Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Researching the Post-Apocalyptic World

How is it possible to research and write about a world where there is no electricity, every day pleasantries such as new cloths, easy transportation, and easy meals are no longer an option? One of the most fascinating and fun things about writing a world with so much technology but no way to use it, is trying to figure out alternatives that are not too far outside the realm of possibility. Sure, the world of Land of No Angels has earthly magic, but that doesn't mean people can just magically fix things like lack of electricity or lack of food.

When I wrote Land of No Angels (and am currently writing its sequel), I had to do a lot of research about what the world would be like if there was an apocalypse and a lot of people were gone. I remember finding this fantastic page that gave a general timeline of how long electricity could stay on without human interaction depending on how their electricity was gotten. It also had a timeline of how plant life would overgrow and what the buildings would do. It was really interesting stuff.

Some excellent questions crop up when writing about a post-apocalyptic world. My favourite one was: How would an average girl survive on her own? And that's half of what sparked the book(s) idea. Other things I grew very interested in were small things like: What sort of foods would be eaten? Sure, for a while canned goods would work out, but what about when those were gone? Would people have to revert back to the ways of hunting and gathering? In the Land of No Angels universe, many of the typical animals like deer, horses, dogs, cats, bears, birds, etc. have disappeared. How long will it take before this fact royally screws up the ecosystem?

I had to do some interesting research for the second book. How to make a cake-like food for a celebration without things like chicken eggs, milk, baking powder, flour, an oven etc. Even though it's never explained how it was done in the book, it was important for me to understand whether or not it could even be done and if so, how would one go about producing such a thing. I'm sure they made such things when ovens were not invented, even if they were different than they are now.

One of the fun things I had to research in the first book was how to feed an infant without breast milk and without formula. The Ashford girls end up using cans of evaporated milk and water they had stored in their tornado bunker, which is far from good for the baby. But in my research, I discovered that 40+ years ago, it was actually used for babies. It was an interesting way to solve this problem.

Even though it's impossible to know how things would work in a post-apocalyptic world, it's so fun to make conjecture based on things we know, or can guess, or by using research from things that happened a long time ago.

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