1. Theoneandonly99
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    Theoneandonly99 Member

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    A society trying to rebuild in a post apocalyptic setting.

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Theoneandonly99, Oct 12, 2015.

    So basically the question is, how would this look/feel like? I already have a general idea, but I needed to smoothen out the edges before I start on the story I plan to write. The apocalypse was technically caused by a great world war with nuclear bombs and all that kind of stuff, (somewhat overused, but the story's focus is very far from that), however the root cause of the said apocalypse was, to put it simply: "God showing himself to the world, and then abandoning it in an instant."

    The story would happen in an urban setting would a good percent of the infrastructure left in ruins or is heavily damaged. If you are into video games, think of Bloodborne, but in a modern setting mixed with a bit of Fallout. The people are refugees from all over the world. The sky is grey and most people are in a depressed mood. An unstable resemblance of government tries its best to keep everything in order. Food comes from the nearby supermarkets that were left undamaged. Some small cults form here and there with various beliefs caused by the God-abandoning-the-earth thingo.

    So I'd really appreciate if you guys would ask some questions or give some suggestions to further enhance it so I can figure out the holes and inconsistencies that this kind of setting presents. :)

    EDIT: For now, I'm thinking of lessening the overall damage of the war. This means there's no "nuclear bomb that pretty much decimates 97% of the planet", which is what I originally planned. I plan to make some countries get totally annihilated, while a few nations are definitely heavily damaged up to the point of a good amount of infrastructure being left in ruins and stacks of debris, but not exactly completely destroyed. That means that there's still barely enough left (food, fields to farm, leftover medicine and supplies, some places still have electricity and all those) in those countries for a community/society to survive. The story will be set in one of those countries. Population? Not sure. Definitely not in the millions. Maybe a million or two, at the very, very, very most. Maybe even less than around 300 thousand. Maybe even less. I'm not good with manipulating numbers in these kinds of things. The story IS set a few years after the war, so doesn't that mean that the country has had some time to recover a bit? The original government is still the one leading, but due to the war, their overall force, strength and impact on the people has dwindled very significantly. The season is set in winter (as much as possible, I want it to be in winter. It's a personal bias :) ) but it's not caused by a nuclear bombing or anything like that. It's just regular winter. Or maybe a season that feels rather bleak and not really upbeat. I don't know... Fall? (I actually live in a country that doesn't experience the four seasons, so forgive my lack of knowledge) So, in a way, it's not really an apocalypse (maybe a bit), but more of a modern Dark Ages or the dawn of a new era. What do you guys think? Would this permit the "surviving, but not really thriving post-apocalyptic/world war society" setting that I want? The story I have in mind does somewhat require an already established community.

    More questions/suggestions are more than welcome!
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2015
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  2. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    How long does the food last? How are the government workers compensated? Is it all out of altruism? Do they have enemies?
     
  3. Theoneandonly99
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    Theoneandonly99 Member

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    Roughly a few months (though I better do some calculations, I guess). They will try to find/make a more reliable food source (still figuring that out). For the most part, yes. Most of the members of the government are doing it out of good will. Enemies? In one word: Supernatural.
     
  4. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I wouldn't worry too much about calculations, but addressing the fact that a grocery store can't last too long would be important. Do people work, or how does the average person spend their day?
     
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  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    How long ago was the pox-eclipse? Was this like years in the past, centuries in the past, weeks in the past? Are the people we are meeting the ones who lived through the event itself, or their children, or generations down the line?
     
  6. Theoneandonly99
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    Theoneandonly99 Member

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    Well there are multiple grocery stores, but I guess that's stretching it. I forgot to say that the amount of people here IS a lot. How an average person spends their day? Hmmm now that's something I haven't thought about. Being with people they trust I suppose. Eating, thinking about what happened, making sure they're safe, some are helping in the various things the government tries to do. I don't really have that clear of an idea.

    A few years ago. Maybe around five. So that would make the characters people who lived through the event.

    Also, I'd like to add the presence of the Church here. Not necessarily Christian, but some sort of religion that closely resembles it. Their influence has been drastically reduced, and its remaining members tries to help the government a lot with the things they try to pull off. They're trying to provide some sort of emotional/spiritual refuge, though that isn't exactly easy since how would they defend God's abandonment?
     
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  7. wellthatsnice
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    wellthatsnice Active Member

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    Please elaborate, As in the food is coming from what the supermarkets had stocked prior to the war? Whats your plan after a week or two when that all runs out? If you have ever been in an area about to be hit by a severe storm then you know that those get pretty cleared out within the hours leading up. Those are not enough stores to keep people living for long periods of time after. Also, most canned food starts to go bad after a year...this society needs a new source of food or everyone is going to starve pretty darn fast.

    edit: this is 3-5 years after? then your supermarkets have been completely out of food for 3-5 years. Not sure you understand how quickly that would all go. Your local market does not have endless supply...that is being shipped in on a constant basis, and is being produced constantly. Based on your info, your society does not have food.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2015
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm going to opinionate rather than put in a lot of "in my opinion/from my reading" disclaimers. I could be wrong about the following, but I don't think so:

    - Food is going to be a huge issue. Eery last square foot of un-built land (and you may need to remove the buildings that you can) will likely need to be put into use growing food, and it's going to need to be calorie-heavy food. (Edited to add: But not meat, unless there's a population of wild animals to hunt. Huge luxuries like cows, that have to be fed precious food at least in the winter, will have to be restricted to things like milk for babies whose mothers can't breastfeed.) That land won't produce well with a cloudy sky, so there will need to be a lot of experimentation to find the varieties that do work--and work sustainably, because I assume that no one is making sacks of fertilizer.

    Speaking of sacks of fertilizer, you have people excreting fertilizer every day, so they're going to have to use that.

    Ornamental trees will probably be ripped out as fast as food-bearing trees or other crops can be planted. Any tree, bush, or vine that produces remotely, edible food will be precious--for example, horse chestnuts are normally poisonous to humans, but there is a process to convert them to edible, if undesirable, calories.

    Re: "How an average person spends their day? Hmmm now that's something I haven't thought about. Being with people they trust I suppose. Eating, thinking about what happened, making sure they're safe, some are helping in the various things the government tries to do."

    Digging, planting, weeding, and harvesting. Spreading the human manure. Converting semi-poisonous foodstuffs like horse chestnuts into edible food. The ability to do something other than get your own food is a luxury of an advanced mechanized culture.

    - Sanitation will be a huge issue as well.

    - Depending on the climate, heat may or may not be a huge issue.
     
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  9. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Some thoughts..

    If there were multiple nuclear fallouts, the nuclear winter would set in. That means: no crops (or close), the climate would play havoc (cold where it used to be warm, moist where it used to be dry, things like that).
    For that matter, why would there have been only few survivors? Were the others decimated by genetic disease (from the nuclear fallout)? That implies that sufficient time would have been gone by for the supermarkets to be picked dry.. you have here a circular argument :)

    There is a very good book "Earth abides" from G. Steward (written in 1949). He thought a lot of the probable issues coming up when there are only a few survivors.. It taught me a lot and I think it would be helpful in unclogging your brain too ;)
     
  10. Theoneandonly99
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    Theoneandonly99 Member

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    Ah, yes... how could I have missed such a HUGE disconnect!? Thank you!

    Your suggestions are very helpful. Duly noted. You actually just brought me closer to solving that huge disconnect I quoted above. As for the climate, I'd imagine it to be winter, so maybe they have discovered some plants that produces edible, though not necessarily delicious food? I'm gonna need to think about this hard.

    Oh look, "Earth abides" is somehow a book that my grandfather owns. What a stroke of luck. For now, I'll be setting it in winter since it adds to the atmosphere, but it's not going to be a strong one. So no snowstorms that ravage their crops and stuff like that. Also, actually this community would be kinda big. I mean I do intend it to be made up of refugees from around the world that was gathered by (insert country here, probably the U.S) to start a new society. No exact numbers yet, however. Definitely bigger than a village.

    Thanks all for all the replies! It just made me realize just how much I have to refine the setting. The reason for this is because the main story's focus outside of the beginning is actually quite far from all the survival/community factors, so I haven't put much thought into that. In a way, I already set the story in a place with a large, but surviving community a few years after the war. With this, I should've made up a coherent and believable set-up with this community before I start to get into the actual meat of the story. Obviously, I haven't.
    Thanks once again!
     
  11. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Just my 2p...

    It won't just be food. A few years after The Event, there won't be any adult diabetics walking around. Diabetic supplies are very perishable. Extrapolate that to any condition that requires maintenance via medication. And simple infections... most antibiotics have a very short shelf life and are sensitive to environmental conditions. In cool, dry climates, they'll last a little longer (a little over a year, maybe), but where conditions are less ideal, only months. Lifespans will revert to old-school for lack of cultural support. 60 will be very old.

    And you mention there being a religion.... It doesn't take much for a people to forget or get sidetracked about certain things. @ChickenFreak mentions sanitation being a serious issue, which is absolutely correct, but more than just the fact of it, the why of it will come into play. Ancient Romans understood that good sanitation = better health, even if they didn't understand the underlying mechanism for why, they saw the connection, but shortly after the fall of the Roman Empire, we quickly have people believing that illness is a manifestation of being cursed or falling from grace or sin and things like that. It's one thing to know that walking around in poo is less than desirable, it's another thing to know why, and this could have ramifications for your society since you mentioned that the religion takes the apocalypse as a sign of divine wrath. If people believe that falling ill is because of some sin rather than because no one has attended to the latrine situation for the community, people are going to focus on moralistic concepts rather than infrastructure and suddenly... plague.
     
  12. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, 60 WON'T be very old (ETA - OK, a review of English kings of that era doesn't produce any that reached 70, and quite a few who died a lot younger - although many of those were as a result of violence) (although centenarians will be seriously reduced in numbers) - AVERAGE lifespans will plummet, but that's because the vulnerable will die...vulnerable like the very young, very old, anybody with an illness/heredity that puts them at risk (e.g., my wife has an ICD to keep her alive, she's in trouble once her battery runs out. Or I'll have trouble eating anything but soft food once my dentures can't be replaced. Or, as @Wreybies mentions, diabetics.)

    However, there's plenty of folk medicine from the Saxon era that is actually very good - like a Saxon cure for a stye which somebody has just revived to kill MRSA...OK, there's a load of witchcraft mumbo-jumbo in it, too...

    What plant produces food during the winter? OK, you may have collected and stored the fruits, but unless you can find a way of eating wood, you're stuffed.

    And the real reason why the diet would revert to largely vegetarian is that meat production wastes about 90% of the calories...i.e., for every calorie you get out of a steak, the cow ate 10 calories. The advantage of meat production, though, is that cows, for instance, can eat grass, which we can't. But it would be more efficient to rip up the grass and plant beans/potatoes/anything!

    How do you have a large community? Take the UK at the time of the Norman conquest, population of 2.5 million; scattered around the country, most of them working their backsides off to grow enough food to keep the local gentry off their backs. That population stayed pretty steady (peaks and troughs depending on varying factors, such as famines caused by poor climatic conditions - and check out the little ice age - and plagues such as the black death) until the start of the industrial revolution around 1800.

    Current population around 65 million, living off massively industrialized agriculture.
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2015
  13. Aire
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    Aire Banned Sock-Puppet

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    May I suggest researching the problems of nuclear fallout. Humans wouldn't be running around as if all is "normal" - Chernobyl for example is still very much a no man's land and that's forgoing the mutations the wildlife are showing [nearly 30 years later]. A "gray sky" is the least of their worries - not to mention a nuclear winter if it is a big enough event to cause a nuclear winter will pretty much ensure limited to no plant growth [we're talking thick gray clouds].

    There's also the fact humans are by nature destructive. The chances of a supermarket being in one piece when everything else has gone to the dogs is pretty slim to nil. Not to mention people loot, loot, loot... in almost every emergency / civil uprising / civil unrest event world round when the "sh*t hits the fan" people are grabbing anything that isn't nailed down because authorities have more important things to deal with.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree that there will not be a large community. To have even a small community, there's going to have to have some sort of growing season--perpetual winter won't work. I realize that humans and animals survive in places that never really get warm, but they have evolved, both physically and societally, to survive in those places.

    I would suggest trying to find a way to eliminate the perpetual winter. If the nuclear apocalypse isn't actually mandatory, you could decide that civilization was destroyed in some other way. It occurs to me that this may be why zombie and other plague plots have such appeal--with that scenario, you can have an apocalypse, but leave the surviving humans with a fairly well-understood environment.

    Another possibility could be a very small community, five or ten people, who have somehow found and manage to defend a very large preexisting food supply. But that one feels less plausible.
     
  15. Aire
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    Aire Banned Sock-Puppet

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    Not necessarily. Ever watched the movie Screamers? It's not a nuclear war but it is two extremely isolated SMALL populations - they're on Mars, how isolated can you get. Their resources are indeed limited.

    It would depend on how the idea is broached. Are you just focusing on these people alone or is the story bigger than their little world.
     
  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    My issue was mostly the part about defending that food supply in a world full of starving survivors--even if it's well-hidden, just the sight of a well-fed person would, IMO, ring bells that there's food somewhere to be found. In your example, isolation solves the defense problem. I think.
     
  17. Australis
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    Australis Active Member

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    Would a nuclear war have contaminated the food supply?
    Food generally doesn't last long on shelves. If 80% of supermarkets are destroyed, then are you planning on 95%+ of the population being dead?
    Could there even be a government with such a kill rate?

    But then again, I don't think most readers care about such details.
     
  18. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would. If I read a book with a post-nuclear-apocalypse city with lots of people in a nuclear winter, and there isn't widespread starvation within months (probably, really, weeks) of the nuclear attack, I'm going to want to know why.
     
  19. Aire
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    Aire Banned Sock-Puppet

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    How do you think our forefathers defended food? With weapons, buildings, etc. Scouts, warriors, use of intelligence. They didn't all dance around the campfire singing kumbaya with their "enemies".

    I'd suggest watching Screamers - it's an entertaining movie. Isolation itself doesn't do much for "protection", if anything isolated groups are all that more desperate.



    Actually food does last quite long. Canned goods can last more than a few years & it has been an endless joke that the Twinkie is the "cockroach" of food. That it'd still be around after everything else has bitten the dust.


    Now how much do you guys know about nuclear warfare. The survival rate of Hiroshima's immediate drop was extremely low. They say that the only thing to "record" the people out in the open for a half mile radius was their bodies burnt into stone. At least a 90% fatality rate. Outside of the immediate drop area a large number of people were severely injured and not many survived for very long. And of course no one wants to admit the radiation and the abnormalities of nuclear bomb children. When Chernobyl exploded radioactive rain fell in the UK - almost 2,000 miles away.
     
  20. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    At what point did I suggest campfire songs?

    My point was that is that for a food supply to support a group for years without being renewed, it must be a very large food supply and a very small group. Generally, when a very small group of our forefathers needed to defend a very valuable resource against a desperate opposition that outnumbered them hundreds or thousands to one, they...died.

    The classic way to get around this in post-apocalypse fiction has been the "preexisting well-stocked bunker" premise. That might work.

    Not if you've eaten it. I think that the point was that it would not "last long" because it would be eaten within weeks.
     
  21. Aire
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    Aire Banned Sock-Puppet

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    So you basically want to hand them the "world" on a silver platter? I mean large food source, small group of people. Can't be much easier.

    It'd be an interesting read, if from a unique standpoint if taken.
     
  22. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    .... no. I definitely do not suggest that.

    My point was that IF the OP wants his characters to have survived 3-5 years in nuclear winter, that's probably the only scenario that makes that possible. A large group of people wandering around a city eating from grocery stores would last maybe 3-5 days before the food is gone.

    Below is the quote from my post that you, well, quoted, so I assumed that you had read it:

    See the "less plausible" part? At what point am I enthusiastically encouraging this option? Please, point it out.
     
  23. Australis
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    Australis Active Member

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    In my head, I meant that the shelves would be empty very quickly, even if there isn't rioting. Watch the shelves emptying before every long weekend (OMG a full day without shops, how can I ever cope).
     
  24. TWErvin2
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    Several grocery stores in an urban setting won't last long. And they may be looted. Water--fresh water will be at a premium, and disease will spread easily. In addition to those elements, drugs will be a problem. Heart conditions, diabetics and more.

    What's there is there. The power grids will be wiped out, and if any nukes were set off in the upper atmosphere, EMPs will have definitely wiped out all power...anything with a microchip is gone. Modern vehicles, power stations, sewage pumps, you name it. No communications, no resupply (no trucks, trains, etc.).

    It would be difficult for a government to function in a big city, without communication or effective transportation. The police available would not suffice to enforce martial law, unless there is a nearby military force.

    People would die in droves...disease, illness, mayhem, dehydration, starvation, suicide, etc. The bodies would be littering the streets and homes and apartments(who would bury them, or burn them?). Would cannibalism set it, as people begin to starve?

    What would be the medium of trade? Money would be worthless. Credit is gone. Gold/silver, would they have true value? Cigarettes that people are addicted to? Food or bullets would be valuable, bartering skills?
     
  25. uncephalized
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    uncephalized Active Member

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    Cows eat grass, which humans cannot, and turn it into meat and milk, which we can. Grass can grow without human labor in a variety of environments not suitable for agriculture. The most productive strategy is to farm everything that can be productively farmed and graze animals on the rest. Even in the winter, cows can eat hay, which is just dried grass. You don't have to feed them oats and corn; we do that because grain is cheap when grown with oil power and it makes them grow fatter faster. Also, chickens can make use of a broader spectrum of foods (bugs and other small animals, all kinds of plants, food waste of all kinds) and are more efficient at converting food into meat and eggs than cows are. So are pigs. And goats can make meat out of plants that even cows can't handle.

    The key word is optimize, not eliminate.
     

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