R. Ann Parris on Prepper Fiction


Prepper Fiction by R. Ann Parris for Preppergroups.com

Prepper fiction can be an excellent resource in a number of ways, but we have to remember that it’s just that: Fiction.

Like all fiction and creative-license nonfiction, it’s dramatized. Some is better than others, always, but think back over some of the most recent movies and books we’ve seen (or seen advertised). From romances to splash-in-the-puddle action flicks, it’s highly unlikely. Same goes, across the board.

Even when something is based on a real event or real people, we have to apply some liberal salt to what’s being served.

After all, it must be entertaining to sell.

Few of us would really jump on a day-by-day account of a cop, infantry soldier, the many types of refugees from and in the U.S. or other English-reading nations, or for-sure a homesteader repeating the daily grinds of patrols, feeding, maintenance, garden care, cooking, helping with homework.

Viewers/readers want to get a glimpse of those and get to the good stuff. In reality, a lot of time passes between the action in whatever form it takes, even in the thick of things. Those get glossed over. So do the less-sexy, less-exciting, and less-heartjerking just-trudging-forward moments.

Fiction further exacerbates the lack of realism with both characters and their situations. We have to watch for that, particularly.

One, It sets unrealistic expectations of what gear we “need”.

Two, It sets unrealistic expectations of how easy a tool is to use or a skill is to acquire and master.

Three, It sets a lot of unrealistic expectations about animals — hunting, predator pressures, pest invasions, and domestic livestock.

It’s also hard to keep up with the heroes and protagonists in fiction, from the deep, wide setups and pockets to the “everyday Joe” who somehow turns into a Master MacGyver capable of overcoming all just because he rises to the occasion when needed.

Those people are fictional and fictionalized, even on the occasions they’re based on the author or somebody the author knows.

Do not use those people as benchmarks. Even in “reality” TV with a survivor/preparedness basis, we are looking at the standout Characters from a casting call or a collection of culled moments from weeks of footage. It’s skewed, even on the occasions it is the truth or close to it.

That said, prepper fiction can be useful.

One, it opens us to ideas. The pick “Big Thing” that sets off a disaster is one aspect, but really, it’s the snippets of nitty gritty that may barely even be mentioned — composting toilets, backpacks for goats and dogs and llamas, micro-scale hydro, different styles and methods of growing, and even the oh-so-common gunfights that mention firearms and mods. They give us aspects for research.

We can also apply the things from the news to a prepper-fiction setting. Not the guns-blazing stuff. Press pause or close the book, and game plan that fictional setting with whatever repairs we’re looking at, whatever’s on the news, the things that already do occur, in functioning society, that are unlikely to go away regardless of type or scale of disaster.

In their scenario, in their set circumstances, what are the tells, reactions, and recovery to the stressors we see: animal- and human-source food contaminations, cold and flu season, flash floods, tornadoes, housefires and wildfires, broken sewage and water mains nearby, a drunk and disorderly neighbor (with a family/group strong enough that “shoot him” is going to create additional problems), stray dogs and cats joining already problematic livestock threats, wild hogs spreading, late and early freezes and unseasonal dry or wet or cold spells.

We can also play “what if” with those characters.

What if you took something away from them? How would you have them work around or fix it? What if that person lost her temper and clocked the moron? What if a storm wrecks the roof or trees block that path/road? What if the livestock/leader/child got sick? Radios, power systems, water systems, a slip-and-fall that leads to a leg or arm injury, or a head injury — it’s all fodder for our own plans.

Possibly the best use of prepper fiction is the ability to talk “what if” to others.

I don’t find it effective for somebody who’s already been turned off by our repeated predictions of dire upheaval, but for early stages, if we’ve played close to the chest, or somebody we’re feeling out by careful nudges and baby steps, it’s got some potential.

Unless they’re already so tired of hearing it they shut down, it’s also a way to work in the “this is unrealistic, but if this and this, what if…” conversation with our families and friends.

* I am utterly unimpressed with most of the movie, from the minutia to the back stories, all the way out to the overreaching arcs and themes of the various potheads and community, but Goodbye World is super-light prepper fiction based on an electronics virus and can be a pretty good gateway (for those mature/tolerant enough for drug use and sexual scenes, with less violence than an MCU comic or movie).

* Into the Forest can be had as book or movie. It’s another one where the ending and some of the actions make you stare in total disbelief, but it works as a nice intro to the big-thing disaster — and to having some basic, practical everyday preparedness items on hand for the “smaller” disasters we’re even more likely to face.

* The first part of Revolution’s first season wasn’t all that bad as a brain tickler, although it starts during the aftermath (and gets more and more far-fetched as it goes … and I didn’t even make it to Season 2).

* Patriots is a prepper classic, although the follow-ons … unless you’re just entirely swept up and want every detail, don’t bother. Patriots is very readable, though. So is Lights Out.

* For those looking for richer, deeper character developments without quite so many canned, copy-paste, cut-and-dry, black-and-white good guy and bad guy divisions and “types”, several years ago “Mom with a Prep” came out with a book list https://momwithaprep.com/a-kinder-gentler-side-of-prepper-fiction/ that might appeal, to include a general rec for Susan Gregersen/GypsySue, a series by Annie Beardel called Alpha Farm, and LeAnn Edmondson Jimmy Walker series (Heads Up: Jimmy Walker is whoa R-rated).

Prepper fiction also offers us a last unique opportunity:

To study the bad guys, and follow our reading/viewing time with researching just how prevalent the presented threat is, and who the most common perpetrators of those crimes are, now in “peace” and a “functioning” society, and during the temporary and longer-lasting upheavals in our home nations and throughout history.

Some of them are well researched and honestly portrayed. Some of them … well, some types of bad guys are just convenient, and very few are able to look hard at some of the most common sources of threat to our families, because it’s so often somebody we or they share a table with.

That, too, can help us make real-world practical preparations that apply directly to our lives, apartments to acreage.