You all know Jonesy right? The ships cat in Alien? Ellen Ripley defies all sense of personal survival, sacrificing time and manoeuvrability to go back for the cat. Taking a pure survivalist view on this, it’s stupid. Seriously who risks their life for a mog? Ripley is facing impregnation by face hugger and death by chestbuster or a straight death by slathering monster by going back, but she does, she even puts the carrier down to do stuff, then goes back and picks it up again. It’s nuts. It’s suicide! It’s not what you do in a life or death, time is of the essence situation.
Except it is really isn’t it. We’ve all seen pictures of people in the floods carrying pets above their heads through the flood water, people trying to go back in to burning houses to rescue the family pooch and how many of us feel it’s an entirely appropriate use of the fire services time and resources to rescue cats from trees (clue, I do, totally). This is in the job description for british fire fighters ‘rescuing people and animals from disasters such as fires, floods, or terrorist attacks’. Seriously, terrorist attacks, never mind the children, get the damn cat!
It’s been on my mind for a long time… why does Ripley go back for Jonesy? Why is it that all my anxiety about a break in or my having an accident is based around what if the cats get hurt, or don’t get fed. How long can they cope if I don’t come home? Will my neighbour with a key call in if I’m missing? When I was ill recently my fever had me awake at three am worrying about whether there was an escape route for them if I actually did have a zombie virus and turned in the house. If I’d had a jigsaw (the tool not the puzzle) I think I’d have woken again on the kitchen floor with a hole in the bottom of the door.
So why do we do it? Well Dana sums it up nicely in Plague Town, if you want to live forget the pet, if you want to live with yourself, go back for the cat.
Our humanity is tied up in how we treat the people and things dependant on us for our well being and really, what is the point of surviving the apocalypse if we forget what it means to be human?
You don’t hear a lot about the fae these days – there’s no trooping rades to worry about, the standard protections of horseshoes over the door and rowan in the garden are more or less abandoned and any mention of the word fairy brings up visions of Tinkerbell and other scantily clad moppets. The fae only exist in fiction, or as spirit helpers to various new agers, and are easily dismissed by the mass populous as foolish fancies. And that’s exactly what they want you to think.
Trapped long ago in one of the many otherworlds touching ours, all they need is one break in the wall then they’ll be back to take over the Earth and we’ll all be in trouble. If they’re not kidnapping you, they’ll be cursing you with strange things, unleashing plagues, swapping your children with changelings or just killing you for kicks and giggles (and the chance to dip their heads in your blood).
Know Your Enemy:
Elves – the posh ones. Usually tall with a figure that would make a model weep, best identified by their pointy ears and a superiority complex bigger than Jupiter. Will claim to be above human affairs but will meddle anyway. Tend to be the top of the fae food chain so any alliances you may make with other fae will falter if the elves interfere. May seem friendly, what with the obsessive gift giving, but be warned, that’s how they get you – doesn’t matter if it’s a nice piece of fruit when you’re hungry, or some nifty looking trinket, once they’ve got an excuse to put you in their debt, you’re done for. Decline politely and never try to outsmart them as they have a grasp of loopholes and small print that puts any lawyer to shame.
Fairies – the famous ones. Found in both forests and urban environments – these are the ones that look like scantily clad moppets with wings. May look cute but are known to be vindictive and will definitely bite. Have a tendency to form attachments to humans and then do violence to any poor sod that takes away their human’s interest. On the plus side, they’re small enough to swat when they get annoying.
Pixies, known in some parts as Pictsies – best exemplified by the Nac Mac Feegle. Primary activities are drinking, fighting and stealing. Known to swarm their prey and will quite happily take down targets many times larger than them. If you hear a collection of voices bellowing their war cry of ‘Crivens!’ run fast. You won’t be able to out run them but you might get points for the effort.
Goblins – the short ugly ones that do the child stealing. The urban goblins build their towns around their king’s castle, usually with a tricksy maze surrounding it. These ones are not the brightest bulbs in the box but with proper direction will get the job done and legend has it that their king has a thing for music and tight trousers. The rural goblins tend to be a tad nastier – can be found lurking in hidden caves in the mountains and are prone to spouting bad poetry when they want to taunt any travellers they happen to have trapped. These ones think you look good enough to eat and will tell you at great length just how they’re going to cook to you.
Trolls – the big ugly ones that will accidentally on purpose squash you. Like their rural goblin cousins, they are both overly fond of going into extreme detail about your role in their next meal and have a fondness for hidden caves, as exposure to direct sunlight turns them to stone (and they need somewhere to store all the loot they nick off their victims’ bodies). That said, if you can keep them distracted until sun up, you can claim their loot and make a profit out of the encounter.
Elementals – back in days of yore, when the fae ran rampart, a wide variety of elementally inclined fae could be found lurking in perfectly innocent items of landscape. Trees conceal dryads, every body of water is teeming with nymphs, kelpie, mermaids and other beasties waiting to drag you in and drown you; there’s sylphs in the air and salamanders in fire and none of them want to invite you over for tea and cakes…
Fae are territorial by nature and take trespass very seriously. Not that they need much of an excuse to mess you up, mind, but if you can stay out of the areas they count as particularly special, you might live a few more seconds than the idiots who go skipping up the wrong hill or dancing around the wrong stone.
Fairy rings are clearly marked by circles of visible mushrooms or toadstools, or rings of darker grass (and rumours that this latter is an effect caused by harmless fungus is just propaganda designed to get you into the danger zone…). Rings can either mark gateways into fae territory or popular party zones for the feral little buggers, or they can simply trap any unwary traveller who happens to step into them. Mark them as something to be avoided at all costs and you should be fine.
Stone circles, bronze-age earthworks and iron-age hill forts are also known haunts of the fae, especially around Midsummer Eve, so time your tourist trips carefully or you’ll end up laden with curses, taken as prisoner or splatted across the landscape.
Know Your Weapons
Luckily they have allergies. Salt, iron, holy water, bell ringing, holy symbols and holy names all work as deterrents. Four leaf clovers can be used to break fairy glamours and St John’s Wort, red verbena and rowan are known to counter fairy spells.
If you think you can convert the fae to your side or just want to sweeten them up so they don’t bother you so much, then try putting out offerings of milk or food – rumour has it that the Chicago variant of urban fairy are especially susceptible to gifts of pizza (possibly they’ve been hanging out too much with the turtle apocalypse threats in New York).
And if nothing else, you can use their factionalism against them. A little well placed propaganda of your own will get them nicely distracted with a fae civil war and if they don’t manage to destroy each other, they’ll at least deplete the ranks enough for the human resistance to swoop in and finish the job.
*Fairy poster (c) Lars Elling Lunde
In the interest of full disclosure I should probably point out that Dana is kind of a hero of mine, I loved her first book Murder for Hire: The Peruvian Pigeon and she was also a sword fighting deadite in Evil Dead 3. To top it off she is a cat fosterer and she’s lovely.
Anyway, on to the book. Dana visited us recently to talk about it, I just read it and it’s due out on Friday!
Ashley Parker is a mature student (ok not that mature, but technically) dating a nice slightly younger guy and starting classes a week later after a nasty bout of flu. Ashley is lucky, she shakes the flu just fine, but plenty of others in the area are finding it a killer. The thing I love about Fredsti is that no matter what genre she is writing in she has a knack for writing people I adore, I mean really utterly want to move in next door to, hang out with every friday for pizza and movies and just squish with hugs adore. I love the humour and warmth of her leads and the less likeable characters always give me some amusement. Add to that an excellent action packed and well considered zombie story, a bunch of pop culture references that are spot on for me, a pinch of karmic justice, great writing and a generous splash of gore and i’m a happy reader. Why yes Dana I am your target demographic and you find me well and happy and having fever dreams about dealing with the zombie apocalypse.
This is going to be a fantastic series, zombie novels for the Buffy generation and remember folks… Ripley and the cat both survived!
(this is a cross post review also appearing on unbound)
by Apocalypse Womble
Please go view the original footage here - it’s just too awesome, but they don’t allow embedding with that video, so I used the above.
Anyway, this may be the very greatest music ever to have been written for the apocalypse. Terminator 2: Judgement Day is my very favourite film, and this music is a significant part of the rich tapestry that forms one of the most evocative apocalypse movies ever to have been created.
It is, simply put, a masterpiece. It starts out with the distinctive drums. Big and martial and regular, and combined with the visual on a slow zoom in, first to the fire of apocalypse itself, and then to the name of the film, rendered in cold steal – the approach of war, the approach of the end. And that drum beat combining with the harsh metallic clang that forms the palpable presence of a Terminator within the theme – its regular beat underscores the martial human drums with something more relentless. We hear the measured pace of a killing machine in that sound, recalling the terminator’s relentless pursuit of Sarah Connor from the first movie, as well as Kyle Reese’s relentless, beat-driven warning:
It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.
Yet, even as these beats tell us of the approaching war, of the terminators, of Judgement Day, this incredible, melancholy swell of hope rolls out along with the fire. Because this is not just about the killer robots that are coming to get you, it is also about John Connor – the boy Skynet is trying to kill, the boy who may one day be the man who will be our hope, who will form a rallying point for the resistance. And more than that, because in this film the question is also raised of stopping the war before it even begins – of defying Skynet and avoiding that bleak future altogether.
This whole film is written on the edge of a knife – on the edge of night – on the edge of possibility. The main lighting state is one of eternal sunset, echoing and reinforcing these two notes in the theme: of the hope and fear that an unfated life, a self-directed life, may take. A life of responsibilities – those of the whole world, in the case of John Connor, and the woman whose responsibility is to raise him and hone him into the weapon he must be; and also for Miles Dyson, too, who must face his own responsibility in helping to create that terrible future. The weight of responsibility is there in those heavy beats as well, and in the minor notes of the (synthesised?) strings that form the hopeful swell and fall back down into sad, laden, low notes again.
This film is called ‘Judgement Day’ and so it opens with the judgement itself – the flames of thermonuclear war – and in the slow-motion pan over burning play equipment the weight of responsibility could not be more palpable. It also puts up front the relationship that is at the centre of this movie: that of a mother to her child, and that same mother to all other children. She is haunted by visions of children who ‘look like burnt paper’ as they are torn apart by the coming apocalypse. As a mother herself, the vision is unbearable, and yet to stop it she has robbed her own son of a true childhood, burdening him with truths few adults could sanely believe. The music combines with these images of burnt innocence to form our opening impression of both a great and terrible moment approaching – a tipping point, where the world will be lost, or saved – and the terror and wonder that must face the people at the centre of that storm.
So, yeah, I think it’s pretty good. If ever I’m travelling down a black-top highway towards the unknown, this is the music I want playing.
- Apocalypse Womble out.
My friend Josh sent me a link to this really cool gadget which is coming out later this year (good to know that all my nattering about preparation for the apocalypse is working!). It’s a special cooking pot which converts heat into electricity, literally charging up your important kit while you rehydrate your rations. Fabulous stuff. For more information follow the link.
Welcome back to Ask The Experts
Chris Farnell lives in Leicester and has therefore likely survived a few zombie apocalypses already, we have a fair few of them. He’s also a writer and here is a link to his book.
What’s your favorite apocalypse scenario and why?
Well the Romero zombie apocalypse is obviously the classic for people who’d like to think they’d survive the end of the world, but don’t want to have to do much in the way of actual running. But I’ve got a soft spot for the really weird apocalypses, so I’m going to go with China Miéville’s The Tain, where our reflections rebel against us. It creeps me out because our reflections really hate us, they loath being forced to take our shape and copy our every movement, and then, one day, they just snap. Of course, not all mirrors reflect our entire bodies either, so you’ve got tonnes of disembodies hands and arms and eyes flopping about that were reflected in small mirrors…
Name one thing everyone should do to be prepared for the end of the world?
If you look at most apocalypse stories, zombies, meteorite displays blinding everyone on the planet, alien invasion, our reflections trying to kill us etc. the apocalypse is always the thing that nobody saw coming (When Night of the Living Dead came out there was no such thing as a zombie survival plan). So the whole point is that you *can’t* prepare for it, because nobody could have possibly predicted. You know, apart from catastrophic global warming.
Where’s the line between being prepared and obsessing over uncontrollable future events?
Well, I live in Norwich, where we almost felt an Earthquake once, so aside from keeping fresh battries in your smoke alarm, there’s no much reason to be big on disaster preparedness (unless it snows, of course, then it’s every man for himself). So the line between preparedness and obsessive is probably around the place where you start up a blog about all the various ways everyone could die.
(I think he’s implying we are nuts – Ed)
What’s in your survival “bug out” bag?
Bear with me here, but- Quilted toilet paper. Lots of quilted toilet paper. As society burns people are going to set about hoarding food, and water, and medical supplies, but if you turn up a couple of weeks later with a bag full of Andrex (hidden at an undisclosed location nearby) you can be pretty sure they’ll let you live like a king.
What three things will you most miss about modern society?
Being able to make a living from just sitting down and writing things. Seriously, it’s going to come as a massive shock to go from “sort of vaguely respectable person who runs his own business and is mostly a functioning part of society” to “the guy we should probably eat first”.
Which cultural institution would you die to defend?
Electricity, the internet, printed books, etc Well, top of the list I suppose would be libraries and the NHS, but since they’re under attack now and the most I’ve done is tweet angrily about it and write a letter to my MP, I think it’s pretty safe to say I won’t be laying down my life any time soon.
What’s the most important thing the survivors have to remember above day to day survival?
That if we allow our sci-fi bloggers to die, the zombies/robots/aliens/plague/terrorists/killer reflection people etc. have already won.
When do you open the door, i.e. how do you pick and choose between refugees, or do you leave them to their fate?
I’m pretty sure I’d be a total wuss about this. I’d let anyone in. Check them for weird infected bite marks and make sure the dogs don’t bark at them for being a Terminator, but apart from that, the more the merrier! Hopefull my generosity will be remembered when the food runs out and they’re deciding who to eat.
How do you make sure you aren’t caught short when the day comes, i.e. avoiding “I left my apocalypse kit in another car”?
Whenever you’re in a public place always pay attention to where the fire exits are, which objects can be used as bludgeoning weapons and which other people you could realistically climb over to escape. For what person or thing would you break all the rules and go back anyway? Again, I’d be a total wuss for this. Friends, family, my Kindle, the hard drive with my writing on it, my secret stash of quilted toilet roll… Really, my survival chances are pretty narrow.
We are chuffed to have the one and only Dana Fredsti dropping by today as a part of the big PLAGUE TOWN blog tour; remember, you have a chance to get a zombie named after you. See the Titan Books site for details. Dana writes mysteries and romance as well as this new kick ass series: she’s got something for every reader!
Plague Town Pandemic Tour: Stop 7
A zombie virus of guest articles, Q&As and excepts from new urban fantasy novel, Plague Town, will be infecting websites, blogs and social media accounts across the globe to offer readers the chance to win a signed copy of Plague Town and have a character named after them in the next novel in the series!
Apocalypse Girls are the seventh stop on the ‘Plague Town Pandemic Tour’.
Collect the fifth word hidden in CAPS at the end of this article along with a sequence of eight others on blogs and websites outlined in the link below; tweet the sentence you’ve discovered to @TitanBooks and @zhadi1 with #PlagueTown before April 23rd.
Q: Are you ready for the apocalypse?
Well, we have a pretty decent earthquake kit, lots of bottled water (in fact, I think I’ll pick up another case because between me, Dave and the cats, we go through a lot of water), a good supply of wine (very important!), and a pretty defensible house other than the master bedroom window. And even that could be fortified. We also have weapons and know how to use ‘em. I think the only shortages would be cat food, cat litter and toilet paper if we were holed up for a long time. So better lay in a better supply of both of those too! Mentally and emotionally, I don’t think people are ever ready until something catastrophic actually happens. I’m fairly pragmatic so I like to think I’d deal with things without going catatonic or crazy.
Q: What do you think belongs in a bug out bag?
Unless I can fit all my cats, nothing. I won’t be bugging out ’cause I have a fairly defensible setup here at home… and I would not be able to live with myself if I left my cats behind. And I have a few too many to fit in a bag.
Q: What are your favourite end of the world stories?
Swann Song, The Stand, Dawn/Day of the Dead (original), the Autumn Series by David Moody, Dust and Decay by Jonathan Maberry. Solarbabies (because yes, it IS so bad… and the best paved post-apoc landscape evah) World War Z… and so many more!
Q: How important are martial arts skills to survival after the apocalypse?
Training in martial arts gives a person a sense of their own body. I sucked at ballet until I studied karate for a few years, and suddenly my body and how it worked made sense. With that kind of control and understanding, a lot of other physical activities were opened up to me. And I felt more confident in general. So… I’d say very important if just for a sense of how to use one’s body as a weapon and to have enough confidence to fight for survival. If you’re really damn good, you’ll be able to defend yourself against those inevitable rapacious biker gang/religious zealot group/etc. as well as keep those stinky flesh-eaters off your ass.
Q: What kind of role model does Ashley Parker offer to GGSA fans? Strengths? Weaknesses?
She will not give up and she’s ethical. She does NOT have a tramp stamp crawling out of her butt crack. She keeps a sense of humor as much as possible and won’t put up with gratuitous crap from anyone. I love her empathy. That, however, is both a strength and a weakness.
Q: How important is a sense of humour for survival?
For me? Essential. Without it, life is bleak and crappy . If you can’t find humor in adversity, especially when that adversity is going to be a pretty constant companion for a long damn time… you might as well just kill yourself or become a Goth.
Q: What’s your motto for the coming apocalypse?
Lock and load. And go back for the cats.
A delight, as always Ms F! Here’s a snippet for your reading preview pleasure, apocalypse fans:
Josh and Jason had suffered less mutilation than Maggie. They traveled with her, some atavistic bond keeping them near even though their corpses were capable of moving much more quickly.
They were all hungry. Their last meal had been a week ago when they’d stumbled across one of the houses scattered through the mountains above Redwood Grove. There had only been one skinny teenager at home when they’d arrived, and by the time the three had eaten their fill, all the reanimated remains could do was flop and wriggle about on the floor.
Still their hunger persisted.
The sound of motors turned the trio towards a break in the trees. Vehicles painted in forest camouflage rumbled by on the road below.
Two weeks stumbling through dense forests with only the occasional meal had taken its toll on Maggie, and she quickly fell behind as Josh and Jason moved with a swift, single-minded purpose down a steeply graded hill that ended in a sheer drop-off. Neither zombie had the coordination stop from tumbling over the edge to the rock-strewn canyon below. Josh’s limbs shattered while Jason got lucky and fell on what used to be his father, rolling off without damage. Driven by mindless appetite, he slowly got to his feet and lurched off into the forest, leaving Josh to writhe hungrily on the ground.
Meanwhile Maggie had veered off in a different direction as the sound of trucks moved off into the distance. Lights shone down below the tree line.
Lights meant food…
CODE WORD 7: WAKING
For full details of the tour and terms and conditions visit:
Plague Town by Dana Fredsti is published by Titan Books, 20th April, £7.99.
by Apocalypse Womble
Now, don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a song purely for werewolf apocalypse survival – the bad moon rising is an equal opportunities omen. In an interview with Roling Stone, John Fogerty said that ‘It was about the apocalypse that was going to be visited upon us’, presumably meaning the classical vision of apocalypse. It was inspired after Fogerty saw a scene in The Devil and Daniel Webster (a film in which the protagonist makes a deal with the devil for seven years good luck) in which everything is destroyed – crops and houses – all around, but Webster’s property is left untouched. Fogerty was blown away by the scene, and wrote a song inspired by the sense of destruction (although not intended to be directly referential of the film itself).
The resulting song juxtaposes an apocalyptic vision of ‘rage and ruin’ with a remarkably chipper rhythm and tune, ideal for braving out the rising tides and stealing yourself for the coming earthquakes and lightning.
Now, I’d have liked to give you the cover version of this by The Blue Aeroplanes, who produced their version for NME‘s 40 year anniversary album, Ruby Trax, as that’s the version I own and prefer, but I guess it’s a bit obscure for YouTube. I’ve been meaning to start adding links to places where you can buy these awesome tunes for a while now – apologies for my laxness, when we reach 52 tracks I’ll call it Music For the Apocalypse Playlist One and do a post with a YouTube playlist and links for where you can buy them all. In the mean time, I will try and correct my lapseness haphazardly. Links to both the original and Blue Aeroplanes versions are below:
This song has been following me around for the last week – I had a whole bunch of songs I was thinking of putting up for number 30, but after I heard it again in the background of a Dexter scene this evening, it felt like fate. In the course of researching this post, I was reminded that it has also apeared in Supernatural, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s had a fairly regular outing since it was written in 1969 any time a film or TV production team wanted to wryly suggest that bad things were on the horrizon. You gotta give hats off to its longevity.
- Apocalypse Womble out.
A friend (or should that be fiend?) shared an article with my about a pet hamster who was presumed dead, was buried with full honours but who then rose from the grave and demanded its dinner! Check it out here. Does anyone else have any zombie pet stories?