Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Strategic Amish Reserve

I just had an idea for a science fiction story based on this news article. In summary, in the event of a cyberwar, we should expect a lot of infrastructure to not work. I'm enjoying a fairly hot summer day inside with air conditioning, because the electrical grid is working.

This last week there were millions of Indian citizens who went without power because their electrical grid collapsed. Indians are not savages (the British Raj notwithstanding) and I fear their response to blackouts is a lot better than what I expect from America, the UK or Canada.

In 1859 a Solar flare hit the Earth with tremendous force causing Aurora Borealis displays as far south as the Caribbean. It's known as the Carrington Event and humanity got very lucky.

There was no electrical grid at that time, but there were telegraph lines that got fried all over. If another such event hits Earth any time soon, we could see the electrical grid go down not for two days, but for almost a year. Nationwide.

Let that sink in.

I almost went nuts. No, I did go nuts back when we lost power for a week. How nuts? I devised a recipe for making Mr. Coffee style drip coffee on a propane grill.

And that wasn't so hard because I could buy gasoline in a nearby neighborhood that had power. My bank had power and I could do ATM withdrawals.

I have the idea of writing a Science Fiction story where the Department of Defense has a secret reserve of pre-electric technologies stockpiled, and they have World-War II vintage pre-computer paper forms stockpiled with documented procedures in warehouses like in the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Or maybe they don't. Instead some insular religious community has spent decades preparing in secret for a national cataclysm they intend to exploit.

Do you think anybody would read a story like that?

I, for one, will welcome our new Amish overlords.


  1. I love the idea. It appeals to the Luddite in me, and it makes a great deal of sense. After all, not many people today even understand how life used to work, nor would they be able to rebuild society if we were forced to start over.

  2. I've often thought that "bomb them back to the stone age" is a fairly accurate description of where we would be if we lost our modern technology.

    Maintaining pre-electricity abilities is probably a more justified government activity than much of what the government actually does.

    - @journeyman_web

  3. We're a bit ignorant about how pre-electric life worked, but the knowledge won't have to be rediscovered, just dug out of dusty books. Or Amish barns.

    Before Y2K hit, I bought a hand-crank radio that works off a tensioned spring. Like my dad's Victrola hand-crank phonograph. So, I admit a bit of fascination with this sort of thing.

    There are similar ways of getting small-scale power in a pinch. Ferinstance, my treadmill motor could be rewired to serve as a generator. Not enough to smelt aluminum, but enough to charge a cell phone.

  4. I came across an old favorite classic SF story in a Kindle SF Anthology I recently downloaded:

    THE WAVERIES, by Fredric Brown (2011-09-09). The Second Science Fiction Megapack: 25 Modern and Classic Tales by Masters (Kindle Locations 1486-1495). Ingram Distribution. Kindle Edition.

    In this the "villain" is not the Carrington Event, but the result is similar to the story scenario you envision.


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