The Rocheport Saga-Part 2

Last week I talked a bit about my post-apocalyptic series The Rocheport Saga. I said it was part philosophy, part family saga, part satire, part libertarian thought, part action/adventure novel, and all post-apocalyptic speculation. I also noted that the series is written in epistolary form; that is, as diary entries. I’m very fond of the epistolary format because of the intimate picture it can give us of the main character’s thoughts. Provided of course he or she is a reliable narrator. If not, then we enter a mystery world of trying to figure what is real and what is not. Either way, the epistolary novel is an ideal vehicle.

The Saga is written in story arcs, not unlike television writing, and the first seven novels form the first arc. The arc itself is divided into three parts.

Part I comprises the first two books: The Morning Star and The Shining City. And might be called “Beginnings”. This is where the story begins. Where we learn about Bill Arthur’s dream and how he intends to go about it. His dream of creating a libertarian utopia and of returning to the 21st Century’s technology.

Love Is Little, The Troubled City, and By Leaps and Bounds form Part II. The little community of Rocheport faces enemies from without and within. Our hero, Bill Arthur, is struggling to hold it all together and to do so faces the ugly reality that he will have to betray a few of his most cherished beliefs.

Nevertheless, in By Leaps and Bounds we begin to see that it does indeed look as though the community has turned a corner and will in fact survive.

Part III comprises Freedom’s Freehold and the soon to be published Take to the Sky. Whereas Part II might be titled “Conflict”, Part III could be called “Hope”. The corner has been turned and Bill Arthur feels confident the people of Rocheport will usher in a new era of peace, freedom, and technological advancement.

While The Rocheport Saga is many things, it is all post-apocalyptic speculation. The series is a realistic attempt, I think, at speculating how civilization might come back from a massive catastrophic event — and come back better than it was before the disaster. Therefore there are no zombies or other monsters in the story. Nor are there aliens from space. This is a human story of human dreams and aspirations.

The Marquis de Sade wrote philosophy in the form of pornography. And pornography was a suitable format for him to present his philosophy.

The post-apocalyptic cozy catastrophe, I found, was the most suitable format for me to express my philosophy and social views. Because, at base, the cozy catastrophe is about building a better world.

Which makes it a vehicle by which the author can criticize the current world in which he or she lives and present a model of how the problems can be solved.

S. Fowler Wright used Deluge and Dawn to portray the legal injustices against the labor class and to challenge certain social assumptions. John Wyndham used The Day of the Triffids to hint at the dangers associated with bio-engineering and to point out the dangers of military weapons orbiting the planet. In Earth Abides, George R Stewart points out how a poor black rural working family would be much more capable of surviving, than a white urban couple in New York City. Pointing out how fragile our urban worlds are. Stewart also pointed out that when push comes to shove, we are all equal by having his white protagonist marry a woman who wasn’t white. All that in a book written in the late ‘40s.

The cozy catastrophe is the perfect vehicle for world building. For creating our utopias. I’m surprised that few writers see this and utilize this form. For in the end, all writers are philosophers. Our books are either our ideal worlds or a graphic picture of what we think is wrong with the current world.

And so, in The Rocheport Saga, I present my version of what utopia would be like. No government. Sovereign and self-responsible individuals. Family centered. Social and intellectual freedom. A place where people follow the Golden Rule, respect each other, and help each other. I think it’s a vision that is very appealing and attainable.

As always, comments are welcome! Let me know your thoughts. And until next time, happy reading!

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Book Review: Defiant, She Advanced

When it comes to political and economic theory, I place myself in the libertarian camp. To my mind the rights of the individual trumps all. I’m opposed to collectivism and statism in all its forms. It does not take a village to raise a child. IMHO 🙂

And even though Ayn Rand was quite popular in my college days, I never read any of her books. Consequently, libertarian fiction is new to me. So when I ran across George Donnelly’s short story series, There Will Be Liberty, I decided to buy both books. After all, sci-fi and libertarianism—how cool is that?

I finished reading Defiant, She Advanced: Legends Of Future Resistance a week or two ago and decided to review it. As with all short story collections, some stories are better than others. Better in my eyes, that is. Because, as we all know, what is good or bad, beautiful or ugly, is all a matter of opinion.

So let’s take a look at the short story collection Defiant, She Advanced and see how it stakes up against the competition and let’s begin with me giving you a tiny taste of the flavors that you’ll find in this collection. Then be sure to get a copy and decide for yourself!

“The Slow Suicide of Living Again” by Wendy McElroy leads off the book. The story is the most overtly libertarian of the bunch, but that isn’t bad. Wendy’s done a great job of integrating libertarian thought with the storyline and making it flow as a coherent whole. The tale begins with a restitution agent describing a tense scene where she barely escapes from sex traffickers. But that’s the least of Mackenzie Jones’s problems. For her world is soon turned upside down and reality…? Well, what is reality anyway? A very memorable story. Perhaps the best in the collection.

Stories of good guys versus bad guys are usually told from the perspective of the good guy. “Thompson’s Stand” by Jake Antares tells the story of a rebellion against authority from the perspective of the bad guy. A tale of surprising compassion.

“Under the Heel of the Aether Imperium” by J P Medved is a steampunk space opera, with all the things we love best in those two sub-genres. It is a fun-filled, rollicking adventure yarn. This story is complete, yet sets the stage for an ongoing series.

William F Wu’s “Yellowsea Yank” is another steampunk adventure. This one, though, is set on earth, in China, and is filled with action, adventure, mystery, suspense, romance, and mistaken identity. What’s not to like?

1984 is perhaps the most terrifying picture of totalitarianism ever written. George Donnelly, in “Doubleplusunhate”, gives us an Orwellian story that is dark and disturbing. Make sure your teddy bear or comfy blanket are nearby.

Steampunk and the Western frontier seem to go together. Jack McDonald Burnett’s retro-future “Get Kidd to Bounty” gives us the Old West atmosphere in steampunk trappings and does so admirably. This is a classic escape story and will keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s also thought-provoking. One of the best in the collection.

For me, Robert S Hirsch’s “The Intruder” was weak. A rather predictable revenge story, with a techno-fight scene that I didn’t find all that interesting. This was probably the weakest story in the collection.

The writing in Jonathan David Baird’s “Workaday” was very good. Unfortunately, I thought the story suffered from being too short. The storyline needed some fleshing out, because too much seemed to be left unanswered. It just seemed too contrived and sketchy to me. The writing was good, I just wished there was more of it.

“Flourescence” by J P Medved was quite different from his other story in this collection. A dystopian fantasy about a girl with a very special grandmother. The story addresses the issue of authority versus the individual. I found it thought-provoking.

The collection concludes with a long story by George Donnelley, “The Death Shop”. The tone of this science fiction story is dystopian and the story ends with a surprising twist. Even now, reflecting on this tale, I’m not sure what to make of it. I found it disturbing and it left me… Well, I’m not sure. I guess, if anything, questioning what is real and what is a dream. Read it for yourself and see what you think.

All in all, Defiant, She Advanced: Legends of Future Resistance (There Will Be Liberty, Book 1) was worth the money. There is good thought-provoking, as well as fun, entertainment here. The libertarian thought, while present, was not in your face. No preaching here. Hats off to Mr Donnelly for achieving an excellent balance in good storytelling and in presenting political/economic thought. I recommend you get yourself a copy. I don’t think you’ll be sorry. I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the series.

Comments always welcome! Until next time, happy reading!

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Cozy Catastrophe Review: After London; or, Wild England

After-London-or-Wild-England

The Victorians were a materialistic lot. I should say the middle and upper classes were. The mass of laborers, those in service, and common tradesmen didn’t have much, if anything, and certainly didn’t have much to look forward to. Appalling working conditions were the lot of factory workers and miners. Those in service worked long hours for very little pay. The common tradesmen had the poor for his customers and while he might have been somewhat better off than those he served, it was only somewhat.

So when we speak of the Victorians, we do need to keep in mind we are primarily speaking of the upper end of society. The ones with money. Perhaps not rich, but they did have money and the annual holiday at Brighton.

Richard Jefferies, born in 1848 and died from tuberculosis in 1887, was a writer and a naturalist. He was opposed to the big city and rampant industrialization, both of which he felt destroyed nature and humanity’s relationship with it. One can see this view rather dramatically portrayed in his somewhat mystical autobiography The Story Of My Heart.

In 1885, Cassell and Co, Ltd published After London; or, Wild England. It is and early example of the ecological disaster that destroys civilization as we know it story. The book is also perhaps the first cozy catastrophe.

The novel is divided into two parts. A nameless future historian tells us, in the first part, a great disaster befell England and by implication the world. But in true cozy fashion, the disaster is not dwelt upon nor even described. Humanity was simply gone and nature was now free to move on unfettered and unaltered. No more the plow. No more the woodlands felled for houses, factories, and farms. Nature was once again unhindered, as it was before human beings existed.

Much like the TV series Life After People, the unnamed narrator tells us of the changes that took place “after London ended”. How the remnants of humanity relapsed into a state of barbarism, how the great city of London collapsed in ruins, and how a great lake arose in the center of England.

The narrator tells us “at the eastern extremity the Lake narrows and finally is lost in the vast marshes which cover the site of the ancient London.” The narrator goes on to describe nature’s destruction of the city and how there is nothing left of it. Nothing that is except for the noxious pollution and a vapor so fatal “no animal can endure”. The water over the site is black and is covered by “a greenish-brown floating scum, which for ever bubbles up from the putrid mud of the bottom.” The poisonous vapors form a “miasma” and “it becomes visible as low cloud which hangs over the place.”

We don’t know what killed off the people, but Jefferies paints a clear picture that humanity messed up nature and what people built, though gone, still pollutes the land.

For the Victorians, London was the center of the world. Jefferies was telling his contemporaries their greatest accomplishment was in fact nothing more then a noxious and toxic cesspool. And by extension, he tells us the same message. A simple life in harmony with nature is humanity’s proper home. Not some stinking city, belching forth pollution and reducing humans to a state less than human.

In the second part of the book, the narrator tells us the story of Sir Felix Aquila, the eldest son of a baron who is not especially wealthy.

English society has returned to feudalism. Brawn is favored over brains. And the new focal point is not London, but the vast lake that now exists in the center of England.

Sir Felix is a bookish man in a society that does not value books. He is excellent with the longbow when it is prowess with the sword that gains respect. Sir Felix does not fit in. A theme that is common with the cozy catastrophe. The hero is nothing spectacular, an ordinary joe, and is very often a social outcast.

However, after the catastrophe, the hero suddenly blossoms and becomes the savior, as it were. In Sir Felix’s case, the catastrophe happened long ago and so his blossoming occurs after a trip of exploration on the lake.

After London has all the elements of the cozy catastrophe. In particular, it’s message: we, our materialism, our disregard for nature, brought about the catastrophe. Yet it is the very destruction of our world that provides the hope we can do it right the second time around.

I didn’t find After London a particularly enjoyable read. The omniscient narrator seemed to suck the life out of the story. I found the book rather boring. Nevertheless, we find in After London the progenitor of a science fiction sub-genre that came into its own some sixty-five years later.

And for me what is most important about After London is that it’s not about some white middle-class Englishmen sitting around having tea and crumpets celebrating the demise of the working class. Which is what the detractors of the cozy seem to think is the point of the sub-genre. The book is an exploration of our abuse of nature and what might happen if that abuse ended. The book is a celebration of brains over brawn. A celebration of the social outcast, the wallflower, who, when the time is right, shows the world he or she can indeed dance the tango. The book celebrates the little guy and gal and tells us that salvation does not reside in some monolithic governmental authority, but in ordinary people.

Most of all, After London is a novel of hope, as are almost all cozy catastrophes. The world is not a dark and miserable dystopia. The catastrophe unleashes human potential, makes possible our dream of a better world. Richard Jefferies made that message key in After London — and it still defines the cozy catastrophe some 130 years later.

We will continue our examination of the literature next week. Until then, happy reading!

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