Ask The Experts : Pandemonium

Welcome back to ‘Ask the Experts’. This time we are visited in two parts (they got a bit carried away) by the fabulous female authors of Pandemonium. Enjoy today’s installment and come back for more of this tomorrow.

What’s your favorite apocalypse scenario and why?

Archie: The Slow Burn. Something is very, very, veeeery slowly killing off An Important Resource, maybe along the lines of the potato blight, but affecting every form of vegetation in the world, and totally incurable, so that people have to live their lives knowing that, eventually, everyone’s going to starve to death. In this scenario, we all know the end is coming, but we’ve got a good couple of decades to angst about it. I like this apocalypse because it isn’t all about machine guns and reactionary politics: people have to continue living their lives, knowing that there’s nothing they can do. I like my apocalypses to be nihilistic both personally and abstractly.

Lauren: Monstrous giant bugs (ideally sans actual nuclear fall-out)!  Because bugs are squicky and terrifying when they’re bug-sized let alone the size of a house. (Also because my three year old daughter really, really loves them and I’m hoping she might have a psychic connection and be able to tame them to her will and then we can totally take over. See also answer below).

I also really loved the Sigur Ros music video where the kids in their hazmat suits run out to make powder angels in the black ash that’s falling like snow.

Sarah: Tempted to say zombie outbreak (simply because I live in Cape Town which is perfectly equipped for a zombie apocalypse – loads of malls, zombie-proof paranoid security estates and tons of readily available illegal AKs), but the smell would be ghastly and I’ve eaten brains and they taste like crap. So it would have to be an alien invasion with a twist, like in Damon Knights’s  stellar story To Serve Man (see link for clip from the classic Twilight Zone adaptation).

Lou Morgan: I suppose the honest answer there is “a preventable one”! I’m a big fan of the highly-unlikely, massively over-the-top apocalypse. Give me an end of the world scenario where the core of the planet has stopped spinning & only really bad science can save us and I’m happy. Anything which strikes me as being within the bounds of possibility (which, in my head, covers almost every viral eventuality from the T-virus to Captain Trips) and I start getting a bit twitchy.

Name one thing everyone should do to be prepared for the end of the world.

Archie: Learn how to start a fire without a match. That way you can keep warm, cook, boil water, set containment fires, and make useful weapons out of the rags, empty bottles, and moonshine you’ll have been stockpiling.

Lauren: Have an exit strategy. Mine involves keeping my car serviced and with a full petrol tank, knowing where the motorbike shop closest to the highway is, so that I can steal one at gunpoint if the highways clog up, and race to my brother-in-law’s farm in the mountains, dynamite the pass so no-one can follow and live off the stockpiled canned food, paying strict attention to BPA contamination issues.

Actually, screw it, that all seems terribly complicated and involves getting hold of a gun and dynamite, which, whatever you’ve heard about South Africa isn’t actually that easy. I’ve revised my exit plan. Now it’s get bitten early, rise up to become Queen of the Zombies. Overthrow the world. Rule in brain-munching happiness.

Lou: Learn to pilot a space shuttle. Then, come A-Day, you can make a dash for it and ride the whole thing out in orbit. Come to think of it, aren’t there a couple of shuttles knocking around on eBay…?

Sarah: Stock up on leather trousers and/or get a Harley Davidson. Everyone knows that in whatever apocalyptic situation – nuclear war, zombie attack, bio hazard etc – you can’t be a proper survivor if you don’t dress like an extra from a 1980s Guns N` Roses video, complete with bandanna, leather vest, grizzled hair and customised Harley/ Camaro/other muscle car (see Mad Max, Book of Eli etc).

Which cultural institution would you die to defend?

Archie: I’m honestly not sure there’s any cultural institution I’d die to defend. That sounds terribly dark, but really. If everyone is going to die; if it’s really The End? What’s the point of taking a bullet for the internet when I could be stockpiling moonshine?

Lauren: Printed books. Because your SAS survival manual on your iPad isn’t going to do you any good when the sunspots wipe out the Internet and the zombies over-run the coal mines and the toxic waste monstrosities standing in as parables for environmental ruin gobble up all the electricity in big gulps of volts.

Lou: Long-term, anything which tells survivors (I’m an optimist. I like to think that even if most of us don’t make it, *someone* will) what the hell we did to ourselves and how to avoid being so monstrously idiotic again would be useful. In the shorter term, Gerard Butler’s totally worth saving. Just, y’know, because.

Sarah: None. As a social mediaphobe I can’t wait for the internet to go down. Often have fun thinking of the world’s last tweet (OMFG they’re breaking into the cellar:(  #goforthehead)

Where’s the line between being prepared and obsessing over uncontrollable future events?

Sarah: There is no line. You can never be too obsessive or prepared about these things – an apocalypse situation is no laughing matter. I even have a ‘what if giant spiders attack’ scenario in place (it involves a biplane, a Raid factory and a very large shoe).

What’s the most important thing the survivors have to remember above day to day survival?

Lauren: Oh man, I’m going to go all serious on this one. Remember that people survive worse every day. Genocide, rape as a weapon of war, having their kids killed in front of them, tsunamis, earthquakes, industrial accidents, human slavery that’s actually the worst it’s ever been in the history of mankind. In many, many places in the world it’s an apocalypse right now. Be strong, know that others have suffered more than you ever will and some of them have come through on the other side.

What’s in your survival “bug out” bag?

Lou: I have one of those magical handbags which seems to be able to take everything I sling into it, so I’ll be relying on that to get me through. This may mean that I’ll be forced to survive on old Tic-Tacs or biscuit crumbs, but I will also have a pen-knife, a corkscrew, several small plastic toys, a book, some sticking plasters, notepaper, at least three pens (one of which might even work) and a pair of folding shoes.

I’m not even kidding about the shoes.

That said, I don’t think it matters what you’ve got in the bag if you’re on your own. No-one could make it through the apocalypse alone, so the most important thing you can have is other people: your posse, your apocabuddies, your own private security force… call them what you will – come the end of the world, what you’ll need most is your friends.

When do you open the door, i.e. how do you pick and choose between refugees, or do you leave them to their fate?

Archie: Realistically, I’m too tender-hearted to ever turn anyone in need away. I’m not even going to pretend that I’m the kind of self-sufficient, gung-ho survivalist who could hole up in some mountain shack with my dog and my shotgun and make do. Everyone, if the end times come, just pop over to my place. I’ll share my last can of beans with you. Unless you try to eat my dog. No one touches my dog.



Lauren Beukes is the author of Moxyland and Zoo City, and has been recently announced as one of the writers of Fairest, the new Fables spin-off series from Vertigo. Zoo City won The Kitschies’ Red Tentacle on its way to picking up the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award.

Archie Black lives and works in London. She is currently writing a book about Dorothy L. Sayers.

Lou Morgan has plenty of experience when it comes to making things up: just ask her son about the Plughole Monsters who live under the bathroom sink. Her short stories have been published by the British Fantasy Society, Morpheus Tales and Hub Magazine, and her novel Blood and Feathers will be published by Solaris Books in 2012.

Sarah Lotz is the messy, sweary half of horror writer persona SL Grey (author Louis Greenberg being the better-behaved other half). She’s also published a young adult zombie series, Deadlands (Penguin), written with her daughter under the name Lily Herne, and a legal thriller series under her own name (Exhibit A and Tooth and Nailed, Penguin). She can be found drowning in caffeine in Cape Town most of the time.

Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse collects eighteen original stories of the end of the world, as inspired by the artist John Martin. From the terrifying to the comedic, Pandemonium presents the Apocalypse as you’ve never read it before. The ebook is available on Amazon and the very beautiful limited edition hardcover is available in Tate Britain’s shop.

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