their impetus to bring about violent rebellion in the real world that I have to share with them will be lessened.

Evangelicals can read as many Left Behind books as they want, as long as that distracts them from trying to curtail women's, LGBT, and other human rights. Preppers can read books, make lists, go shopping and build hoards all they want, as long as that keeps them from organizing to the point of actually successful takeovers of public land.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:48 AM on October 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


I wasn't surprised to find out that, survivalist Hugh Farnham's bomb shelter in Heinlein's FARNHAM'S FREEHOLD is a real thing.
posted by ridgerunner at 8:57 AM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can't help but remember that in Brin's The Postman, the thing that really caused the collapse of civilization after World War III were the survivalists, who after a year or so, realized they had no food, and had no interest in growing their own. And I can't help but think that after a disaster, the preppers are going to be the main threat to rebuilding.
posted by happyroach at 9:36 AM on October 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


I'm binging through the last season and I keep finding myself thinking "You know what would solve your problems? Society!" Instead the show seems intent on showing society as the source of the problems and only 'family' as a source of strength.

This is also, I think, why this kind of fiction always has to elide over the actual collapse of civilisation, underpants gnome-style. Because, deep down, the authors know that the stories they want to tell are ahistorical, as in running counter to the entire trajectory of human history.

World War Z is the only zombie fiction I've read that feels even remotely true to life, in that sense, precisely because it acknowledges that society as an idea is both more resilient and far, far more important to actual survival than prepper fiction gives it credit for.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:21 AM on October 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


(And World War Z also features preppers in it, in the form of LMoEs -- Last Man on Earth -- who cause problems for the rebuilding of civilisation through their shoot-first mentality and fields of shitty booby-traps that need to be cleared.)
posted by tobascodagama at 10:24 AM on October 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


Obligatory callback to Dee Extrovert on preppers.
posted by thelonius at 10:30 AM on October 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


LMoEs -- Last Man on Earth

Pronounced "Lame-Oes."
posted by porpoise at 2:57 PM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


The official pronunciation is "la-moe", but I'm pretty sure at least a couple of the audiobook actors pronounced it "elmo", which I love.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:24 PM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


The thing is, I like post apocalyptic fiction when it's like Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam trilogy. But in those books the rugged individualists tend to be sociopaths, and it's the hippy dippy collectivists, the gentle God's Gardeners, who have the right idea. Because as srboisvert said, it's not society that's the problem, it's the lack of it.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:27 PM on October 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Growing up I read a bunch of post apocalyptic fiction, when the end of the world was going to be from nuclear war. The author does mention some 'classic' apocalypse fiction, but I would argue there was certainly prepper fiction being written in the 80s. One perfect example that comes to mind is the series The Survivalist, with the first book published in 1981. Same listing and detailed description of supplies (especially weapons) and the same moral use of violence. Somewhat less cannibalism than seems to be in vogue in recent years, although the series got pretty dark as the 80s decade wore onward.

Seems like there might be some interesting historical parallel discussion that could go on between America then and America now, that did and have created the desire to imagine such a future.
posted by HycoSpeed at 10:19 AM on October 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


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