Archive for September 8th, 2008

Post-Apocalyptic Novel - Dies the Fire

Sharon September 8th, 2008

Welcome to “Energy Apocalypse” Month, always a subject near and dear to my heart, of course.  And SM Stirling’s _Dies the Fire_ to me always seems like a cookie of a book - flat, sweet, the occasional delicious chocolate chip, the occasional weird, slightly off-raisin ;-) .  It suffers from “apocalyptic novel disease” in which the apocalypse itself, dramatic as it is, is insufficient to keep the story going, so we have to have a cartoon bad guy too.  You’d think that the survival of our two small plucky bands, and the taking over of the world by the SCA would be sufficient for a novel, but no, Stirling gets bored with that right out, and we move on to the evil dude and the evil dude’s machinations.  Stirling even makes fun of his own evil dude, saying that no one is really that evil, but goes on to write three books about him and his doings, and of course, his defeat by our plucky bands of allies.

 Of course, I’m mostly interested in the “how do we adapt to the fact that all gizmos plus guns don’t work” goes.  While I think few of us have to worry much about “Alien Space Bats” changing the laws of physics, it does offer a fun bit of fantasy about a low (or rather, no) power world. 

Some things I think are probably right were the (unlikely) transition from a high tech to a low tech society to happen quite quickly:

1. The the nuclear family is simply too small - organizations are at the tribe/clan/community institution/warlord level. If you want to expand, you need to figure out how to have an autonomous subgroup with formal alliances.  But fundamentally, in a very low energy world, small groups of a few dozen to a few hundred make a lot more sense that large state-sized organizations or small nuclear families. 

2. Organizational motifs vary quite a lot, but they tend to have strong narrative/story/religious components - that is, people will need to create a history and a story about who they are and why.  Thus, the book of the bear clan, the religious culture of Juniper’s group, etc…

Things I think would be damned unlikely, even if thing otherwise occurred as Stirling projects.

 1. That the SCA would take over the earth.  No offense to the SCA, but while some people join just because they want to do medieval style stuff, most participants I’ve met (and I’ve met quite a few) find the SCA to be a geek subculture.  This is not bad - I participate in several geek subcultures myself, although not that one.  But generally the sorting process that gets people engaged into geek subcultures and out of mainstream ones is partly preferential, but also includes a hefty dose of well, geekiness.  It isn’t terribly unlikely that the SCA could produce a few mainstream leaders, but “few” would be the operative term.  I’ve heard someone refer to this book as “self-indulgent” and I think that pretty much covers it in a host of ways.

 2. That self-organization would in fact, occur quite so quickly - warlords get the idea right off, the bearkillers start recruiting and their long march (and no one dies, except the inconvenient mother figure, who was toasted anyway).  Everyone figures everything out right away, everyone has immediate occasion to try and fire their guns (because of course, there are so many bad guys roaming around Oregon) - this seems very unrealistic to me.  Much more likely is that the pace of understanding, and unfolding occurs much more slowly. 

The books are fun, but I admit, I get bored by the bad guys, and bored by the wargames bits.  What did the rest of you think?


Independence Days and Other Updates

Sharon September 8th, 2008

Now that my summer classes are over, I have a little room to move, and I’m overdue for an IDC update, and wanted to update y’all on a few other things.

1. The book is officially out, and should be in most bookstores as of today.  The Independents get it first, so if it isn’t at a local chain, try them (better yet, try them first if you’ve got one ;-) .  Everyone whose mail order for the book I received by last Wednesday should have their book or get it within a day or two.  If you don’t mind, no more email book orders after today.

2. When the first food storage class ended, we elected to keep the internet group open for further discussion.  Because of privacy issues for the Adaptation-in-Place course, we can’t do that, but what we have done is start a new group so that the course participants and anyone else here who is interested in joining, can keep the conversation going.  I feel like my month-of-adaptation-boot-camp just barely got things started - so there’s a lot more thinking to do.  If you are interested in joining the group send an email to [email protected].  Remember, you can change how you receive the adaptinginplace group content by going to the website at and going to “edit membership” at the top left of the page.

3. Posting is going to be a little less frequent here.  Right now, the net is taking up a lot of time and energy, and I feel like my family, the farm and more domestic concerns need more of my time than they are getting.  So I’ve decided I will be online only on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.  There will be posts those days (and I may publish posts through the magic of the internet other days), but I won’t be around quite as much - so that I can actually do the stuff that I’m supposed to for independence days, so I can adapt to homeschooling two school-age kids (Simon is now in 2nd grade, Isaiah starts kindergarten and Asher is nearly 3, and so moves from “full-time hindrance” to “part time hindrance, part time preschooler ;-) , so we’ll be busy - and meanwhile Eli is headed into 3rd grade at the school he attends) so we can do a lot of fall clean up, wood stacking and getting ready for winter.  I may be back in the winter, or not - but if you are trying to get in touch, don’t be surprised if I’m not around as much, or it takes a while for me to get back to you.

 Ok, on the Independence Day Challenge. I have to say, I’m really happy with how this has worked out for our family - at the same time last year, I had much less food put up, and my management of my garden was worse (I won’t say “much” worse, but worse ;-) ). 

Plant something: Spinach, arugula, turnips, radishes.  I also transplanted some rhubarb from seed to larger containers to go in the ground in a couple of weeks.  I’m getting to the point where there probably won’t be much planting - not enough light anymore to really get things to harvest that don’t grow quite quickly.  But I’m still plugging at it - moving some things into the self-watering containers we built, which will winter over on the sunporch.

Harvest something: Oh yeah - tomatoes, peppers, onions, eggplant, garlic, green beans, beets, cucumbers, mushrooms, zucchini, hot peppers, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, turnips,  apples, thyme, sage, rosemary, basil, mint, and more….

Preserve something: Raspberry jam, Greengage plums, dried tomatoes, dried sweet pappers, dried sweet corn, dried peaches,  pickled jalapenos, pickled onions, pickled garlic, made kimchi, made salt-herb mix and added crumbled dried tomatoes for a soup base, canned honey-lemon carrots, rhubarb sauce, applesauce, made cider vinegar (was early cider anyway, and not that good), canned roasted tomato sauce, made goat’s milk yogurt, goats milk yogurt cheese and kefir.

Managed Reserves: Cleaned out freezer for the winter, to make room for soon-to-be-butchered poultry.  Used up last year’s pickled beets and chutneys.  Did a spice and seasoning inventory, and placed a Penzey’s order.  Began to sort out the school materials and consider what might be needed for the next couple of years, so that I can keep an eye out for cheap supplies.  Also began sorting through last year’s herbs and seeing what needs replacing and estimating our usage.  Began trying to figure out where to move the herbs so I have more room for canning jars filled with canned food.  Have not yet figured it out.

Prepped something: Stacked wood.  Cut wood.  Began lengthy process of shifting computer room (and relevant books) up to our bedroom for the winter, so that we can shut the guest rooms up for winter (except, of course, when guests are in them).  Began a large scale de-cluttering with computer room and our bedroom.  The goal, of course, is to go through everything.  This has never happened, and I probably need Chile to come and kick my ass regularly ;-) .  Local fruit farm is being turned into condos ;-P, but 30 year old, highly productive blueberry bushes are being dug and sold for the price of digging them.  Put my name down for a bunch.  Began making next year’s garden plan.  Finally ordered garlic and bulbs.

Stored something: Ordered more wheat, more oatmeal, more distilled vinegar (good for cleaning), more fair trade earl grey, more corn, alphabet pasta and wine yeast.  Haven’t received any of it.  Began hosing out buckets that have been emptied to be refilled. 

Reduced waste: Finally gave up on the dump, which no longer accepts many things that could be recycled, and accepted that if we want to recycle most of our stuff, we have to pay for the trash service (which comes up our road anyway).  We don’t usually generate enough waste to justify every-week pickup, but we’re tired of schlepping our recycling in to friends or having it build up in enormous piles, and the dump doesn’t seem inclined to change.

Cooked something new: Greengage plum jam, chili garlic sauce

Worked on local food systems: Not so much - I’ve been head deep in the AIP course.  Time to get to work, though.  How about y’all?