Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sheepless In Seattle

A couple of days have passed since I first had my long sleepless night of creativity, and I still love the idea of a traveling band of actors/performers, making their way around the post Life As We Knew It/the dead and the gone country.

It's been very tricky to work out the plot and characters, mostly because of my concern about being too bleakity bleak bleak bleak. That and logistics. It used to be when I'd write a book, I'd have to work out plot and characters. But now I have to work out plot, characters, and logistics, with, to some extent, logistics coming first. Maybe logistics is simply more fun; it would seem underneath all my creative impulses, I have the soul of a bureaucrat.

Here's how my mind copes with the practical issues. Back when I was writing LAWKI, I thought about creating a pony express kind of system, with messengers on bikes, traveling throughout the country in relay fashion to carry the mail. I pictured Matt leaving home to do it. But there was so much going on in LAWKI, I didn't do anything with the idea.

So now I'm thinking about my traveling troupe, and I can picture them running into one such messenger, only I'm thinking it'll be Jonny, which would be how I could bring a LAWKI character into the story (remember always, with Possible Third Book, that my poor beleaguered editor knows nothing about this, might hate it all, and might not want any third book whatsoever). Jonny (who grew into Jon in LAWKI, but will always be Jonny to me) would make something of a cameo appearance, but he could mention his family and let us know what happened to them.

All right. I like that a lot. But if I put all that nasty snow and ice on the ground, could people ride bikes great distances (we're into logistics here)? Would it be some combination of bike and cross country skis? Most likely the story will take place further south, where things would be a little bit warmer, but would the conditions be that much better than Pennsylvania and New York?

My middle of the night brain starts warming up. What about telegrams? I haven't gotten around to Wikipedia research yet, but my vague memory of the Childhood of Famous Americans biography of Samuel F.B.Morse makes me think telegrams predated electricity (I suppose electricity had always existed, so I guess I mean electricity humans knew what to do with, like for computers and microwaves and dvd players and all the other truly important inventions in my life). You don't need satellites to send telegrams. So maybe the pony express is more like Western Union. Either way, Jonny could be traveling around as a messenger.

So then (sleep, who needs sleep?) I start thinking about forms of power that predate electricity (or Thomas Edison, who I always picture inventing electricity). I'd already thought of coal, and of course there's wood, but what about wind power? Holland had all those windmills. I have no idea what they did, but wind power is an alternative energy source, and if Holland could build all those windmills without power tools, so could my post LAWKI world.

See how civilized civilization is becoming?

Then I started thinking about Miranda, Mom and Matt, and how they were doing, and I pictured them moving into a house that had a greenhouse, or at least a really good solarium, where they could grow enough vegetables to feed themselves. My guess is they could find some Burpee seed packets somewhere. But then I remembered I'd killed off sunlight; the solarium was now a cloudarium. Drat.

That was when I decided humanity would have gone through the five Kubler-Ross stages, and once they made their way past acceptance and didn't die, they'd pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start all over again. Mom and Matt and Miranda and Jon would make their own windmill or whatever, and figure out a way of generating energy for artificial light, so those vegetables could grow. And they'd start trapping animals and fishing (two things they really should have done in LAWKI, but I just never got around to it).

How much of this might show up in P3B? I have no idea. With LAWKI and d&g, I imagined a lot and used a little. Presumably the same pattern will hold. But if I know the world my characters are surviving in, I can create their pasts and plan their futures.

Just as long as I keep things from getting too bleakity bleak bleak bleak, things should work out fine.


Esther said...

Hi Susan --

If your traveling band of actors/performers ever go through New Jersey, they would be surprised to find the locals having a barbecue every night, barely making a dent in the ubiquitous population of Canadian geese -- and wondering why they never thought of eating them before.

Esther in NJ

Anonymous said...

I have decided to evolve into a water breathing mammal so that I can avert this upcomong catastrophe and possibly profit from it.


Patti said...

If you haven't already seen it, the film The Post Man, (Kevin Kostner) might inspire.

Anonymous said...

What with the universe being rather extensive, maybe another meteor could hit and knock things back to some kind of 'normal'.

Or, you could introduce extraterrestials who became out of sorts because all this mess screwed up their long-time, earthling studies, and THEY put things right.

In the meantime -- carrier pidgeons? Walter Pidgeon?

Anonymous said...

If you're going to have anything to do with The Postman, read David Brin's novel, which it was based on.


Anonymous said...

And don't forget the steam engine! I love the Morse code idea, by the way. It could be the teen generation's new way to text. :o)

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi esther (my favorite sister-in-law), anonymous Glen, patti, anonymous and anonymous-

Thanks for all your comments and suggestions. Of course I now picture Walter Pidgeon eating Canadian geese while sending Morse code messages underwater to Kevin Costner.

That's what comes from hanging out with so many people named anonymous!

Avnei Zikaron said...

The big problem, it seems to me, is how plants are going to grow with no heat or sun. Heat might be taken care of by hot springs -- just as the moon's gravitational force caused volcanoes to erupt, it might bring geysers and other hot water to the earth's surface. Hot springs might be like oases, where plants grow and wanderers stop for refreshment. As for sunlight, I defer to the gardeners among us for shade-preferring plants, but mushrooms and fungi should do well.

As for power, the tsunamis did away with offshore oil wells and refineries, and probably sunk most oil tankers. But hydroelectric plants could still be running. I wonder who would be operating them?

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hello and thank you avnei zikaron (I assume that's not an anagram of anonymous)-

I hadn't thought about geysers, and I love that idea. I figured that in the two year time gap, coal and wind power would be the two major sources of energy. I saw There Will Be Blood on Friday, and in the beginning of the movie, oil was being pumped without electricity, so I figured some oil could be used as well.

Mushrooms and fungi. My two least favorite foods (except for brussels spouts, which definitely have died as a result of the end of the world). You're absolutely right about them growing in dark places. But they need dampness, I think (I had a damp dirt cellar that used to grow toadstools- not in the house with the ghost). And I'm favoring major droughts, as a result of the volcanic eruptions.

But boy oh boy. If I ever need to kill off a character, all he has to do is eat a poisonous mushroom. And the geysers are a great touch, which I never would have thought of.