Author's Notes

First off, let me acknowledge a few people who influenced me. Ayn Rand and Lysander Spooner, both deceased, have guided me with their writing. Kurt Saxon, who is still alive at the time of this project, also helped shape some of my views concerning survivalism. As being the man who coined the term 'survivalist', his approach to the subject.

To this end, I decided that the hero of "When Autumn Leaves Fall", Larry Stewart, would be a little of all three. Larry has a rational, active mind. He is not afraid to maintain and defend unpopular views. Larry is also a researcher, tinkerer, and master of frugality and improvisation.

The basic purpose of this fiction project was to illustrate how calm, rational, and creative minds can triumph over any situation. That when given a choice, people will choose to cooperate for mutual benefit rather than isolate themselves. Especially if someone rises to the occassion to take the mantle of leadership, and if there is familiarity amongst the people.

This project was started as a response to another work of fiction, "Triple Ought" (originally known as "The Grey Nineties"). After posting a critique of "Triple Ought" at the alt.survival newsgroup on UseNet, I was challenged to write my own story. So I did.

While I used fictional characters, I did set the tale in a real place, mainly Huron County, Michigan. This was done since I am very familiar with it. In my humble opinion, it's one of the nicest places around. The people are hard working and good natured. When I first visited there on vacation from Detroit, I was really impressed with simple things, like perfect strangers waving at and greeting you. For a city-boy with a streak of cynicism a mile-wide, this re-affirmed Ayn Rand's premise that Man is basically good.

To this end, my story carrys this concept forward. There is one circumstance when violence breeds violence. When Kevin Harper, one of the officers of the local militia, shoots a wounded prisoner. Kevin is my foil to represent both the best and worst of Man when faced with violence.

When faced with six 'badguys' who had initiated aggression by killing two sentries, Kevin accounts for killing four of them, including the one wounded criminal who had already surrendered. Kevin later dies bravely, trying to save a fallen comrade while again opposing criminality.

This one chapter was the only one with genuine violence, and one of only three that mention firearms. Unlike other stories about post-castatrophe/survival scenarios, I did not want mine to dwell on guns or violence. This was done to several reasons.

First, I wanted the emphasis, and bulk of the text, to deal more with people working together for a common good. If you want action and gun-play, then go rent a Rambo movie. Too many people associate survivalism with firearms. The truth of the matter is that most of a survivalist's time will not be spent shooting people or even targets. They will spend most of their time either working to feed themselves or in making life a bit more comfortable.

Anyone who has been in combat knows that actual battle is usually very short affairs that follow long periods of boredom and tedious labor. The events of Chapter 8 probably only take at most 30 minutes. Comparing that with the rest of the story, which takes years to unfold.

Again, my primary purpose was to demonstrate how creative and inventive people can adapt and overcome adversity. Larry Stewart is the focus of this, though there are some references to others as well. Larry is not so unique. Most communities have somebody like him. The backyard mechanic, basement experimenter, and collector-refurbisher of garbage. Like the saying goes, 'One man's junk is another's treasure'.

Larry follows another old addage, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach the man to fish and you feed him for life.". Larry is forever holding classes, sharing information with neighbors. He does this for very practical reasons. Not only does he recieve goods or favors in exchange, but the better off his neighbors are, the less likely they will be inclined to succumb to the dark side of human nature and steal from Larry.

Too many survivalists think that all they need to do is cache an assortment of goods advertised in publications like "American Survival Guide". Dehydrated foods and other sundry items. The problem with this is that while others band together to support each other, if you choose to hold out from them, they may be inclined to attack you to seize your cache. Your neighbors consider their survival just as important as you consider yours. Even if they don't, when things settle down and your neighbors begin to rebuild, they will not appreciate you taking advantage of their sacrifices.

This is a very important point to consider if you intend to 'make your stand' in a rural area. People who live in such areas prior to a castatrophe will already know each other and trust one another. If you are a stranger who merely owns a 'retreat' to be used for emergencies and maybe vacations, you will have to work doubly hard if you want to be part of the post-castastrophe society.

Another important matter is just how willing government will be in giving up and hide in a corner. The reality is they will not go away forever. Even in a worse case scenario, say a killer epidemic, nuclear war, or even the impact of a moderate-sized asteriod (where the Earth itself is not destroyed or knocked out of orbit), government will regroup and re-assert itself. Locally, small towns rural counties, will be less effected and will adapt to the new circumstances rather quickly. However, as you move up the food chain, larger governmental entities are more prepared.

In 99.9% of most disaster scenarios, within 3-7 days, local government will start recover. They will pull together their police, firemen, and anybody else who can walk and chew gum, mobilize them, and put them to work helping to repair the community. Larger institutions, like state and national governments, may take longer, but once they start to roll, look out! I'd say that 3-6 months is a fair period of time for this to take place. In 99.8% of the scenarios, you can cut the timeline considerably.

Humans are social creatures, political animals if you like, and will tend to ban together for a common purpose. Some people might like to think that they'll just have to lay low and hide in the hills when the 'whip comes down'. But, as stated earlier, people are going to start to regroup nearly right away. They will not appreciate you coming down from your mountain after the dust settles and they have done all the hard work of rebuilding. You will be subject to their scorn, mistrust, and ostracized.

One thing I like about Kurt Saxon his his view that the collapse of civilzation will be "the greatest adventure" of all time. This is a positive, constructive way to view it. If you are prepared, confident, and willing, you can quickly rise to a post-collapse leadership role and help mold future society. This means staying out in the open and being active with your neighbors in improving the community's overall situation. You aren't going to accomplish that hunkered in your bunker.

Some may like to quote, 'charity begins at home', and for them I wrote Chapter 10. This is where the Stewarts adopt the young girl who is orphaned in a tragedy. Again, the Stewarts examplify the concept that Man is Good! Also, I threw in the psychiatrist just to irritate some of you. I justify this inclusion for the simple reason that Larry has done so much and helped so many already, I'm sure he wouldn't mind some help himself. Especially for the chore of telling the girl her parents are dead. So even Larry, as self-sufficient as they come, is willing to accept help, too. No man is an island.

The story is concluded with smaller communities banning together to support each other for the common good. This is a natural evolution. We also complete the journey for Larry, who goes from an eccentric kook, sort of a drop from mainstream society, to becoming a respected leader of the new society. Others follow a similar path, like Roger Maas. Eventually, as the survivors become more confident in the present, they also do likewise for the future.

So much of survivalist literature avoids this. People are more inclined to work hard and sacrifice if it is to achieve a long term goal. You just can't think about when your next meal is or where will I sleep tonight. We have minds that are capable of much more abstract thoughts than those. If we use them, stretch our minds out to the future beyond our immediate needs, they become stronger and healthier. I kept the actual death-toll on the light side based on history. When you look at Man's capacity to endure hardship, such as the seige of Leningrad, for example, it seemed logical to me that most would survive.

Concerning the title, "When Autumn Leaves Fall", I chose this to signify that such disorders or cullings are just part of a natural process that all civilizations go through. And that all things are temporary. Good and bad times have their limits. The seasons will turn.


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Andrew Zarowny

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