Driving to New York City on Saturday afternoon I was inspired to start a new scifi story at my community site Pan Historia. The afternoon had grown prematurely dark from clouds that seemed heavy with snow. The forecast had been vague, anything from 1-12 inches depending on where you were, but the sky looked ready to deliver Armageddon. The afternoon light, as we approached the early evening of winter, became sullen and bruised with menace. I have a tendency towards motion sickness when I travel by car, if I’m not the driver, and so I looked out the window at the winter landscape of Connecticut and then New York State.
I imagined that this light would be similar to the light caused by a layer of ash in the sky – nuclear winter – and from there my mind started running over a future scenario where it the Earth suffered from such a nuclear winter for at least a whole generation. Could people survive? How did they survive? I could easily imagine that a small population could manage by using generators and other power sources to grow food in bunkers or underground facilities with artificial lights, but I also tried to imagine if there could be survivors on the surface. Would they live by scavenging, cannibalism, or what?
There was a section of woods on the journey where the trees had largely died and they were strewn around like dominoes tumbled. This is what nuclear winter would do to the woods over time as the trees died and then rotted. The idea caught hold so thoroughly that I spent a couple hours thinking about it. I imagined the Morlock type scavengers gathering wood to burn, as well as the survivors from the bunkers. There would be conflicts. When I returned home to Vermont and was able to again login into Pan Historia I started doing a little research on the science. My technological survivors would, of course, also have to be scavengers as well as act defensively against the dangers of the twilight world I envisioned. Most of the theories of nuclear winter did not suggest the length of time I imagined, at least not for nuclear bomb fallout, so I looked into mega volcanoes, and I could postulate a situation where that might keep up for some time, particularly if there were also nuclear detonations and perhaps fires burning for years, such as would happen at dumps and oil fields, adding to the dust filled atmosphere.
Those survivors that lived outside would be like sick animals, our Morlock types, scrounging for scraps of food. They would suffer from UV poisoning from what light did come because of the damage to the ozone, and of course water would be contaminated. They would be short-lived and reduced to brutal lives. The clash between the two groups could provide a great deal of drama for long-term collaborative story-telling which is my specialty and the specialty of the writers at Pan Historia.
For those of you new to the concept of Pan Historia but interested in collaborative writing, getting in at the beginning of one of our role play collaborative novels is a great way to get started. More experienced members of the community would be more than happy to mentor you, and you wouldn’t have to feel like you were intruding on an established storyline. I’ll be creating my new ‘novel’ just as soon as I have fixed on a good title for it. There has been good interest in the concept so I hope to see a broad range of writers bringing their ideas to the world we create.