If the world as you know it were to be obliterated by fire and storm, assuming you survived, what would you choose to save and rebuild?
Would you save the books? The artwork? The crown jewels?
What of the old world would you want to replicate once the fires were extinguished and the storms quelled? Temples to the gods? Palaces of commerce and castles for kings?
While it’s tempting to romanticize the opportunity to begin with a blank slate, no one wants to rebuild civilization at the same speed in which it evolved. That means there would be difficult choices as to where to use the remaining scarce—and perhaps irreplaceable—resources in order to return to a level of comfort and technology as close to what had been lost as possible.
Knowledge—in a form that could be read without special technology—would be essential to preserve. So would expertise, in the sciences, medicine, architecture, technology and other core competencies. Basic survival skills like first aid, how to plant a garden or purify drinking water, how to dig a well or raise livestock, how to use plants for medicine and cure ailments without pharmaceuticals would become invaluable.
Provisions, weapons and materials out of which to make shelter would also be essential. The list of necessities grows long. Intangibles like artwork and music and the elements of culture might prove to be surprisingly important when you’re rebuilding from the wreckage.
Which comes back to the question, what would you save and what would you discard if it were up to you to build from the wreckage?
In my novel Ice Forged and its upcoming sequel, Reign of Ash, when war and magic devastate the kingdom of Donderath, more has been lost than “merely” the physical infrastructure. The magic upon which the culture depends stopped working, on par with our power grid going down and staying down indefinitely.
Trade stops. Without the king and the nobility, anarchy and chaos descend. Much of the kingdom lacks food and shelter, since the fires and storms that were part of the mage-sent Cataclysm have leveled much of Donderath and its neighboring, warring kingdoms. Looting becomes part of daily life, searching not for gold or silver but for usable provisions, whiskey, and seed for the next planting season.
The question becomes: What vision of their world do survivors want to rebuild? Do they want to restore the rule of law, with some form of centralized authority (the king and heirs are dead, as are all of the elder lords), previous trade patterns and an approximation of the status quo? Do they want to change the power structure to put themselves in charge? Or as opportunists, can they generate profit out of enduring chaos?
Blaine McFadden, the main character in Ice Forged, has to confront the reality of chaos and anarchy and decide what role he will play in the aftermath. A disgraced lord condemned to exile in an arctic prison colony, Blaine has a difficult choice when he learns that he may be the only one who can restore magic. Does he return to try to save the kingdom that exiled him? Or sit tight in exile, even though the repercussions threaten his new home at the edge of the world?
It’s food for thought on the day after the apocalypse.
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Reign of Ash, book two in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga launches in April, 2014 from Orbit Books. My new urban fantasy, Deadly Curiosities, comes out in July, 2014 from Solaris Books. I bring out two series of ebook short stories with a new story every month for just .99 on Kindle, Kobo and Nook—check out the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures or the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.