When Living Standards Regress to 2002 Levels*, Survivors Will Envy the Dead


They were going to call it Canadian Apocalypse but they wanted something with broader appeal.

In case any of you still are not reading Bill McBride's Calculated Risk blog with fanatical attention, here's one more reason to tune in: The Calculated Risk comments section produces whole novels, including what may be the first post-apocalyptic scenario based on the Great Credit Unwind. For more about author Nova's unhumbly titled American Apocalypse, read on, MacDuff:

Nova's protagonist, Gardener, loses his job, and is forced to face the challenges of the street. Almost vacant strip malls, "car people", "tree people" and tent cities are all part the scenery.

Wez and Golden Youth took to the road when they found they owed more than their suburban Sydney townhouse was worth.

The book is reminiscent of other post-apocalyptic stories - like "Alas, Babylon" following a nuclear war - except the financial and social crisis of American Apocalypse builds slowly throughout the story, adding tension to the challenges of survival.

Gardener lives in a suburb of D.C. that faces cutbacks in services, creating more hardships for the homeless and unemployed. Eventually the town goes bankrupt, and an Old West style of justice becomes the norm - and Gardener discovers a Charles Bronson "Death Wish" like talent.

Here is an excerpt:

I am sure that someday a history will be written of our times, I am just not sure from whose perspective it will be written. Eventually there will be a Gibbons to write the Decline and Fall, but I am positive it will not be Europe or America that produces the author.

The fragmentation of information sources was accelerating. Print had failed as a business model, at least of the daily news; digital broadcast news was homogeneous for the most part. The only difference in the networks was what shade of the official color you wanted. Online news was the least regulated and most interesting; the only problem was the amount of noise one had to sift through to find a reliable source. I was still reading Calculated Risk then, this was before the 'Information Consolidation Act' shut him down.

 (Housekeeping note: Unless Leeza Gibbons has gone into the history business that should be "Gibbon.")

Predatory lenders sold Toady a boomerang he didn't need and couldn't afford.

For this Toady's money, the best slow-decay apocalypse is still the one in Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower, and I'm not sure there's been a persuasive new vision of the fall of civilization since The Road Warrior, which was itself an update of L.Q. Jones' post-modern wasteland in that he-man woman hater's classic A Boy and His Dog.

The first decade of the 21st century has seen the mainstreaming of the zombie apocalypse, but that scenario dates back at least to the 1970s. Have there been good recent concepts for the end times?

Economic armageddon stories are a hard sell for a good reason: As noted in Reason, civil society continues to hold together despite all the best predictions of politicians and their media stooges. Crime rates refuse to increase; foreclosure-driven neighborhood collapses seem to be permanently stuck in the next town over. Now we're being warned of an explosion in the homeless population (which never seems to decline when the economy is strong). Yet the homeless surge too keeps failing to happen. Why isn't everything going south?

Maybe it's the Stimulus keeping it all together. Maybe President Obama is holding off the deluge through sheer audacious hope. Or maybe Americans are not the collection of pavlovian criminals and sniveling wimps policy makers want you to think they are.

But as an Arlington County mortgage payer, I'm interested to see that Nova's novel is set in a suburb of D.C. Someday I'll be able to greet vistors the way Jason Robards does at 3:13 here:

* An exaggeration of course: In 2002 people didn't even have iPhones.