1. Kanine

    Kanine Member

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    What elements do you like in a post-apocalyptic setting?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Kanine, Jan 16, 2017.

    One of my projects is the story of a young man who travels across what's left of the United States on a quest to try and find what's left of the American government.
    In his journey he encounters all sorts of people, and the ways in which different groups and individuals deal with the new world they live in is truly the backbone of the story. From the West Coast being controlled by the remnants of an army that invaded decades ago to Las Vegas standing tall as an independent state under the control of a once famous musician.
    Although mainly the substance of the story draws from the interesting characters and factions I am curious as to what else people look for in this kind of a setting, any thoughts?
     
  2. Seren

    Seren Writeaholic Supporter

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    Wow, that sounds interesting! You already seem like you have a good idea of what the setting will include and what you want. As for additional suggestions, it depends a bit on how the apocalypse occurred. But here are some things that are usually seen in these settings.

    Everywhere will look very different: there will be almost-abandoned towns that are dirty and lifeless (and, depending on what happened, perhaps partly destroyed too) dead bodies lying around because there was no one left to bury them, or even dead bodies on display because a gang is staying in the town and wants to warn other travellers away. But of course, there will be less destruction for a less devastating apocalypse. Buildings will not crumble to pieces just because an idiotic scientist let the fantasy virus that turns people into zombies out of his lab (unless a few decades have passed and the buildings weren't built very well) but they might do if there's been warfare, or a natural disaster, or something like that. Food is hard to come by because no one is getting it from the fields to the cities anymore, and what food there was in stores is quickly hoarded by people, some of whom are willing to kill in order to keep it. (Although I'd say they need to either be a horrible person or have a good reason for doing this. Many apocalyptic books make out that all the survivors apart from the main characters are so horrible that they would do that, whereas the main characters, obviously, are just too good for such things.) There will be no running water, so no one will be looking or smelling fabulous. I'm sure there's more that we see in almost every apocalyptic book and will be expected, but I can't think of it right now.
     
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  3. xanadu

    xanadu Contributor Contributor

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    There are a lot of different answers for this--post-apocalyptic can take all kinds of forms and have all kinds of stories told within its setting--it is just a setting, after all.

    Personally, I have one novel that uses a post-apocalyptic setting, and I focused on the mystery aspect. It wasn't clear originally that it was post-apocalyptic--it was introduced as if it were a Biblical-times setting, but things just didn't line up exactly. The crux of the story was the main characters figuring out exactly what was going on behind the scenes regarding the group that "ruled" their civilization, uncovering various mysteries along the way. I didn't dwell on the details of the setting too much (what caused the event, what the direct fallout was, etc)--the story was about the characters and their attempt to survive the story events, that's all. Everything else was delivered as needed, just like any other kind of description.

    Were I to do another post-apocalyptic story (one project will have this as a partial setting--don't ask), I'm sure I'd focus on something different...maybe it's not so much a mystery as it is a fetch-quest or the like, who knows? But I'd still keep it super-locked-on to the characters and what they're doing/wanting/fighting/etc.

    Hope that answers the question without rambling too much :)
     
  4. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    Sounds like a good plan you have. One of the best post-apocalyptic books I read was "A Canticle for Liebowitz," @1960, a post-nuclear world. In that one, like @xanadu proposed, it wasn't clear what was going on in the beginning, a non-descript traveler was shot by someone with an arrow, then eaten, then it evolves that this is our future. I like the variety in your story, the breakup of the country into a variety of statelets, as happened to the Roman Empire. Do you have a mechanism for this? Perhaps economic collapse, which if the US collapsed, would take down most of the rest of the world?
     
  5. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Bing Bang Boom

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    Honestly, I'd like to hear as little about the apocalypse as possible. I don't think there's a lot of wow factor in it. Like, "Holy shit, I can't believe the world ended like that." Also I usually don't find the details of the reconstruction too interesting either. I mean, we get it. The world ended, the American dream is over, people become animals when law and order is removed, societal constraints are illusory.... been there, read that, and it's as lazy and boring as hell. Not saying you can't make it interesting, but give me a story that I can relate to without having to dip into the cliches. All often these style books have nothing going for them besides the apocalypse, and that has been beat to death over the years.
     
  6. halisme

    halisme Contributor Contributor

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    Honestly, I'm more interested in the reformation of societies and things along those lines. The consistent screaming raiders out for their own gain and fucking it over for everyone else is a cliche I'm tired of.
     
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  7. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I like good science. I'm sorry, but Las Vegas would not rise in power. That city can only exist because of modern water technology. Without that infrastructure, how would you provide water for all the people and all of the livestock/irrigation?

    You'd probably have a lot of treasure hunters looking for ancient artifacts that may or may not have ever actually existed. Those artifacts and the civilization that created them would likely have a rich mythology around them. Isaac Newton was convinced that the Classical civilization understood alchemy and all of Europe was obsessed with finding the holy grail. Both of which were fantasies.

    There would also likely be a lot of demonizing of the previous civilization. Upon my own research into the emperors of Rome, it became quite clear than Nero was not the christian-oppressing, city-burning nutjob that he's been represented as by history, that was invented by christians later.
     
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  8. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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  9. halisme

    halisme Contributor Contributor

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    It's one of my theories that, if a apocalypse was to happen, superheroes would be interpreted to be part of our mythology. And, not to make any judgements, but @Kanine seems to be drawing certain ideas from the fallout universe.
     
  10. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Bing Bang Boom

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    This was the first thing I thought of too.
     
  11. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Gum.

    If people have easy access to everything they need to survive (food, water, medicine, shelter, ammunition), then it's not post-apocalyptic to me. Post-apocalyptic to me is about showing people how much we take for granted (I did not know until I read World War Z that Coca-Cola cannot be made without international shipping lines).

    I would love to read an entire novel about a band of survivors stalking another gang across the barren wilderness because their toothpaste and chewing gum was stolen from their camp in the dead of night, every day of failure making it more and more likely that the people who say "there are no stores of toothpaste and chewing gum left, we have to get our own back" are going to face a mutiny from the people who think they can manage well enough without.
     
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  12. Kanine

    Kanine Member

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    If Hoover Dam was kept up and running in the event that the world ended would Vegas be able to sustain itself?
     
  13. MusingWordsmith

    MusingWordsmith Active Member

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    I'm with @halisme. I like to see people picking themselves up and moving on, instead of wallowing in the tragedy.
     
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  14. halisme

    halisme Contributor Contributor

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    And with the hoover dam reference, I think I'm right.
     
  15. Kanine

    Kanine Member

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    Well it should be no surprise that I'm a huge Fallout fan haha
     
  16. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Bing Bang Boom

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    Video games are baaaaaaad! Ya'll should be writing, or reading or contemplating shit introspectively....
     
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  17. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    I'm sure that's what the bards said at first about the written word ;)
     
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  18. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Bing Bang Boom

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    I always wanted to be a bard. Anybody hiring?
     
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  19. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Wrting is never clean. :) Contributor

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    Oh crap! You realized that Hillaryzilla vs. Pepe, was going to destroy the entire country. :supergrin:

    I like two types. The rebuilding and living in a decimated world, and the struggles of the inhabitants.
    And the nomadic types, like Mad Max, who deal with crazy shit no matter where they end up.
    Would be a nice change of pace to turn a grim subject into a comedy.

    People doing whacky stuff like this in the wastelands:
    HolyGrail014.jpg
    Also doubles as entertainment, when there is no power. So people gather up whatever they can and survive, no matter what
    they find. You could mash Medieval and Modern into a fun little world, where society is dealing with coping in such a horrible
    place. The over done stuff is always going to be there (nuclear holocaust, zombies, etc.), so try putting a spin on it in a new
    direction. Have fun with it. :p
     
  20. Moth

    Moth Active Member

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    Finite resources diminishing.

    Bullets run out - I've seen post-apocalyptic stories set hundreds of years after the end of civilization where people are still using all manner of firearms. Bullets aren't that numerous and commonplace, and there are many different types and sizes. The chances of finding large quantities of the exact type of bullet you need is low, the odds of that ammo lasting a long time? Not odds I'd bet on, to be sure. This does depend on the apocalypse scenario - if you're the last living human in a world with no threats, you're not going to need a gun, if you're in a world overrun with zombies...

    Food doesn't last - Anything that's not in a tin will likely not last more than a year (with exceptions - honey doesn't go off at all if properly stores, for example). The more people there are in the world, the quicker food supplies will disappear.

    Petroleum/Gasoline goes bad - This will require more research on your part, but the basic gist of it is that petrol/gas loses potency over time. And by "over time" I mean within a year. After many years, motor-travel would be next to impossible. Things that make petrol/gas go bad include chemical reactions from being too warm, oxidization, water contamination, and so on. Like I said, research.

    Without infrastructure to replace these things (and others), they wouldn't last as long as most post-apocalyptic stories make it seem. And patching over that issue with "oh, well I'll just add a bullet factory, problem solved" is not a good idea. Where do you get the metals for the casings and the bullet itself? Where does that metal get refined? Where does the gunpowder come from? Etc, etc.

    In order to have mass production of any mildly complex items (fuel, ammo, clothes), you need access to base materials and the infrastructure to refine and shape them. And you need a workforce to do all those different jobs. Basically, you need a civilization.

    Good luck!
     
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  21. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    Wouldn't the majority of the workforce be slaves though? If I were the ruler of a small state and knew my resources and defensive capabilities were limited, I'd not be interested in modern morality. I'd annex the most valuable neighbors and force them to work for me (or execute them if they refuse.)
     
  22. Arcadeus

    Arcadeus Senior Member

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    Almost everyone focuses on the first hundred - two hundred years after.

    I like things 500+ years in the future. Enough time for genetic adaption to the new conditions has created new life that doesn't need to automatically be assumed to be radioactive mutation. (Sure in case of nuclear... I do like some of the adaptions to relate to dealing with a world with higher radiation levels.) You have to figure that at some point old technology collapses, and guns are uncommon. New society has arisen, and the way they remember the past is completely different from the reality of it. (This is amazing with un-reliable narrator sometimes)
     
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  23. Bread & Roses

    Bread & Roses New Member

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    Usually instead of taking the traditional route of reorganizing populations so that there are "ruined" or abandoned cities, I like to keep them populated but have them radically reorganized in terms of how they are socially structured.

    This could either be for better or for worse. For example, one city could be ruled by a tinpot dictator, the next could be ruled through localized street gangs, or another could be organized into an egalitarian society of people who came together for their common good after whatever disaster occurred.

    Usually it's one of the three. But I've never really latched on to the idea of making things abandoned or vacated in a post-apocalyptic setting.

    Best of luck!
     
  24. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Food growing. When the Walking Dead went to that cute cuddly surviving suburbia, I kept demanding, "They've got LAWNS?!!!!! Where are the potato plants?"

    In any place that's not experiencing incessant battles or bandit invasions, every square foot of diggable soil should be filled with high-yield low-care edible plants. Potatoes, onions, garlic (we see it as a seasoning, but it grows through the winter and it does have calories), tomatoes, beans, peas, squash, various runner bean types, and semi-wild edibles like Jerusalem artichokes. A limited amount of corn--it's needy, but it stores. (Does it store better than dried beans and peas? I'm not sure.)

    In areas without regular rain, people will rapidly discover which plants and cultivars can tolerate drought and which can't. They'll learn that the historical wide spacing on older farms wasn't about wide rows for the plow, but about allowing enough space for water and nutrients in a situation where irrigation and soluble fertilizer isn't an option.

    Every, er, emission from a human or animal colon or bladder should be processed for fertilizer. Some groups might actually be competent at hot composting to destroy the associated diseases. Some will not, and they'll stop eating any of their produce raw after a short period of rampant disease.

    You might assume that, no, nobody will know to do any of this, but every city has plenty of gardeners and every library and bookstore has books on organic and subsistence gardening. IMO, it absolutely will happen.

    OK, that was a longer answer than I intended.
     
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  25. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Eh...I'm not sure that being at constant war with your workers, rather than cooperating with them, would always be an advantage. And you have to become that ruler, somehow. If you keep enslaving people, your rule is likely to be short-circuited.

    I realize that human history has a lot of warlords, but it also has a lot of relatively cooperative communities. I'm not so sure that every area would follow the warlord model.
     
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