Childish Dreams

Childhood Dreams

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



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63 responses to “Childish Dreams

  1. I’d say both of my novels qualify. Nobility Among Us is about building an oasis of freedom in the middle of an oppressive regime, plus includes a long survivalist arc of an outcast from the regime trying to reach that oasis.

    Beyond the Mist features several different attempts to build a society either from scratch or based on the foundations laid down by others. To mention the other ways it fits the ‘Build a Civilization’ mould would be well into spoiler territory 😉

  2. Draven

    and they have clubs and stuff, and they think that somehow they can stand up to armed citizenry with them, and they think that somehow when the balloon well and truly goes up, the armed citizenry can’t stop their little crowd of black-clothed bullies by shooting them, and somehow think that their little crowd won’t collapse like a wet cardboard box once non-rubber projectiles are heading in their direction at high velocity.

    and somehow, in their idiotic logic, they also say that armed citizenry can’t stand up to the military because the military has better weapons… but somehow their mob armed with no ranged weapons other than some remarkably perishable molotovs can’t be stopped by an impromptu organization of citizens.

    I guess after that, they are going to wander to the docks and beat the dockworkers and force them to import their ipads, and then to the farms to beat up farmers for their food

    I’m just kidding, we know they would start crying for mommy as soon as they heard about one of their masked buddies getting a case of high velocity lead poisoning.

    • Given the utterly astonished shrieking over the fact they were fined and jailed for rioting after Trump was elected? Yeah, they’ll fold.

      • Draven

        yes, they also somehow think that laws don’t apply to them, which is one thing to me that points to them being at least upper middle class.

    • And they have NO IDEA what other folks might manage to improvise in desperation. Those treaties about what not to do, those agreements between the (supposedly) Civilized? When the core issue is Survival, “nice” is at best optional and “effective” matters. The results… heck, I know what *I* can think of in a few seconds, and there are folks who are *good* at this sort of thing (I admit that I am _not_) and have given it Real Thought for more than mere seconds.

      • Draven

        simply- in my case they would find out how accurate an off-the-shelf hunting rifle is these days. If they continue to get closer i would switch to the AR.

      • aacid14

        I went thru a class recently for fire service. It is very disturbing to realize just how much of the current world could be used easily to cause havoc. As an example, the fertilizer plant in Texas a few years ago. Regardless of rumors, the conflagration could easily have been purely a function of the fertilizer. And that is one of the less disturbing common materials out there. And once the wheels come off, no bueno.

        • Just as soon as people start getting dragged from their cars when they politely stop when blocked . . . drivers will start running over anyone who deliberately blocks them. It has the potential for really nasty escalations.

    • Joe in PNG

      The guy telling his friends to hold his beer and watch his activity has put more actual thought into the consequences of his actions than the average antifa protestor.

      There’s a strong element of toddler thinking here- if they throw a big enough tantrum, the grownups will give in and do what they say. And like a toddler, they cannot grok that those outside moving things are actual people- people with their own ideas, plans, desires, and so on.

      Sadly, it has worked for them in the past. These people have been nothing but privileged, coddled, spoiled, petted, catered to, and participation trophied from the moment they were birthed. Their honest heartfelt belief is that the world will drop everything and cater to their every whim.

      They’re about to hit the hard wall of reality, and they want no truck with it.

      • Draven

        yes, basically when they cried for a toy in the store, they were not taken home immediately. same thinking.

      • Right now they are enjoying a brief advantage, in as much as many of them have initiated physical violence. Their victims, by and large are frowning at that threshold and still saying they really don’t want to step over it. But they’re thinking about it. If they have to do it, the intifada is going to find their advantage has disappeared.

        • Joe in PNG

          They’ve also held mostly to Leftist hellholes, where sympathetic local governments turn a blind eye.

  3. No protests at the local colleges. Even liberal professors called the protestors spoiled brats.One American student, asked by a student from another country why people were protesting, summed it up with “Because they are idiots.”

    Found it interesting, along with that those locally who were vocal about it didn’t bother voting in the first place.And that got all sorts of heat from those they thought might be sympathetic.

  4. John Tierney at Instapundit had this to say about reading lists: “Summer school. Require them to take (and pass) a special course this summer devoted to the history of censorship and free speech. The 20th-century portion can delve into the role of university students as the vanguard of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the fascist movements of the 1920s. (The reading list should definitely include Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism.)”

  5. Rebuilding civilization books: This one is traditionally published. I think I’ve read it 3 times:

    • paladin3001

      Yeah, that’s on my reading list when I get a few books finished. Public library has it and there’s no wait list currently.

    • Bob

      I tried it, but couldn’t get further than the first half. The ‘hand’ of the author was too visible, arranging everything just so: the laws of physics tweaked just enough that the high tech stuff was no longer usable, but characters could still forge swords and armor. At one point, there’s even some special pleading where the characters are sitting around a fire and speculating on the cause of the Change, and one of them just flat-out says: ‘Can’t we just say the alien space bats took away our toys?’

      I just couldn’t take it seriously after that. Maybe if the tone of the book was different, I’d feel otherwise, but clearly I WAS supposed to take this seriously.

    • Bob

      I’d recommend the Apocalypse Weird shared universe series. The first one’s free.

      The contributions of other authors are varying in quality and some may not be canonical, but the books by Nick Cole, Michael Bunker and Forbes West are among the best I’ve read so far, and Cole’s books are the main lynchpin of the series.

      It’s got a pulpy tone and there are a lot of overtly supernatural elements but there’s also a lot of work rebuilding society and transforming modern neighborhoods and landmarks into castles and fortresses.

    • Read it. Decided against reading anything more in that.

      • snelson134

        The whole “Dies the Fire” series is a spin-off from Stirling’s 3 volume “Island In The Sea of Time” original. The original was decent; it was obvious that Stirling had opinions on various issues but he didn’t let them get in the way of his stories.

        “Dies the Fire” was after he was reasonably successful, and IMHO looking to make the jump from Baen into tradpub. He had to signal that he’d adopted the proper attitudes on gun control, etc. to remove the taint, and “Dies the Fire” was how he did it.

        • Ah, I goofed. I read “Island In The Sea of Time” (or at least Part One) and that was quite enough for me. It might have been the slight (web) research after finishing it, but I felt no need to look further into the series after that.

  6. paladin3001

    Need to find some good world building stories. I definitely like John Ringo’s zombie apocalypse series.

  7. This is one of mine for building new worlds. A lost starship started a colony:

  8. I think you are on track, Pam, but I’d add in that the college students and others flocking to be “antifa” warriors don’t have a foundation of absolutes. They have been convinced that anything they don’t like is wrong evilevilevil, and that those who yell the loudest are right, because the more intense the emotion, the truer it is. So those of us who are working instead of protesting, or who use logic and analysis based on our understanding to Truth and Justice (and mercy) are wrong, and the club-waving kids are right, in their worldview. And that gives them control over something, and they have been inculcated with the idea that loud screaming and mobs can take over the world. And then… they have no clue.

    • That way lies large portions (the worst portions) of Africa, the middle east, etc. Thank God and the founding fathers for the 2nd amendment.

    • I had one fellow working for me (as much as that actually goes…) who seemed to have the idea that “loudest wins”… so when I had to tell him things, I’d get softer and softer and refuse to play his game. He still failed to “get it” but at least the monkeywrenching of his default operation was amusing. It was rather said, he was actually fairly smart, yet so terribly stupid. If he’d made an effort, he’d have been *golden*, but instead… nothing ever went his way. He never grasped that that was because he never bent things TO ‘his’ way. That would take… effort.

    • Bob

      To give them some understanding (but not excuses) the picture they’ve been given of Trump, history, the entire history of the world, when seen through the filter of the institutions they’ve been raised to trust, is a scary one, and if they’ve got nothing of reality to compare it to, well, it’s easy to just do what everyone else is doing.

    • Arwen

      Is there a specific incident of student idiocy that everyone is talking about?

      • Bob

        I’ve heard a lot about the Berkley/Milo riots.

      • And Anti-Trump protests, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street. All the current screeching about nullifying the election . . . Do they have a clue what destroying the election process would do?

      • Middlebury springs to mind, although that’s mostly because I was reading Charles Murry’s essay yesterday. He’s right – if he’d tripped, he and the lady with him would probably have ended up needing surgery or possibly dead. Yeah, outsiders led the worst of the mob action, but the university should have done more to keep them out and should have punished the students identified as having been part of the mob.

    • aacid14

      I doubt I am the only one who has heard the truism: “Do not fear the out that screams. Fear the silent man.”.

      And sadly not much I can add in terms of rebuilding stories. My preference on those runs more to the stop em first.

  9. tolonaro

    I would put Eric Flint’s 1632 series on the list. Actually I would like my African friends to read some of the stories to realize some possibilities right now.

    • Sometime in the 1980’s (on C-band satellite? No idea channel) there was a documentary about some little village somewhere in Africa. The soil wasn’t good for growing much as it was full of rocks, when it rained the water drained off quickly and things got muddy, etc. And then one guy, of the engineer type (“engineering is taking what you have to make the things you want”) showed up and looked at it all and figured that all the problems were solutions: Rocks? Great! Rocks can be used to make a dam. Water goes away too fast? The dam will hold it for you. Mud? And it dries into insanely hard stuff? Hey, mortar! Etc. No great Foundations, no Grants, no imports of odd things that needed special attention. Just… the stuff they already had, arranged differently.

  10. Alas Babylon’s a good one, yeesh, they want a lot of and old book converted to ebook!

  11. And for saving the world so you don’t have to rebuild it . . . starting with an old favorite

    • aacid14

      Sadly posting from phone but Rainbow Six by Clancy or Preston’s Cobra Event are both interesting and chilling to some extent (although Preston’s other work is worse).

  12. I thought of the Horseclans novels, but those are about surviving, not rebuilding for the most part (at least the first 15 or so, if memory serves. It’s been a very long time since I read those.)

    • snelson134

      More or less, although a lot of the “survival” books are backstory. However, from the first book, there’s an overarching theme of “now that we’ve bred back up to a viable population, it’s time to move in and rebuild.” Of course, the rebuilding into something better is because the main character is literally immortal and has direct living memory of a “free America”.

  13. Lucifer’s Hammer! How’d I forget that?

  14. Tunnel in the Sky would fall in the Building category, and Robinson Crusoe would be the archtype?

  15. David Florida

    Farnham’s Freehold by Robert A. Heinlein is a classic of post-atomic bomb rebuilding stories. It had a great deal of influence on The Guardians of the Flame series by Joel Rosenberg, which brings theory of government into later titles.

  16. KilroyJC

    F. Paul Wilson’s “Repairman Jack” series if very entertaining, but the first book I read by him was “An Enemy of the State” while in high school circa 1984.

  17. 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.

    That’s wholly consistent with their vision of both politics and the desires of their customers, though it’s not consistent in any way with reality. It’s also the spur that’s made a lot of recent SF writers go indie.

  18. Thomas McAndrews

    “Can they think beyond…’I have no survival skills, no food. But I have this club . . . and I know how to intimidate people.'”

    Wait’ll they learn that without law and social propriety to protect them, that they’re not even particularly intimidating. It would almost be worth letting them destroy civilization to see the look on their faces when they learn that.

    • Joe in PNG

      Kind of like the little kid who did something bad that gets out of control, who says “I didn’t mean it!”

  19. Pickles

    Invitation to the Game by Monica Hughes was one of the first ones I ever came across. It’s a kids’ book, but shows using knowledge and what one can scrounge to get by and eventually make a new and better life.

  20. Lucy Fur

    How could you overlook ‘Lord of the Flies’. If that doesn’t describe the progressive college campus, what does?