Thursday Thoughts, Four Apocalyptic Survival Food Sources.

apocalypse-2459465_1280Over the long 4th of July weekend we took, we read The Ashfall series, which naturally led to us considering how we would survive an apocalypse. Before I get to that, quick review. First book, Ashfall, I loved. Couldn’t put it down. Immediately bought the next one, Ashen Winter. I liked that one and read it quickly, but there were a few “really?” points in it. I still bought Sunrise, but I didn’t finish it. It stretched the bounds of reality for me.

I think this is very much a matter of personal taste. I like apocalyptic writing (and movies) because 1) I want to know how people survive. It is endlessly fascinating to me. 2) I want to see how the characters handle, emotionally and psychologically, a world (or in this case area) ending event. I want to follow the character arc of who they are before the event to who they are at the end, and the way it changes their thinking. 3) I want to see how society reforms.

So in Ashfall series I got a lot of the first, but it became less a matter of general survival and more a matter of nasty people than I wanted. The second, the character thoughts and arc was there in the first one. I felt that although there was some growing up in the second book, it didn’t constitute an actual character arc. Moreover the emotional and psychological elements had more to do with circumstances than the end of the world (ie: what happened to all of my friends? I’m never going to finish school–what will my future be then? etc). Society reforming basically was towns fighting with each other for scarce resources and nobody too concerned about the rest of the country. Sunrise started out the same way with a lot more “really?” moments. While the first book was definitely for me, the series, in the end, was not.

Now on to survival!

1)Scurvy. This played a big part in Ashfall. Scurvy could be a killer in an apocalypse. One thing not mentioned (because plants didn’t survive the Volcanic winter, I imagine) is that you can get a gopine-394246_1280od amount of vitamin C from pine trees. Yup, really. You make a tea out of pine needles and the bark. I believe it’s the inner bark. Now boiling foods does tend to kill vitamin C, so I would advise (with absolutely nothing to back it up) boiling the water, pouring it over the pine needles and bark, and let it steep for a long time that way. I’ve read, btw, that it’s not too tasty.


wild-rose-2121767_1280Another thing, rose hips. This is the seed pod when a rose flower turns to seed and has lots of vitamin C to fight off the scurvy. I also read that it’s good for osteoarthritis. You have to cut open the seed pod and remove the furry stuff inside. Apparently it makes some people itchy. I read a way to separate the seeds from the furry stuff, but I figure if the stuff makes you itchy, just dump ’em both. You can then eat the rose hop pod, or you can make a tea (like above). This is supposed to be some grade A vitamin C by the way. I used to take chewable tables made from rose hips.

They say the rose hips taste best after the first frost (somehow that makes them sweeter). Just in case you were wondering scurvy is characterized by bleeding gums.

plants-768417_1280-22) Syrup. You can get syrup from birch trees like you can from maple. Maybe not as much, and you need a pretty good sized birch tree, but you can still get syrup. I guess you drill a hole in the tree, put in a spile, let it drain into a cup and then boil it down and down and down. Like down a lot. This works best (and for all I know the only time) in the early spring. Syrup has 52 calories a tablespoon and you can get sugar too from it. Not much but some. Of course this depends upon the time of year and your supplies and being able to boil stuff over a fire for a long time, all of which is unlikely if you’re in the middle of the apocalypse. But maybe birch syrup or maple syrup would be helpful post apocalypse.

3) Salt. You can get salt from a Hickory tree. I think you boil the bark in water for a long time. Then you take it out and continue boiling for a long time longer. At the end you get a blackish substance that’s salty. I’m a little less sure of this because I don’t know what a hickory tree looks like, but I’m pretty sure there aren’t anyone around where I live.

acorns-1710577_12804)Acorn flour. I read about this years ago in one of my all-time favorite books, My Side of the Mountain. In it, Sam Gribely makes flour out of acorns. So I googled it. Apparently there are two types of oaks, the white and the red, and the flour from the white acorns is tastier. (Actually, they both sound awful, but it’s the apocalypse). If you only have access to red acorns, you have to boil them through several changes of water to get rid of the bad taste, which I believe was from tannins.

There’s lots more information, but at this point, I ran out of time.  No worries, I’ll share more if I find more!

What is Dystopian Fiction (and giveaway)

First–Giveaway. On goodreads. I’m very late getting this up, and the giveaway is only going on for a few more hours. And if you’re late to the party, because I’m really late on the invitation, I will be doing one more in November. I promise I will post the details on my blog and facebook pages a week in advance this time!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Liars by D.L. Eagan

The Liars

by D.L. Eagan

Giveaway ends October 23, 2015.See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

And now on to my post.

So, for people who don’t know, I first started The Post Plague Trilogy after reading (and watching) The Hunger Games series so many times I could quote it. I really love that series, but you can only read something so many times before you have to try something new. Next up was Divergent, and then The Giver and finally The Maze Runner series. I was well into writing The Liars, book one in The PostPlague Trilogy, when I read the last two.

Still, I wasn’t quite sure what genre I was writing. I called it post apocalyptic for a long time, but it didn’t really seem right. I mean, yeah, there was an apocalypse–the plagues that take out the world, also known to the characters as The Plague Wars–but the book starts almost 300 years after that. It didn’t fit. Especially since I’d read books and watched shows that really do feel post apocalyptic–The Postman, Waterworld, Mad Max, The Omega Man (yes, I’m dating myself there) The Day of the Triffids and a lot more. So I looked at various categories for my most recent reads and discovered that what I’d really been reading was dystopian fiction.

Cool! In that dystopian is a really cool word. Since I was writing similarly to those other books, I stuck that description on my book and started to lump all the other books that inspired me into dystopian category. After that, I started searching dystopian fiction on Amazon (because I really, really like it) for books to read.

I bought some really fantastic books, but still. . .something was wrong. Dystopia is the opposite of utopia, right? And utopia is the ideal world.  It’s the one mankind is striving for. Perfection though, really isn’t possible, and sometimes what we think is utopia has a whole lot of cracks in it, thus a dystopian government, a dystopian world. Not all of these books had any version of utopia at all, however, so are they truly dystopia?

The Maze Runner series is probably the most blatant in that regard. Sure, the world Thomas is first introduced to has a certain beauty to it, but that beauty quickly dies. Nobody tells the characters that it’s perfect, and none of the boys feels it is. You get more of a Lord of the Flies feeling, to be honest. Even that dies in the next two books of The Maze Runner series. The government, we learn, is working on creating a remedy for the mess that the world really is in (I’m trying not to give spoilers here) but nobody thinks it’s utopia. People are dying horribly, terrible stuff happened that destroyed much of the world. and there’s not a whole lot of hope. There’s no utopia, so there’s no dystopia. It’s actually post apocalyptic.

The Giver is definitely dystopia. Everybody believes their world is perfect and it is. Except for that whole no-real-emotion thing, and the lack of color thing and a hundred other problems. In The Giver people are happy all the time in that they don’t really know what happiness is.

Divergent?  It doesn’t have quite the “We are happy, oh so happy!” feeling of The Giver, but there is a perfect test that puts people in perfect situations. Everything is wonderfully controlled. The apocalypse is referred to somewhat, and we know something terrible happened because they’re all living in the ruins of Chicago, but whatever happened is long since past. Most of the citizens in Divergent are content, but you see cracks pretty quickly in the Factionless and the fact that if you choose a different path than your family, you never really see them again. It is dystopia, but the demarcation isn’t quite as strong as in The Giver.

The Hunger Games. . .well it’s not post-apocalyptic. People aren’t trying to build a new world, or recover from the end of the old one. Sure, there was a war, but that’s 75 years prior, and before an apocalypse-type situation, which is hardly referred to at all in the series. For the main characters, Katniss, Peeta, Gale and Haymitch, it sure doesn’t feel like utopia. Considered, this way, The Hunger Games is more broadly science fiction. On the other hand, the people living in the Capitol do feel like they’re living in utopia, and the government tells them that they are happy and the government is incredibly benevolent (to be fair, it tells the districts that they’re happy too, but nobody is buying it there). However, even there we see cracks in later books, especially in the final book. So I guess dystopia is the correct genre from the Capitol’s point of view.

The Twilight Series comes up under dystopia on Amazon too. I won’t even start on that. So doesn’t Stephen King’s Under the Dome. I don’t know about the book, but I’ve been watching the series, and it is definitely not utopian, dystopian, or even post apocalyptic. The Stand however, definitely post-apocalyptic. (and one of my favorite books of all time!)

As for my book, The Liars, it is absolutely dystopian. The characters are told by the government that they are living in a virtual utopia, and that religion they all adhere to has perfected society; everybody is living the life that is most suited to them. There are tons of cracks in that scenario, though, and their world really is pretty terrible.

So there, that’s a clear definition. Will Amazon or anything else ever truly reflect that? Nope. Dystopian sells these days, so that’s what people will try to fit their books into. But I feel better saying it because I’m a writer. I like words, and definitions matter to me.