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Post-Apocalyptic Writing: I Overlooked Toilet Paper in My Prophecy

"Oh, no! Really? As I was growing up, my father usually dismissed Scifi stories as things that would never happen. I usually replied (more and more as I got older, of course) that they actually did. Scifi is a way to explore the possible, the future, the abnormal, as the path before Humanity becomes faster and more incredible year by year."

Well… funny story. I’m writing a post-apocalyptic novel. I’m actually late with the delivery of the second volume. Imagine my amazement when, in the middle of my writing marathon the Covid-19 pandemic happened. Let me explain what I mean. In February 2019 I published at Amazon the first volume of LAURA AND THE SHADOW KING. A few months later I secured a deal with a Portuguese publisher to launch the two-volume saga in Portugal, in Portuguese, in an omnibus. Well… the novel spoke of a large epidemic that swept the world and… well… let me show you a quote from beginning of the novel:

“The first outbreak happened six and a half years before, somewhere in Africa. It had spread fast and been deadly, killing about 38% of the world’s population. It lasted for almost a year before a vaccine was found, and that was enough to collapse the fabric of our civilization. Energy faltered, then water, then everything else. The climate changes going on, including the drought in the south and the rising seas everywhere, didn’t make anything any easier. Still, the disease had been defeated and mostly eradicated. “

Ooo… Creepy, hein? Of course I didn’t think about the shortage of toilet paper. Nor the controversy around face masks or the confinement itself. Maybe it wouldn’t matter anyway. But a deadly disease killing a lot of people, yes, creepy. It didn’t affect my writing in the whole, but made it all a little bit too close for comfort. Remember when people laugh about the next thing happening in 2020 is a Zombie Apocalypse? So here is the continuation of the exposition I was making above:

“[The disease] It wasn’t finished though. A second strain surged out of Asia almost immediately. It wasn’t airborne as the first, so it was less deadly, but it spread through bodily fluids and infected wounds, and didn’t kill the subjects but made them psychotic and extremely aggressive. The real damage had been done by the first strain, and chaos was the norm by then, but this strain made reconstruction basically impossible. Those infected wandered around in the wilderness. They were called zombies at first, but actually they behaved more like apes, violent apes. Still, they wandered around almost everywhere, eating almost anything and competing with other wild animals.

Civilization survived. It fled to the colder places, where the virus didn’t spread well. People survived around Canada, Alaska, Siberia, Scandinavia, Scotland, Greenland, etc. But that’s mostly it. The US collapsed, as well as Europe, Africa, Central and South Asia, Central and South America, Australia . . . Most of the world.”

Oh, no! Really? As I was growing up, my father usually dismissed Scifi stories as things that would never happen. I usually replied (more and more as I got older, of course) that they actually did. Scifi is a way to explore the possible, the future, the abnormal, as the path before Humanity becomes faster and more incredible year by year. And it’s not just things like submarines, rockets, quantum physics, ‘replicating machines’ (3D printers), shell-like communicators (cell phones) or laser guns. It also seems post-apocalyptic hypothesis are closer than we think.

But it’s still fiction. I still believe that we will need Warp speed sooner than we’ll need our scavenger’s skills.  Yet, this is how we expand our minds. As I usually say and write, fiction is the way Humans have been teaching and learning from each other for thousands of years. It’s one of our most reliable and effective ways to educate and explore complex situations. And as reality becomes more complex, we need fiction more and more. It is also a way to do it in the safest way. As we read and think and empathize and analyze, we are learning without having to experience situations in the real world.

That goes for writers too. I write as close to my experience as I can, but I haven’t really experienced the apocalypse before. That’s why it wouldn’t occur to me in a million years that prior to anything else the first hysterical run on stores would be for toilet paper. Also… we are not experiencing the apocalypse yet so… really… just read it for the fun of it.

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