As a teenager, I was all angsty, except when I was depressed, except when I was angry, except when I thought *anything* would be better than the dreary drag of everyday life.
I didn’t fear a nuclear war. I doubted ducking under those school desks would be an effective shelter . . . but if I did survive! Ah! Then I would shine! No school! Living off the land!
I had a pretty high opinion of my survival skills for a girl who felt it unfair she had to pick up her room once a week or so, and might rake leaves a few times every fall.
But anything, anything! Would be better than the horrible drag of everyday life as a child. Not allowed to have serious responsibilities, be on time to school, do your homework before TV. Mind your manners and hug your father, he’s had a long day at work . . . Other people controlled my life, I had no power to change it in even minor ways.
It’s probably no surprise that my reading leaned heavily toward escapist on one hand and post-apocalyptic on the other. I wanted to know how other people survived. How they rebuilt civilization. Or saved it in the first place—look at how many mega-hit thrillers, both in print and movies, are basically “stop the bad guy before he destroys the world” adventures.
I never liked the Dystopias, where everyone raids and all the building seems to concentrate on weapons and vehicles to attack and take from others. Even in the middle of the Cold War, and the middle of teen angst, I had some places I didn’t want to go, even in a book.
I think back to that bored whiney child when I see college students protesting and rioting today.
And I see powerless children like I was . . . except these children have found a way to create their own emergencies, their own opportunities. Can I blame them? Not only do they have to attend school and do homework , most of them are running up debt to acquire a piece of paper that *might* help them acquire a job. Most of them are older than I was when I graduated and went off to work. Today’s college students are children in every way except the number of years they’ve been alive. Other people *still* control their lives. They had no power . . . until now.
But it’s a destructive power. My dreams of post-apocalyptic life involved building, rebuilding, forming new and better societies. I never dreamed, nor desired to tear down civilization. The destruction was out of my young hands. A missile launch away.
These young people are actively working to destroy the system they are utterly dependent on. Can they think beyond “My student loans will disappear” to “and I still have no skills anyone wants” or if they’ve truly brought down the country “I have no survival skills, no food. But I have this club . . . and I know how to intimidate people.”
I don’t understand them. Do they somehow see themselves as the Heroes? Bringing down the corrupt system, no matter how many lives they ruin doing so? Got news for them. It’s the Bad Guys that destroy civilization. They are turning themselves into the classic disposable pawns, used and discarded as soon as their masters have gotten what they want. The power they are gleefully seizing is short-lived, and it’s shallow. It exists to serve those who want a different kind of power and it only exists until one side or the other stomps them flat.
But they don’t see that.
Maybe we should make up a reading list for them.
Unfortunately, modern publishers are highly Progressive. In their books, the corporations are evil, not the real-life creators of the jobs our rioters so desperately seek. And the military, yeah, they’re bad. Despite being a practical way out of poverty for many youngsters, including, or maybe especially, minorities. The Big Five give us characters we would rather not live next door to, worlds we don’t want to visit and hopeless futures.
Fortunately the Indie publishing boom is changing all that. Now one can find builders instead of destroyers. Heroes and heroines worthy of the name. Interesting places to take a mental trip to, adventures to have and monsters to slay. Future worlds to save, or improve, and yes, rebel against. Diversity of thought, opinion, lifestyle, sexuality, and physical body.
If you look, and yes there’s a whole lot to riffle through, you can find stories that entertain, that show you futures worth fighting for, characters you’ll love, and make you proud to be human.
Indie can teach you to hope. To build instead of tear down. Indie has it all.
How about a list of “Build a Civilization” books? And “Save the World,” while we’re at it.
Post links. Here’s one of mine to start:
Edited to add reading suggestions from the comments below:
Building or rebuilding
1632 by Eric Flint
Dies the Fire by S. M. Stirling
The Red King by Nick Cole
Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Out of the Dell by Laura Montgomery
Exiles and Gods by Pam Uphoff
Saving the World
Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy
The Satan Bug by Alistair Maclean
Cobra Event by Richard Preston