Green Valkyrye

Ask the Experts: Alasdair Stuart

This issue of Ask the Experts we present genre-fiction expert and culture blogger Alasdair Stuart.

Alasdair is a freelance journalist who first found out about the end of the world from the seminal BBC drama Edge of Darkness and family discussions about the best ways to deal with nuclear fallout. This instilled a healthy respect for doom in him, which grew into a fascination with horror and genre fiction. He has unleashed countless Armageddons upon us all as the host of Pseudopod, the Parsec-Award winning weekly horror podcast. He’s preparing for the end of the world by climbing, cycling, swimming and studying several martial arts.

What’s your favorite apocalypse scenario and why?

I have two. I always rather liked a New Zealand movie called The Quiet Earth where everyone bar a few people simply disappear. The world is intact, everything’s there it’s just most people… aren’t. That’d be interesting, in a very Twilight Zone-ish sort of a way. It’s a lonely apocalypse rather than a noisy one but it’s an apocalypse nonetheless.

My other favorite has been and always will be the ‘Earth gets knocked off orbit and plummets towards sun’ premise of The Day The Earth Caught Fire. Aside from having one of the best endings in movie history, it’s a fascinating, unflinching look at what we do to survive, to cope, when everything else is falling apart around us. Plus, the arid, barren wasteland much of the Earth would become does lead to unlimited Mad Max cosplay opportunities.

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

In the immortal words of Rockhound, ‘Embrace the horror!’. The world’s ended. You are not okay. No one is okay. That’s okay. Which may of course be the title of my Post-Apocalypse Therapy Book. Get safe first, if you can, get some provisions, get some heat and then take your brain off the hook. Everything’s over, and you, lucky or unlucky, are still here. That means you have stuff to do. That means you’re going to be working, hard, for the rest of your life. That also means that you need to take some you time because it may be the last time you get it. So freak out. Trust me, you’ll get bored and come back to the world way sooner than you think.

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

The point where you find yourself watching the news 24 hours a day.

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

-Clif bars. Protein heavy, small, lots of flavours, plenty of variety, good emergency currency.

-Climbing harness, shoes, and watermelon helmet. Which is a helmet that looks like a watermelon not a helmet made of watermelon. That would be weird.

-MMA gloves. Not because I’m planning on stepping into the cage post-Armageddon, although let’s face it, somewhere in Australia, Tina Turner will already be building the Thunderdome. I’d go with these because they’re warm, they’re tough, they’ve got near total finger mobility and if I do get into it, I’m much less likely to break my hands on a zombie’s face if they’re wrapped.

-Water purification tablets.

-A windup torch.

-A windup radio. The BBC will, let’s face it, be one of the last things to go so as long as I have access to them, I’ll know how bad things are.

-Glow sticks or road flares.

-A map marking the nearest high ground, and routes out of the city. If possible, and let’s face it this is doubtful, it would also map out gas stations, supermarket warehouses and reservoirs.

-A silver foil emergency blanket, because sometimes you just have to.

What three things will you most miss about modern society?

The constant stream of information. I live in America, without cable, as I write this and even now I’m swimming in signal. Internet TV, podcasts, radio, social media, newspapers, TV and music all bounce around me and that sense of being deep in a pool of signal, and potential, is something I love. I’ll miss that the most, so I suspect I’ll be one of the people helping build oral histories.

Tea. I know, I know it’s terribly Arthur Dent but I love tea, nothing else gives you that weird combination of wakefulness and relaxation. So there will be regular raids on supermarket warehouses or I’ll just learn to make nettle tea or something.

Really good bread. I know we’re going to end up with bread again, pretty quickly in fact, but I’ve seen The Hunger Games, I know how inexact a science that is. Give me paninis or… give me paninis later when we can make them again.

Which cultural institution would you die to defend? Electricity, the internet, printed books, etc.

Cinema. Doesn’t matter what either, but somehow there has to be a way to project stories on a big wall and take people away. Escapism isn’t just a luxury it’s a necessity and at every single bad time in my life, cinema has helped me get out of my head for a couple of hours and escape. Plus, post apocalypse, cinema has an added educational element to it, one which a couple of post-apocalyptic movies, like Reign of Fire and The Postman, have addressed. Cinema takes us out of our heads and teaches us how to live with each other and crucially, does that as a group. It’s entertainment, history, escapism and community building all in one.

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

Patience. Hell isn’t just other people, it’s the only other people you’ll ever know, so try and be patient with your fellow refugees. One of the best ways to do this is be honest, tell people when they’re irritating you and tell them to do the same. The group might splinter, there may be fights, but it’s better to get it done now rather than six, seven months down the line. Society is rebooting itself at every level all at once so the good news is you don’t have to be polite about the guy in the SUV’s flatulence, but the bad news is he doesn’t have to be polite about you making stirring speeches all the time. Work it out, bleed if you have to, but work it out because your lives depend on these people.

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

Someone once pointed out that inside ten feet, a knife will beat a gun in most fights. Adrenalin cuts off higher motor functions once you get above 170 heartbeats per minute so in the time it takes you to warn the knife wielder that you’ll shoot them they’ve closed with you and suddenly it’s their ballgame. Outside ten feet, the knife wielder has other options, the most important of which is running the hell away.

That’s a good maxim to work with. If the zombies/robots/zombie robots/time displaced zombie robot pirates/delete as applicable are under ten feet away from the door, keep it closed. However, let’s face it, no plan survives contact with the enemy, and the cold, hard decisions are the ones we tend to be pretty bad at. So, very aware as I am the consequences of this, I’d open the door for anyone who could get to it and wasn’t part of why the reason for the apocalypse. It’s the flawed, dangerous, human thing to do.

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”?

Keep a list of what you need, and know where you can get it if you don’t have it on you.

Keep, at the very least, your phone with you and have a message, detailing where you are and where you’ll be, pre-written to send to your loved ones just before the networks drop.

Keep moving towards your destination, and be prepared to go around if through isn’t an option.

For what person or thing would you break all the rules and go back anyway?

I’m going to Kobyashi Maru this question, twice, no less. Firstly, my girlfriend, I strongly suspect, is the lady driving the tank I’m about to jump INTO so I have no worries about having to go back for her. My family live far enough away that they’ll either be fine and we’ll meet up further down the line or it will already be too late and in terms of stuff? I travel pretty light these days.

So I’m going to say my iPhone, because I figure it’s going to take at worst, three to four weeks for the communications grid to drop all the way. Even then, hopefully, we’ll have met up with a couple of grizzled First Responders who can give us access to their encoded networks which means we can jury-rig a transmitter of sorts, leave recorded messages for any survivors and post regular bulletins about what’s happened, where’s safe, that kind of thing. Throw in a windup charger and I’m good to go.

Thanks Alasdair!

Keep Your Powder Dry,
Green Valkyrie

Sounds of Survival: Forbidden Feast at the Armageddon Cafe

Hello all!  “Sounds of Survival” will be an ongoing spotlight of apocalypse themed audio fiction.

Our first selection, “Forbidden Feast at the Armageddon Cafe“, is a part of the Pseudopod flash-fiction special “Flash on the Borderlands XI – Fearful Fashions.”  Written by John Nakamura Remy and narrated by Kane Lynch, the story presents a disturbing and dark look into post-apocalyptic dining.

As with all Pseudopod offerings, the story is not for the faint of heart, or weak of stomach

Keep Your Powder Dry,
Green Valkyrye

Math: It’s Not Just For Time Travelers

A lot of the kitch out there marketed at would-be time travelers works just as well as apocalypse survival gear. Knowing a few basic equations, or having a copy of “The Way Things Work” can make the difference between rebuild society and living in caves.
Here’s a clever example – a handy t-shirt you can wear with the basics of flight, health, technology and chemistry.

Available from ThinkGeek, fine purveyors of geekwear.

Keep Your Powder Dry,
Green Valkyrye

Keeps Grays Grayer

Let’s face it – even when the world ends, you’re going to want clean clothes. But with electricity a precious or non-existent resource the options are limited. Washboards work, sure, but they’re inefficient and heavy. Who has time to scrub when you’re hunting zombies or being chased by would-be robotic overlords?

Enter the Laundry Pod.

Built like a salad spinner on steroids, this device is durable, light, portable, and water efficient, not to mention entirely man-powered. Plus the design is simplistic enough to be duplicated with salvaged modern-day materials, making it the perfect project (and chore) to keep children occupied and contributing.

Keep Your Powder Dry,
Green Valkyrye

Velma Will Survive, Will You?

Better Dead Than Zed,

Green Valkyrie

Ask the Experts: Zed Defense

Welcome to the “Ask the Experts” series, where the Apocalypse Girls present interviews with fellow survivors. This week we present Charles Shepard, founder of the Ascension Martial Arts in San Jose, California. In addition to instructing Shaolin Kung Fu, Charles runs an annual Zed Tactical Response Force seminar where he teaches a zombie defense course.

“Ascension Martial Arts is dedicated to training people to live a better life. We have created a fusion based on more than 20 martial art systems to achieve your goals. We have even created zombie-specific empty-hand and short weapon techniques for the upcoming apocalypse. These techniques are easy to learn, easy to train and will be handy when you run out of ammo. After this training, you will not fear the zombies knowing you have the ability to beat the unlife out of them.”

What’s your favorite apocalypse scenario and why?

I think of all the Doomsday scenarios; Alien invasion, Communist take-over, Smurf movies, it is the Zombie Apocalypse that is the most alluring. Simply put, thinking creatures will make mistakes and you can capitalize them. The Zeds are unthinking, untiring and every encounter creates more of them. We are talking about being in the moment 24/7. This is the Zen of a Warrior.

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

Move! Not move to the mountains or your fortress of solitude, but move yourself around. When you go to the store, park at the back of the lot and walk. Carry your groceries back to your car. “But carrying ten bags of groceries sucks!!!” Yeah it does. But trying to carry 70lbs of guns, water, tools and being chased by zombies is really going to suck ass. Being able to move will keep you alive and if you can move like a Parkour expert, you’ll live a lot longer.

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

The Samurai believed in practicing with their katana daily and then letting it rest in the saya the rest of the day. Being prepared means you have your daily packs ready and a storage cache ready. Weekly training with your tools and weapons. Be obsessive is taking your Mossberg tactical shotgun to work everyday. Keep your sword ready, but never drawn.

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

I have two “bags”. The first is a day kit for 1 -3 days of survival time. It has water purifier, iodine for nuclear fallout, knives, antibiotic cream, duct tape, non-perishable MRE, smelling salts, and Claritin-D for my asthmatic episodes. This kit is to keep me alive long enough to reach my cache. My cache is a large version of the “day kit”. It also includes weapons, rounds, solar charging station and heavier items I do not feel like lugging to work everyday. The CDC website has a great list for survival gear in the event of a catastrophe.

What three things will you most miss about modern society?

Triple shot, Double Dutch Mochas
Super BurritoZilla from Iguanas (The four foot long one)
Honey Red Mead
And no, not going to miss facebook.

Which cultural institution would you die to defend? Electricity, the internet, printed books, etc.

Tough question. This implies a siege to defend. Zed’s will overcome any siege due to the fact, they don’t feel and they know the food is hidden inside. If I were to take a stand to defend something, it would be a viable water supply.

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

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Paying attention to your movements, to your rest, to scavenging is going to pay off. One mistake could cost you. This will be your greatest asset and your greatest obstacle to success.

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

Our humanity is what separates us from the monsters. I cannot stand by and leave people to the Zeds. I think the greatest compassion will be opening the door to all refugees. And finalizing the suffering of the infected or the lost. The Zeds will not take another human life on my watch.

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”?

Day Kits are not terribly expensive. It is good to have one where I spend more than 10 hours a week. I have four of them, one in each car, one at work and one where I train. Remember, these kits are to keep you alive long enough to get back to your cache.

For what person or thing would you break all the rules and go back anyway?

Family. Anyone who knows me, knows how unhealthy it is to get between me and family.

Thanks Charles!

Rule 1: Cardio,
Green Valkyrie

Sometimes It’s the Little Things

Once the pain and horror of immediate survival has faded, it’s important for survivors to remember that life will go on. One way to do that is to incorporate beauty into the practicality your new society needs.

Are there more efficient ways to reclaim rainwater? Sure. But when the world has become shades of grey and sepia, something as little as color can have a huge psychologically uplifting impact. Plus, this might be a great project for children – collecting, threading, and setting up the bottles.

Keep Your Powder Dry,
Green Valkyrie

Petal drops can be found here.

Women in Sensible Armor

Robin Williams line aside, let’s face it ladies – we’re not video game characters who are immune to damage on 90% of our bodies. If it’s the Apocalypse, we’re gonna need armor. Good solid dependable practical armor.

What kind of armor, of course, depends on what we’re up against. Vampires? Neck protection. Rage zombies? Goggles, for the love of all things holy. But there are a few good rules of thumb to get you started.

Mobility is Your Friend

In order to fight and run, you need to leave your major joints unrestricted. That means shoulders and hips should be covered, but not constrained. Long tunics with a belt are a good choice, as are shoulder guards and bracers.

Leather should be your go-to choice. It’s light, sturdy, customizable without special tools or equipment, readily available, and can withstand heat, cold, and moisture. From the biker jacket to the gladiator skirt, the possibilities are endless. And don’t forget gloves and boots.

Dress For the Weather

While fur isn’t politically correct fashion these days, in a survival situation all bets are off. If you’re in an environment that regularly has temperatures at or below freezing you’ll need the insulation and wind protection of fur.

In addition, don’t let warmer temperatures compromise your safety! Switch to multiple layers of cotton gauze of silk rather than exposing skin.

Use What’s On Hand
DIY and chop-shopping clothing won’t be just be a fun and trendy pastime anymore, it’ll be a fact of life. You might have had that set of plate mail lying around before the dead started walking, but how are you going to repair it? Think about durable, easy to find materials. This woman looks like she could take on the entire gang from Road Warrior.

Plate Mail – Don’t

I know, it looks awesome and it can bounce an artillery shell, but it’s HEAVY. Traditional medieval plate mail was not only designed to be worn OVER a full suit of chain, but while on horseback! If you’re determined to pull off the look or need to guard against ranged muscle powered projectiles, go for limited rigid plates over a torso covering of full chain, like this.

And get yourself a motorcycle.

Shop Smart – Shop S-Mart,
Green Valkyrie

Photos courtesy of: