Gregg Zimmerman gets Jack’d
Everyone . . . gather around the camp fire. The sun has threatened to go out and our only source of heat and light at this moment would be the roaring blaze before us. It is time for us to bend a Jack’d ear to Gregg Zimmerman.
Let’s hear what he has to say, shall we?
JW: The apocalypse. Ah yes, a subject matter near and dear to my heart. Every author, every reader, every watcher of zombie or Mad Maxian horror knows it well.
Or do we?
Truth be told, no one really knows what the apocalypse will bring, when/if it happens. Of course, it will happen . . . but in whose lifetime? And will it be Mad Max? Will it be Doomsday? Tank Girl anyone? And the big question . . . wills the human race even survive? Considering the fact that, most likely, we will be the cause of that very apocalypse, my guess is . . . probably not. Or maybe we’ll survive for a while. But the modern convenience and culture afforded us in this day and age has softened our resolve to the point where we might not actually make it.
Or will we?
GZ: The apocalypse! So many visions and versions. Theological, as in the Bible. Epidemic: the Black Death of the Middle Ages was an apocalypse of sorts. Man-made: wars, genocide, the nuclear winter. Meteors, asteroids and comets plunging into the earth – that appears to be what caused the dinosaur apocalypse. Invasions from space as in The War of the Worlds and independence Day. Upheavals of nature bringing flooding (Waterworld) or terrible famine turning the fertile earth into a desert. Or the most fashionable apocalypse of them all – the Zombie Apocalypse.
But what if the actual cause of the apocalypse will be none of those things? What if that great benefactor of life that early man worshipped, the sun, began to falter? What if intense periodic solar storms known as sunthrobs brought bursts of such searing heat that most plant life shriveled and died, and animals, including mankind, broiled and perished except for those fortunate enough to find shelter in the coolness of deep tunnels, basements, and caves?
Throw another log in the fire while I tell the tale of young Sara Hill, a disabled orphan girl who lived in an air conditioned fallout shelter for two years while the looting and bloodshed of the Panic destroyed civilization. Over ninety percent of world’s population succumbed, leaving only roving bands of savages scratching for rare provisions and looting, raping and murdering any travelers with the misfortune to fall into their clutches.
Sara Hill, whose very disability, rheumatoid arthritis, caused her bones to flare up in pain two hours before the onset of sunthrob storms. Sara Hill, whose power of observation, brilliant mind and courage led her to discover a method for surviving sunthrobs without the need to flee underground.
Sara and two other young survivors are forced to leave their fallout shelter home when their fuel oil supply runs out. Sara’s father, before being killed by a roving degenerate, told her of a rumored colony of survivors in Seattle who are striving to re-establish civilization. With nowhere else to go, the three teenagers head westward. Sara brings her method of surviving sunthrobs with her. But will she herself survive the horrors of the road? Does the fabled Seattle colony even exist? Either way, there is no turning back.
A person with a limp advances to the edge of the fire. It is a tiny slip of a girl – five feet three inches tall, slender and delicate, with shimmering ringlets of blond hair that descends to her elbows. Her blue eyes have a penetrating intensity even in the firelight; the beauty of her face is ethereal. She takes up the story in a quiet voice. Her words are riveting; all other talking around the fire quickly drops to silence. She may look like a young girl, but she speaks with the assurance and intelligence of a charismatic woman. Her name is Sara Hill, and her story is The Queen of Bones.
JW: That type of apocalypse would certainly (and effectively) challenge humanity on every type of level. Without plants, we’d have no oxygen – that, in and of itself, would be the biggest (although not the most immediate) threat to our species. Without oxygen, well, we know how that story unfolds.
I’ve always found it humorous when people say they could easily survive an apocalypse. Wouldn’t that seriously depend upon the type of apocalypse and what (if any) effect the authorities have on society? Although I don’t include the military in my apocalyptic fiction (at least not directly), I often believe governments and the military would either react in one of two different ways. They’d lock down everything in an attempt to contain the ensuing chaos or they’d vanish from sight.
GZ: I just finished reading Cormac McCarthy’s bleak post-apocalyptic novel “The Road”. In that nuclear winter scenario, all of nature appears to be dead, with only a few roaming survivors subsisting on any pre-cataclysmic canned food they are lucky enough to find. But their mainstay – the most readily available food source – is the flesh of other people. The apocalypse envisioned in “The Queen of Bones” is kinder and gentler that that – a bit, anyway. Some fish and a few edible plant species still survive. The wanderers are starving, but only small, isolated groups have resorted to cannibalism at the point I take up the story, only two years after the onset of the cataclysm. However, the vestiges of civilization are gone. No police, no military. Darwin’s law prevails: the survival of the fittest. Sara Hill must avoid other travelers. They are more likely to rob, abuse or kill her than to show any signs of friendliness or humanity. The wanderers are desperate, and are not looking to burden themselves with another mouth to feed, even if it’s a beautiful mouth, as in Sara’s case.
Survival in an apocalypse would not be easy. Food would be scarce and hard to come by – the other scavengers have gotten there first. And those very scavengers would just as soon kill you as look at you. The milk of human kindness is the first civilized attribute to evaporate when people are maddened by hunger and are no longer answerable to authority. Every other person is seen as a rival for the scarce resources. And in “The Queen of Bones”, as in some other apocalypse scenarios, the factors that caused the apocalypse are still at work killing people. Even for those survivors who have gained the upper hand through access to provisions or being part of a powerful, protective clan, life is bleak, comfortless and harsh. Violent death might be lurking around every corner or behind every tree or building.
JW: I fully believe that a good portion of the world population has gone so soft that they’d struggle to survive. We’ve become dependent upon air conditioning, filtered water, antibiotics. The human race is already so far away from where it was when it could easily survive the elements. And let’s not talk about the privileged few.
On second thought, let’s.
The upper 1% assume that their bankrolls will get them through the apocalypse. Au contraire, mes ami. The second they try to buy there way out of the nightmare, word will spread like butter oover hot, delicious pancakes.
As if the apocalypse would need help disseminating hatred among the people. But it will have it, in first-class quantities.
GZ: I agree that mankind has become dependent on modern conveniences. Where I work, we used to prepare land use permits by hand. Now it is all electronic. When the permitting software has a glitch, we can’t even provide a hand-written permit anymore. People have become so reliant on automation and using machines to do the back-breaking work that there would be a great deal of difficulty figuring out how to be productive with our hands again.
The first order of business after a catastrophe occurs would be to assess what’s not working, and retrain ourselves to do it ourselves. Mankind has proven itself to be resourceful over the centuries. I am optimistic that mankind would in fact toughen up. But there would be many who would not be able to make the transition. Those are the ones who would likely not survive.
It wouldn’t surprise me if casualties would higher among that privileged few that you’ve mentioned.
A licensed professional civil engineer in his day time job, G. Zimmerman has been writing stories since he was ten years old. The Queen of Bones will be his second published novel. Four of his short stories will appear in book anthologies in the first half of 2016, and a half dozen stories have appeared in literary magazines and e-zines. G Zimmerman writes primarily supernatural fiction and psychological horror. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Zimmerman is married, and has three adult children, a dog and three cats. He lives in the Seattle area.
Find out when The Queen of Bones will be released as well as more about Gregg on his Facebook Author page.