Scavengers

I just finished #NaNoWriMo last week. My currently untitled novel is sitting at 160,484 words of magic, mystery, sex, love, telepathy, golems, lesbians, teddy bears, and maybe a giant mutated monster or two. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, though I know it’ll need plenty of revisions and work just like all the others. That work is for later, however, and now it’s time to turn my mind to other things.

On the writing front, there’s two main projects on my mind right now. Both of them have something in common: scavengers (did the title of the post give that away?). I’d like to talk a bit about the concept of scavengers first, then discuss how it relates to my upcoming projects.

A scavenger-based society can develop in a variety of ways. In real life, it can happen when some groups of people live in the slums or run-down neighborhoods of otherwise wealthy cities. I read a book earlier this year, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, which told the real-life story of people living in such conditions in Mumbai, India. The people in the story live in tin shacks in a muddy, rancid slum, where they deal with crime, pollution from the city, poverty, poor education, and the struggle to survive and feed their families each day. One of the main characters is a boy who collects scrap. Plastic bottles, wire coat hangers, tin foil . . . anything he can haul down to the recycling center to sell in order to earn what he can to help feed his family. Parts of the story follow this boy and others like him as they scrounge in the dumpsters behind hotels, gathering plastic straws and lids to be sold as scrap to the recycling center. Sometimes they have to fight off gangs of larger boys who will beat them up to steal their garbage and sell it themselves. And no one in the city cares, except when it comes to shooing them away so the rich tourists at the hotels don’t have to see the street urchins digging through the trash.

More extreme examples can be seen in some post-apocalyptic stories, where society has collapsed and industry no longer exists. I’m reading a fiction novel right now called The Drowned Cities, set in a post-apocalyptic future where global warming has flooded the coasts, war has torn the country apart, and people struggle to survive amidst ongoing fighting between rival factions that try to claim their own piece of the broken world. People use whatever they can get their hands on, and the author describes things like plastic antifreeze bottles now being used as water bottles, ruined buildings being torn apart for scrap to rebuild elsewhere, and old medicine that is “only a year past its expiration date.” These details do a good job setting the scene and showing the reader just how desperate people are for whatever resources they can get their hands on.

The idea of a society with limited resources will be helpful research for my current and future projects. One of those project, my seventh novel, is currently only in the planning stages. I’ve got about ten pages of notes so far on what I plan to do with it, though I don’t intend to start writing this one until next year, maybe during #JuNoWriMo. Some of these notes are based on ideas I got from books like The Drowned Cities, relating to the idea of where people get the resources they need to survive. Food and other resources can be scarce. People might be having to improvise items to use them for something other than their original purpose. Gabby Palladino, my main character (who is also a poet) may have trouble finding simple things like pens and paper to write her journals and poems. Though I’ve already written things in the past that involve looting old, abandoned stores, so I’m sure she could find an abandoned office supply store with plenty of useful goods.

My more immediate project right now is continuing revisions on my second book, Contamination, which is the sequel to Manifestation. I won’t go into too much detail so as not to spoil some of the events of Manifestation, but suffice to say, some of the characters in Contamination can end up in some difficult situations where food and supplies are scarce. The scene I’m currently revising involves a gang of thugs with magic powers fighting for control over a grocery store, since controlling the store means controlling the food supplies left inside. When you’re desperate and hungry, that’s a higher priority than anything else. There are also other scenes of people doing things like smashing open an old vending machine to steal the stale snack foods inside. People will do what it takes when it comes to staying fed.

I plan to read some more books in war-ravaged post-apocalyptic settings in the near future in order to see how other authors have addressed the scavenger lifestyle. I find it an interesting one, and I think there’s a lot of potential character development to be found in writing a character who has to dig through the rubble to find the things they need to survive.


mani_promoManifestation is available in paperback format through:

CreateSpace and Amazon

and in ebook format through:

Kindle and Nook

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Scavengers”

  1. I admit, I love the idea of scavenger societies. For all the reasons you describe, and also because it leads to a very interesting mindset/sociology. In terms of a post-apocalyptic setting, there’s the simple fact that there’s only so much to scavenge. Eventually the resources lying around are going to give out, and that means either the scavengers have to move on or they need to have found a way to make their own versions.

    Can lead, on one extreme, to a nearly nomadic society, that travels to scavenge and moves on when there’s nothing else. On the other, it leads to central ‘hubs’ where the scavengers go to trade and restock for further scavenge forays. I’m an economics nut, so thinking through the implications of such a world really fascinate me. Especially since resources tend to be somewhat concentrated, so one will often see lopsided or unbalanced societies- those that scavenge among factories will often have more tools and such, whereas those primarily in rural areas will be more self-sufficient but not as advanced, things like that.

    So yeah, there are a lot of fun things you can do with that kind of set-up. The only recommendation I can make would be the Fallout series of games, because while they aren’t really ‘realistic,’ they get across the feel of such a setting pretty well.

    1. A nomadic society is a good point, and once I’ve considered for some of what I’m planning. I think it makes sense for there to be a balance between nomadic groups and settlements. They’d each have different views on how to survive: settlements would think they need to work together, try to farm food, and share their resources as a group; nomadic people would be more likely to scavenge what they can get and move on, more likely in smaller groups to avoid running out of food, etc. There might be times they need to mix together, such as by the nomadic types stopping to trade their scavenged goods for the settlers’ grown/manufactured goods. They could develop dependence on each other. This could be like the “trading hubs” you mentioned, or it could be like small “villages,” but either way, the economics are similar.

      And I’ve played Fallout. They’re another source of inspiration for this.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s