By Glen Tate
Olympia, Washington (August 2012)
This is a novel about the collapse of America. But it’s not your usual collapse and survival story. Those stories usually involve a total collapse with a complete breakdown of society, sometimes with a foreign invasion sprinkled in for good measure.
I don’t think that scenario is very realistic. I believe a partial collapse is more likely, and there weren’t any partial collapse novels, so I sat down and wrote one.
Total collapse novels are great to read. They show what happens to people when everything from their normal world is stripped away. Their raw selves are on display. Total collapse stories are also fun to read because they show how completely dependent we are on things like plentiful electricity and gasoline, and the police instantly responding to 911 calls.
I love stories like those and recommend books like Lights Out by David Crawford and One Second After by William Forstchen. Both involve an EMP, which is a single nuclear blast high in the atmosphere that fries all electrical equipment. Pretty soon, roving gangs pillage the country. Starvation, martial law, mass killings, disease permeate. Most people die.
There is also the novel Patriots by James Wesley Rawles which involves a total collapse. It’s a little over the top on believability, but has some great information in it.
These total collapse stories always seemed to me to be too dramatic, too unrealistic, too absolute, and too end-of-the-world.
What about a partial breakdown? The electricity stays on. Water still comes out of the faucet. Some parts of the country, and even parts of your state, are still being run by a semi-functioning government.
Other parts of the country, like rural areas, have no functioning government, but they are doing relatively okay because they are somewhat prepared.
Things are usually not total and absolute. You know from your own life experience that the more dramatic something is, the less likely it is to happen. For example, on any given day there is a chance of a meteor striking the Earth and killing all life on the planet. And, on any given day, there is also a chance of you getting flat tire. You’ve probably had a flat tire but, if you’re reading this, the odds are that you’ve never been hit by a planet-killing meteor. The more dramatic the event, the less likely it is to happen.
That’s how I approach the collapse of the United States. I am absolutely convinced it is coming. I don’t think it will be a meteor-strike kind of collapse, though it will be much worse than a flat tire. It will likely be something in between. Most people will live through it, and that’s what I write about.
I think the collapse will be like the Great Depression on steroids with a little of the Revolutionary War mixed in. It will be different, of course, than the Great Depression or Revolutionary War because of technology and how utterly dependent most Americans are on food being in grocery stores, gasoline at gas stations, 911 answering calls, hospitals providing life saving treatments, etc.
Just like the Great Depression and the Revolutionary War, most people will basically muddle through it. Some will do okay, most will suffer and live, and some will die. There will be a spectrum of suffering. This is where 299 Days differs from other collapse stories which portray the entire country scavenging for food and gangs terrorizing the population. I envision some of that, for sure, but it won’t happen to most people. I envision a more realistic and less dramatic partial collapse.
Just like in every other crisis in world history, I suspect that the politically connected will do just fine in the partial collapse I envision. They have the protection of what’s left of the government; they will be able to shop in exclusive stores full of things. Those stores won’t have as many things as before the collapse, but will still look pretty much the same.
Look at the collapse of Russia in the early 1990s after the Communists fell. Some people, the well connected, did just fine. Most people didn’t, though. Most lived on potatoes and little garden plots, but there was still bread in the stores. The electricity was on most of the time. Russian sports teams still played on TV. Life sucked, but it went on. Lots of people died. They were killed by criminals or from completely preventable medical conditions that would have been treated before the collapse. Some people starved to death. Others drank themselves to death. But, there wasn’t a 95% casualty rate and cannibalism like in some total-collapse novels. Instead, in the real life example of the Russian partial collapse, there was a spectrum of suffering.
I think the coming American collapse will be a collage of differing levels of suffering. Each little bit of a collage will be different, as will people’s individual lives. But when you stand back and look at all the little bits, you see a bigger picture. That’s what 299 Days does, it shows you the little bits of individual suffering and then the bigger picture of all the bits blended together.
The individual levels of suffering described in 299 Days vary. Some people are prepared for it; mentally and physically. Most aren’t. What will the unprepared do? How will the unprepared approach the new way of life? How will the prepared use their skills and equipment? For good or for evil? This book answers those questions.
This series is as much about how the collapse will happen as what its effects will be. You see, I have a front-row seat to government corruption. I have a job that allows me to witness exactly what is happening and why. It’s not some super classified job or anything, just a perfect observation point to watch the corruption unfold. I think you can better understand the likely effects of the collapse by seeing exactly how we got here.
However, don’t worry that my detailed description of why the collapse will happen is some boring policy wonk stuff with graphs and charts, or that it’s some kooky conspiracy theory. I explain the causes of the collapse in everyday terms…because I see them every day. That makes 299 Days different. You are getting an inside look at why, and perhaps how, the collapse will happen.
I “keep it real” in this story. By that, I mean that I describe how real people would act; real, flawed people. For example, the main character, Grant Matson, is not a superhero who always does the right thing. Grant Matson will disappoint you in places, because real people will disappoint you. I could have made these characters into typical novel heroes who do no wrong. I chose not to. I kept it real.
Another difference between 299 Days and other novels is that this story is about how an average suburban guy realized he was dependent and needed to prepare, and then gradually prepared to a moderate level. Because that’s what I did, so it doesn’t get any more real than that.
Most survival stories involve people who are either already hardcore survivalists or completely unprepared. This series is about a person in the middle. It’s a story about how a mostly prepared “prepper” gets by. If you’re already a prepper, you will find this story helpful because it shows how taking some of the steps you’re taking could pay off for you. If you’re not a prepper, this story will demonstrate to you how some simple things you can do now could pay off later.
Another hallmark of most collapse novels is that they involve one average person who emerges as a leader and galvanizes a group of average people to do amazing things. This story has that, too. Grant Matson does that. He is an average person who is not terribly talented or special. There is an average-guy-saves-the-day aspect to this story, because I think that is realistic. It often happens in real life.
This story is also different because Grant Matson does not do all this by himself. He has an amazing collection of people intervening in his life. Having help is realistic. Because when big things happen, it is often a result of the efforts a collection of people, not one lone-wolf individual.
Another reason 299 Days has a realness to it is that many of the things I describe as happening in the past and present have actually happened to me. This stuff is real. In fact, in a few parts of the story, I had to revise the timeline because the things I predicted came true as I was writing it. I see things happening in the present that I positively know will lead to very predictable things in the future. I wrote them down in this book.
Yet another difference between 299 Days and other collapse novels is that this book gives people hope. Not corny hope like inRed Dawn where a few high school kids defeat the Soviet army. Not lollipop and sunshine hope where everyone in America simultaneously figures out that the path we’re on is unsustainable and everyone lives happily ever after.
The hope in 299 Days is what I call “informed hope.” By that, I mean that when you read about how weak the bad guys really are, and how just a little bit of toppling by the good guys can get the job done, you will start to see examples of this in the everyday world. I’m not implying that it will be easy for the good guys to win, but the signs that it’s possible are all around us. You can’t help but be hopeful after reading 299 Days because, for reasons described in colorful detail, the bad guys can be defeated.
This story is about people first, and survival second. My theory is that a good story has interesting people doing interesting things in interesting settings. The people in this story are, indeed, interesting. They fall into three categories.
The first category is the person going through the process of realizing that he or she needs to prepare for what’s coming. That is Grant Matson, the main character, and some of the other characters. If you are a prepper (the term we prefer over “survivalist”), you have either already come to this conclusion, or are thinking about it.
The second category of people is the one fighting against the idea of having to do things differently. That is Lisa Matson, the main character’s wife. These people suffer from “normalcy bias,” which is human beings’ tendency to take the evidence of a changed world and try to force it into the “normal” world they know. They fight against the new facts and, to varying degrees, make bad decisions about the new realities because they want so badly for things to return to “normal.”
The third category is the government people, and the greedy and lazy voters who put them in power. This category of people is not prepared for what’s coming, but they use their power to take what they want. Not all government people are bad, as you will see repeatedly in the book, but the current system is.
These three categories of people are in constant conflict. Preppers can’t believe the people with normalcy bias don’t get it; the normalcy bias people think the preppers are overreacting. The bad government people hate the preppers because they are a threat to them; the preppers hate the government for screwing things up.
These conflicting perspectives are an important part of this story. Most survival books are all about the things people do, like preparing food, firefights with motorcycle gangs, first aid, etc. There is plenty of that in this book because it’s how I think things will be. However, in some survival books, the people are just the actors in the real story, which is about things that are happening. In my view, the interesting things are only possible to understand once you look into the world of the interesting people. Interesting people come first and the interesting things they do come second in 299 Days.
That is largely how this story is organized. The first books of the series develop the characters and set the stage for the remaining books. In fact, there are so many nuggets in the first few chapters describing how Grant’s personality was formed early in life that I recommend you re-read those first few chapters of the first book after you finish the entire series to see how much of future events were shaped by Grant’s childhood.
In the remaining books in the series, the characters, many of whom are real people, do some increasingly interesting things in interesting settings. Each book builds on the previous one. It’s easier to understand the things in the next book by seeing how they build up in the preceding one.
You’ve likely already bought this book if you’re reading this, so I might as well level with you. You might find what I’m about to say obnoxious, but I need to say it. I believe I am supposed to be telling people about what is coming and how to get prepared. I hope that doesn’t make you uncomfortable, although it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like sounding like that. It’s spooky. But I can’t help believing that I’m supposed to be telling this story. There have been so many real life “coincidences” pointing me toward writing this that I have quit fighting it. I am doing it. At a potentially high cost.
I am risking my career by being labeled as a “survivalist” or “revolutionary.” I’m not making any significant money on this. In fact, I might lose money on it. Oh well. This story needs to be told.
Why did I write this? Am I recruiting people into a revolutionary army? A weird religious cult? Scaring people to sell them gold? No, to all of those.
I want you to get prepared. Rationally and prudently; not emotionally. Don’t spend a bunch of money on this. Don’t alienate your spouse or kids. I want you to be mentally prepared for when everything in your life, grocery stores, police protection, gas stations, doesn’t work. I want you to relate to Grant Matson’s wife, Lisa, who is fighting against the new realities. I want you to learn from her. She is like so many people. Maybe you. Maybe your spouse. Use this book to prepare that person for what’s coming. Use it to prepare yourself.
I also want you not to hate the people who have screwed up this country. They are greedy, horrible, power-hungry evil people. Yes, evil. Be mad at them. Be furious. Yell at them. Shake your fists. Vote them out of office. Defend yourself against them, but only if they become violent first. Do not initiate violence. I want to stress that point: do not initiate violence. If you think 299 Days is persuading you to go out and hurt people, then you do not understand the book.
When the collapse is over, and we have to get back to being a country again, we need to forgive each other. There will be atrocities on both sides. But we can’t keep trying to get even. That will last for generations and prolong the misery of rebuilding. I hope this book series will inspire people on both sides to put aside the hate and, more importantly, rebuild this place.
When I read a novel, I am always surprised when the author thanks people for reading it. I had always assumed that the author was just thanking people for buying something from him or her. Now that I’ve written a novel, something I never thought I would do in my wildest dreams, I understand why authors thank readers. You are spending your time and a little of your money to go into a world I have crafted. My life. My visions. My friends. My darkest fears. My wildest dreams. Me, me, me. And, still, you care enough to spend a few hours of your time reading about me, me, me. What a tremendous honor you have bestowed upon me. Thank you for reading this. I mean that very sincerely.
Enjoy. And thank you for the extreme privilege of allowing me to tell this story.