Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Firearms and Ammunition of "Alas, Babylon": Pat Frank, Credible Deterrence of Evil and the .22 Long Rifle Ammo Famine. "The first thing I did was buy several thousand rounds of shotgun and small arms ammunition."

Alas, Babylon is a 1959 novel by American writer Pat Frank (the pen name of Harry Hart Frank). It was one of the first apocalyptic novels of the nuclear age and remains popular 54 years after it was first published, consistently ranking in's Top 20 Science Fiction Short Stories list (which groups together short story collections and novels). The novel deals with the effects of a nuclear war on the small town of Fort Repose, Florida, which is based upon the actual city of Mount Dora, Florida. The book's title is derived from Revelation 18:10: "Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come." -- Wikipedia.
I'm pretty sure my first copy of Alas, Babylon had a cover like the one above. If I recall correctly, I first read it in 5th or 6th grade after buying it at a school book fair. The book resonated with me, as it did with many of my generation, at least in part because it represented more than just fiction, but more likely our probable future. We had come through the Cuban Missile Crisis when the world held its collective breath and we schoolchildren were trained to seek shelter under our desks at air raid alarm drills. Rosey's school in West Memphis AR -- across the river from Memphis -- even went to the trouble of issuing dog tags to students so they could be identified in case of psychic trauma, physical injury or death. We had no trouble believing that a nuclear war could claim us all.
Later, as a teenager I volunteered to help the Marion County, Ohio, civil defense RADEF officer (Radiological Defense) inventory and calibrate CDV-700 radiation detectors and studied the thick, manila-colored, paper-bound manual "The Effects of Nuclear Weapons." It came up missing over the years, probably - like many of my books - at the time of The Great Divorce (circa 1984-85).
I turn to Alas, Babylon for my insomniac reading in the wee hours of the morning several times a year. Like many a good book, you occasionally discover a point upon a re-reading that you missed before. So it was with this passage the other night:
Randy decided not actually to take off his clothes and get into bed because once he got under the covers he would never get up. Instead, he took off his shoes and dropped on the couch in the living room. He stared at the the gunrack on the opposite wall. Until very recent years guns had been an important part of living on the Timucuan. Randy guessed they might become important again. He had quite an arsenal. There was the long, old-fashioned .30-40 Krag fitted with sporting sights; the carbine he had carried in Korea, dismantled, and smuggled home; two .22 rifles, one equipped with a scope; a twelve-gauge automatic, and a light beautifully balanced twenty-gauge double-barreled shotgun. In the drawer of his bedside table was a .45 Automatic and a .22 target pistol hung in a holster in his closet.
Ammo. He had more than he would ever need for the big rifle, the carbine, and the shotguns. But he had only a couple of boxes of .22's, and he guessed that the .22s might be the most useful weapons he owned, if economic chaos lasted for a long time, a meat shortage developed, and it became necessary to hunt small game. He rose and went into the hallway and shouted down at the stairwell, "Helen!"
"Yes?" She was at the front door.
"If you get a chance drop in at Beck's Hardware and buy some twenty-two long-rifle hollow points."
"Just a second, I'll write it down on my list. Twenty-two long-rifle hollow points. How many?"
"Ten boxes if they have them."
This is one of those passages that a modern mindset would find hopelessly naive and even dangerous. Mind you, this is the morning after the bombs have hit. Whike Fort Repose has not yet been affected by blast or overcome with refugees, Randy has already passed in his car on his earlier way into town a group of escaped road gang convicts, some armed with their dead guards revolvers and shotguns. Yet he lets his sister-in-law go into town unarmed and unescorted. The very existence of the gunrack where the entire inventory of rifles and shotguns are stored openly without thought to potential thievery from a B&E artist is dated and today would be unthinkable in all but the most isolated and insular of mountain communities here in Alabama.
And what did Frank mean when he wrote: "He had more than he would ever need for the big rifle, the carbine, and the shotguns"?
What quantity is "more than he would ever need"?
Here, we need to drop back a bit and look at who Pat Frank was, where he came from and what his journey was up until he wrote those words in 1959. Born in Chicago in 1908, Frank was a journalist and information handler for several newspapers, agencies, and government bureaus. He did not come from the rural existence he described in Alas, Babylon, although he moved there after a long career as a writer and reporter, and during his early years he lived mainly in New York, Washington, and overseas during World War II. He worked for the Office of War Information and was a a war correspondent in Italy, Austria, Germany, and Turkey during and after the war.
His novel, Hold Back the Night (another of my favorites) led to Frank's recall into government service and his appointment as a member of the United Nations Mission to Korea in 1952. The Amazon review calls Hold Back the Night "an excellent account of the withdrawal from the Korean reservoirs during the very worst days of the Korean War. It is compellingly and believably written, and tells a wonderful story of courage and dedication under fire, and the interactions and bonds that form in a small unit under continuous threat of attack. The writing is crisp, taut, and believable."
It is all of that. And Frank's description of the Marines of Dog Company on their cruel retreat demonstrates that Frank had absorbed the classic foot soldier's lesson, once expressed by General Walton Walker in the early, desperate days of the Korean War: "We can win without food, we cannot win without ammunition." Here's a couple of snippets from Hold Back the Night:
"It'll take air to find that company, and support it if it's still there," said the general.
"This whole coast is socked in," said the admiral. "I wouldn't send out a buzzard to fly in this weather."
It is decided to send out a one place helicopter to find Dog Company.
"What can it do?"
"I'm afraid not much for this job, sir. It's only designed for short-range reconnaissance, and spotting. It doesn't carry anything except a second lieutenant."
"Can't it drop anything?" the admiral asked. "Medical stores or anything?"
"Not very well, sir. . . "
"Well, what in hell is it good for except spot?"
"That's about all, sir. But it does have a couple of basket letters rigged on the outside, to pick up wounded. It's picked up quite a few wounded."
The admiral scratched his chin again, and then he scratched the back of his neck. "If it can bring back wounded," he said, it can bring up supplies. Ever think of that, commander?"
"No, sir."
"Well, have those basket litters filled with supplies, and send it out. We'll find out whether that company is still there, or not. What kind of supplies do you think they'll need, general, that is if they're still on the road?"
"Ammo," said the general of Marines. "Ammo and food and cigarettes."
"What kind of ammo?"
"Rifle, M-1." -- Pages 192-193.
Earlier, Frank quotes two of the quintessential soldier expressions of the Korean War, which rank in ubiquity just below the concept memorialized by that favorite song, "The Bugout Boogie."
"It isn't going to work, Sam. We haven't got dick." That was a strange and fatherless expression birthed by the Korean war. It could mean many things but one of the things it meant was that they didn't have the stuff, the punch, the power. It was the opposite of another expression of this war, "Ammo's running out my ass." -- Page 162.
Frank, and the anonymous soldiers and Marines he quotes have it right: Plenty of ammunition is one measure of power.
"A man can never have too much red wine, too many books, or too much ammunition." -- Rudyard Kipling
And as a reporter and student of the Korean War, Frank would have been aware of incidents such as this, described in S.L.A. Marshal's book, Pork Chop Hill:
On his way out, Locklear passed Crittenden, who said to him, "Get back to 200 and tell Fox Company that I've either got to have reinforcements or ammunition; I've got nothing with which to fight." It was hardly an overstatement. The BARs and machine guns were all dry; half of the carbines were empty; all grenades had been spent in getting to the first three bunkers. In the clutch, what saved Love Company for a little while was the discovery of two cases of grenades in one of the bunkers. -- Page 124.
So, if Frank was well informed on the necessity of ammunition to continue a fight, what then did he mean by "He had more than he would ever need for the big rifle, the carbine, and the shotguns"?
In his little neighborhood of River Road outside the fictional Fort Repose, Randy has neighbors: a poor black family, the Henry's, a spinster Western Union operator (who is joined by her friend the town librarian and a retired admiral. He also takes in for the duration of the emergency his brother's wife and two children, his girlfriend and her father and the local doctor. Between them they bring to the community arsenal one battered single barrel twelve gauge shotgun that works almost every time (the Henry's) and an automatic sixteen gauge shotgun (the admiral's). That's it.
Toward the end of the book, this community is forced to seek out, confront and defeat a small band of "highwaymen" armed with pistols and a Thompson submachine gun, Small wonder that they lose one of their number, Malachai Henry, KIA.
A clue to Frank's thinking about ammunition is found in his 1962 non-fiction work, How to survive the H-bomb, and why. Unlike Alas, Babylon, this slim volume of 160 pages only went through one edition and has never been reprinted. When I went in search of it last week, the cheapest example was $200.00. So, I did what I often do when confronted with an economic impossibility in looking for a published work -- I sought it out via inter-library loan and, presto! It appeared at my local library in two days. I now have a thoroughly uncollectible xerox of said work in my library and in explication of Frank's writing in Alas, Babylon I would like to draw your attention to Chapter 9: "Of Rats and Men, and Food and Drink and Drugs, and Animals and Ammo," which he wrote about the same time Rosey and I were being taught to "duck and cover."
In 1957-58, while researching Alas, Babylon, it occurred to me that we were singularly fortunate to live in an area abounding in small game. During this period some crisis flared -- I think it was Lebanon -- and we decided to prepare. The first thing I did was buy several thousand rounds of shotgun and small arms ammunition. "Whatever happens, we won't starve," I told my wife, Dodie. "At least we'll have quail, and dove, and rabbit and squirrel stew, not to speak of possums and coons and maybe alligator tail and rattlesnake steak. And we have a dozen varieties of citrus."
Several months later I learned more about fallout than I had known before. . . The obvious truth was and is that the same fallout that kills humans destroys other forms of animal life. And there will be few, if any, shelter "arks" for animals. . . So I belatedly discovered that buying ammunition to secure game was a waste of money. It would not only be silly and unsporting to shoot sick quail, rabbit, and squirrel, but downright dangerous to eat them. Their meat might be contaminated with long-lived radioactive elements unknowingly consumed as they dined on seeds, grain, nuts, and exposed vegetation. -- Pages 110-113.
Of course Frank was concerned about the principal threat to humanity at that point, nuclear war. The fact that such ammunition would have been of perfect utility in any other systemic crisis was not to his point. He was, I think, too hard on himself for buying ammunition. He seems to understand that as he continues:
There is another, very definite use for guns and ammo. You may have to repel two-legged beasts of prey -- men.
Here again, each man must make his own decision which will be based upon confusing factors -- moral, spiritual, material, emotional, interlaced with love for his family and normal dread of death, spliced to the situation in his own community, and the situation in the world. All I know is what I myself would do, or more properly, what I think I would do.
Assume that I own a staunch home with a deep cellar in (the mythical town of) Missile Gap (Pennsylvania), and in the cellar I have constructed a shelter, of solid concrete block, for my wife, three children, and myself. In the shelter we have water and food. In the kitchen, and the utility room that adjoins it, we have another month's supply of food. . .
On the third day, we hear scraping and shuffling over our heads -- an intruder in our kitchen.
I think, undoubtedly a looter, and what am I going to do about it?
I have a pistol . . .
I must move quietly. The intruders don't know we're down in the cellar unless they're relatives, friends, or neighbors.
So I take off my shoes and go up the cellar stairs as silently as possible. I open the door into the kitchen very carefully. I attempt to achieve tactical surprise.
If it is a genuine raider or raiding party I say nothing. I just start shooting. If i don't kill I can be certain I will be killed without mercy. And I will make very sure that the intruders are dead.
In Alas, Babylon, those of you who have read it will recall, the "highwaymen" do a home invasion on the beekeeper Jim Hickey and his family, killing him and his wife and stealing their food, including the honey and their car. They later pay for this on the covered bridge at the hands of Randy's ersatz River Road squad of militia. Frank continues with an appreciation of his situation -- and his friends and neighbors -- in own community for survival, as I have always believed, is a matter of community more than anything else.
In my own home, off the beaten track in the deep Florida countryside, it would be different. A gun rack is part of the furniture in almost every home hereabouts. All men, and most women, and all boys over twelve, handle firearms as part of their daily life. Even when they have sworn off shooting wildlife except with a camera, as i have, there are varmints to be destroyed -- moccasins and vicious alligator garfish around the dock, rattlesnakes in the grove, a rare coral snake, timid, beautiful, and fatal, slithering across a walk in the moonlight, the salamander rat that defaces our lawn. Only a desperate fool would invade property around here without first announcing himself, and his intentions.
Furthermore, people are serious and thoughtful about protecting their homes, should war come. Some miles away, one of my best friends and a few of his neighbors have combined to dig and equip a small community shelter. At the same time they are, in his words, "standardizing weapons." They have agreed to use the .357 magnum for both rifles and pistols. This is a powerful big-game cartridge that will knock down a tiger or pierce the motor block of an automobile. (MBV Note: A bit of hyperbole there, but isn't it fascinating that Americans were dealing with the same issues of "well-regulated militia" that we are faced with today -- and that our ancestors of the Founding Generation faced as well?)
If you don't have a gun and are concerned about protecting your home, I'd recommend the Remington 66, a .22-caliber automatic rifle with nylon stock, so light that your wife can easily handle it. The new high-velocity hollow-point ammunition makes it deadly, and the ammo is inexpensive. And if there is no war, it is a fun gun. Twice a year, around here, we declare open season on snapping turtles, and use the 66 to shoot off their heads. In many states you must have a permit to possess a psitol, but nowhere is a permit required for a rifle.
Also, for the inexperienced the rifle is more accurate than the pistol, even for snap shooting. If your rifle has a white bead sight, you can hit something in the gloom, in the night.
I have devoted too many words to a tertiary danger. While I was buying ammunition, my red-headed wife was doing something far more practical. She established a revolving food reserve. -- Pages 115-117.
Frank, of course, wrote about dangers as he perceived them in his own America, in his own time, some fifty years ago now. That country no longer exists. It is a different country, less homogenous, more fragile, with little of the social trust that exemplified Frank's America and the dangers are consequently greater, more immediate, more pressing, more deadly. Holding onto a food reserve, even with a community-based militia, is going to be problematic, especially without adequate ammunition. The slow breakdown described as coming over a period of months in Alas, Babylon would happen instantaneously today.
In Randy's Fort Repose, toward the end of the book, Frank describes an expedition up the river to secure salt:
Their five boats crewed thirteen men, all well armed. It would be the first night Randy has spent away from Lib since their marriage, and she seemed somewhat distressed by this. But Randy had no fear for her safety, or for the safety of Fort Repose. His company now numbered thirty men. It controlled the rivers and the roads. Knowing this, highwaymen shunned Fort Repose. The phrase "deterrent force" had been popular before The Day and effective so long as that force had been unmistakably superior. Randy's company was certainly the most efficient force in Central Florida, and he intended to keep it that way.
What works with common -- or even groups of uncommon -- criminals works with constitutional criminals and wannabe tyrants as well. I have written before for many years on the subject of Credible Deterrence & the Logistics of Liberty.
What did the Founders intend with the Second Amendment? Liberals aside, gunnies would all agree that their purpose was to codify the people's natural right to arms. As men who had been compelled to fight for independence by the British seizure of their arms, it was natural for them to ensure that the people of future generations be enabled to maintain the tools necessary to repel tyranny. But I think their purpose was not only to set up the preconditions to resist tyranny when it appeared, but also to deter it by providing future would-be tyrants with a credible deterrent that would discourage them from making the attempt to begin with.
As I wrote back then in 2007 during another ammo shortage:
And this is absent any significant push in the market. Should the Clintons return to the White House, or there's another LA riot or Katrina disaster, the rush will be on and prices that are thought to be high now will be looked upon with fond nostalgia. Unless somebody nukes China, the market forces are going to continue to squeeze us, cutting down on our range time (also important to maintain credible deterrence) and threatening to make our rifles nothing more than expensive clubs.
So I guess I've told you all of this, in part at least, as an investment tip. Buy now. Buy a LOT. Start stocking up on everything from finished rounds to reloading equipment and components. It is the only way to maintain credible deterrence with our political enemies who seek to disarm us on the quiet. We all must turn our attention to the logistics of liberty, lest we lose the deterrence and are forced to fight.
And that was before Obama, which makes those years rosy with "fond nostalgia" as I predicted.
I was in a gun store yesterday and a fellow came in searching for .22 Long Rifle cartridges. The store was out, except for some very high-end target ammo. The would be buyer was nonplussed and more than a little irritated. "Where IS it going?" he asked to anyone, everyone and no one all at the same time. "Where is it?!?"
It wasn't a government conspiracy, I told him, it was supply and demand and the demand was just absolutely unprecedented. Who was buying it? he demanded. The simple answer, I told him, was a lot more people for a lot more different reasons than in the past. First, there were a lot more weapons being sold in past few years. They had to fed. Then there was the fact that ammo in standard self defense calibers like 5.56 and .45 ACP was so expensive that owners of those firearms bought sub-caliber devices to train with the cheaper .22 Long Rifle, hence more demand for .22. Finally, I explained there was the undoubted fact that many folks were, even those who didn't own firearms, were investing in gold, silver and lead.
He looked puzzled. "Ever read a modern survival novel?" I asked him. In almost every one of them, I explained, the currency goes tits up and only items of real property retain their value. Econ 101, I explained: the value of a thing is what that thing will bring in commerce. If they no longer trust devalued currency, people will find a medium of exchange that know will retain its value. Hence, gold, silver and the poor man's investment, lead. .22 Long Rifle has long been considered a medium of exchange in a disaster scenario, the same with 12 Gauge shot shells. He began to understand.
Again, although I did not tell the frustrated customer this, I refer you gentle readers to Alas, Babylon. When the currency became worthless after The Day, the banker Edgar Quisenberry realized almost instantly that he had gone from being one of the biggest fish in the pond to flopping about the shore, gasping for the oxygen of power -- money.
Henrietta was a fool. This was the end. Civilization was ended. Of one thing Edgar was certain. He would not be crushed with the mob. He had been a banker all his life and that was the way he was going to die, a banker. He would not allow himself to be humiliated. He would not be reduced to begging gasoline or food, and be dragged down to the level of a probationary teller. He thought of all the notes outstanding that now would never be paid, and how his debtors must be chuckling. He scorned the improvident, and now the improvident would be as good as the careful, the sound, the thrifty. Well, let them try to go on without dollars. He would not accept such a world.
He found the old, nickel-plated revolver, purchased by his father many tears before, in the top drawer of his bureau. Edgar had never fired it. The bullets were green with mold and the hammer rusted. He put it to his temple, wondering whether it would work. It did.
Again in this scene, Frank has grasped and presented us with the essential. Even moldy ammunition in a rusted revolver is a means of power, even power so negatively applied and foolishly short-sighted. I continued to explain the ammo shortage to the anguished customer:
If you have to blame anybody for the shortage of .22 Long Rifle, blame Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve or the vastly expanded community Preppers who because of the Fed's actions no longer trust the currency and are trying to put their limited resources where it will retain the most value. That that happens to be .22 Long Rifle cartridges is your misfortune but they can hardly be blamed for it. They are just looking out for themselves in the most prudent and possible way they can. You might as well rage at the tide like King Canute.

King Canute commands the tide not to come in.
Just remember one thing. The rules of Pat Frank's world of Alas, Babylon no longer apply, especially as to time-stimulus-response. The day after whatever systemic collapse lays this country low, you will not be able to blithely drive down to Beck's Hardware to pick up ten boxes of twenty-two long rifle hollow-points. In the end, as evidenced by Pat Frank's non-fiction words quoted above, not even he trusted that to be true. And that was more than fifty years ago in a country that has long since disappeared. So stock up on ammunition of all calibers, including .22 Long Rifle as you can, where you can, paying what you must. It is credible deterrence in the box -- to common criminals or constitutional ones.
Mike Vanderboegh
PO Box 926
Pinson, AL 35126
(Permission to reproduce this in its entirety is granted as long as full attribution is given.)


Sean said...

I'm glad for who you are, Mike, and what you do. Back in 2007, I took your advice, and got busy on those essential things, and withstood the naysayers, the critics, and the scoffers, to put together a respectable barrier against what you have warned about. While I know that no prep can shield one from all arrows, doing something along the lines of serious and continuous will at least give one a chance. That, plus a mindset that keeps an eye on what is going on, gives one a fighting chance. I will always be grateful to you, and others in the prepper community for an awareness and alacrity that I know gives me an edge. I say ye, Mike Vandeboegh.

FG said...

Welcome back. You may have had a sleepless night, but it's good to read one right from the heart.

FWIW: I lived in Lake County, FL from 1999 - 2002.


MadDawg308 said...

I'm hitting the flea markets recently, buying ALL the ammo I can find, that is reasonably priced. Even calibers I can't use, because it makes good trading stock to friends or other folks who might need .270 Winchester, .41 Magnum, or oddballs like .296 Belchfire Magnums (no such caliber, used for parody). I even have 1,000 rounds of belted .50 BMG saved up, I don't have a .50 rifle but who knows - I might run into someone who REALLY needs some AP or APIT down the road.

Ammo is always a good investment. I wish I picked up a lot more surplus .308 and 8mm Mauser even only 10 years back, it would be non-replaceable now...

SWIFT said...

A friend and I went to a big gun show today in Pittsburgh, Pa. The prices of guns, both new and used, were outrageous. It was like all dealers marked up their guns 30%, from prices they have in their gun shops. Only one dealer had bulk ammo and that was priced out of my pay grade. I did purchase 4 boxes of semi wad cutter pistol ammo, more for a trade item than necessity. Sales all over the show were slow. .22's were nearly non-existant. The customers were there, but refused to be gouged. On the drive home, my friend and I were comparing notes on what we had observed. I am truly concerned about the future of gun shows in this area. Dealers need to think along the lines of volume sales, as opposed to thinking each individual firearm is a national treasure. It really is that bad. Mike, I enjoyed your post.

Anonymous said...

I love the essay on Pat Frank! Keep up the great writing!


Guesty McGuesterson said...

There has been no .22 of any kind (LR or Short) in our local WalMart since Dec 2012. The single pro shop/range in town has a few boxes, but the prices are triple what they used to be, and only when they have still sells out.

Recently I was at WalMart for my weekly trip and - as I always do - I stopped at the Sporting Goods section to pick up another couple boxes of various ammo. A man was politely grumbling about the absence of .22 anywhere. He was somewhat of a greenhorn to firearms but was making an effort to catch up (good for him) and had bought his daughter a little .22 bolt-action youth model so they could go to the range together (again, good for him).

What he didn't anticipate, however, was the need to stock up on ammo. He lamented not buying several boxes (albeit at inflated prices) when he got his daughter's gun. He still hadn't been able to take her to the range yet for lack of any ammo to shoot!

I listened with sympathy and gently said, "I started buying and stocking a very long time ago. Don't let yourself be unprepared for the future." He nodded.

Gunny G said...

A lot of people laughed back in 02/03 when I was buying up loads of surplus 06 and .45 from CMP and elsewhere and stockpiling it. Also .22 and 12ga.

They ain't laughing now.

bubba said...

Nice job Mike.


Anonymous said...

My dad had a copy that he gave me when I joined the Army back in 1971. It has been read about 10 times since '71 and a few years ago bought 3 more copies at one of the online shops. Two of these are "Loners" that I pass out to friends. A few years ago I kept some note paper handy so I could write comments and note page numbers along with items that need to be added to the inventory. One item added to the list when I read it last month is found at having a wood gasifier could generate electricity from wood gas. Another item is spare bicycle tires & inner tubes for cheap transportation. FYI a wood gasifier can be used to power a pick-up truck also. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND getting a copy of Alas Babylon, reading it a few times then reading it again while making a list of all the things that will be in short supply or nonexistent in the event of an emergency. It might not be a nuclear war like in this book but a winter storm, hurricane or other natural (or Obama caused) disaster will dry up the supply pipeline for ALL grocery delivery, electricity supply, water and gasoline. I think ALAS BABYLON is a MUST READ.

Anonymous said...

ah, Interlibrary Loan. I've never gotten
anything in less than a week; sometimes
months. but it's great otherwise.

you did right by photocopying the book;
there may be a War on Books in the works;

MarkinPNW said...

When I first read "Alas Babylon" as a Reader's Digest Condensed Book years ago, which I recognized by the plot as I didn't even remember the title, my first reaction was to go buy a couple of used manual typewriters (that don't require electriciy or electronics), one of which is still somewhere out in a storage shed in the yard. Of course, by this time the ribbon is probably completely dried up, which would make it about as useful as a .22 rifle without ammo.

WarriorClass III said...

Great post! Yeah, I took your advice back then and stocked up. Sure glad I did. Still can't find the powder I wanted though, it's been back ordered for about 6 months or more now. Still, at this point it would just be icing on the cake.

Keep up the good work!

Matt Bracken said...

Terrific essay, Mike. Incidentally, I drew from Alas, Babylon when I wrote my recent short story Alas, Brave New Babylon. Here's a 60-second trailer that a fan made for it, gratis.
If the link doesn't work, it's on YouTube as "Bracken's Alas Brave New Babylon trailer."

Anonymous said...

Good article, thanks for writing it!

Anonymous said...

I've read and enjoyed this novel several times as well as Earth Abides, another great novel.
I do believe though that there are several truths that most reading this article don't get.
The need for great quantities of ammo is greatly exaggerated.
After SHTF game will be nonexistent within a very short time. The sound of gunfire will be a draw card for unsavory people. Read any of the literature concerning hunting during the Indian wars of the 17th-19th century. Hunters fired one shot and waited hours in hiding before approaching their kill. At least the ones who wanted to keep their hair did.
Surviving a gun battle is problematic, especially if you're armed with a handgun. Does anyone really think they'll need more than a few rounds to get out of trouble? Either you're up against several bad guys or you're a lousy shot. Either way you're probably toast. As to protecting your "fort", you'll either get hit at 0 dark thirty or get picked off from 400 yds. Either way a few boxes of 223, 308 or 12ga. will decide the matter.
I suppose you could be thinking of beating off the Red army or Zombies but perhaps learning some skills might be give you a better Bang for your buck.
Just saying folks, be real in your preps.

Bob G said...

Great essay, Mike!

I read Pat Frank's novel a long time ago as a high school student, then re-read it a couple of years ago. It displays the attitudes and norms of the 50s, but it still has a lot of merit.

I agree 100% that it would be worse now, and that the breakdown would happen much more rapidly than in the book.

I also read Frank's book on survival, back in the 1980s. I think if he were writing it today, perhaps he'd suggest a plain-vanilla, bare-bones (and lightweight) AR instead of a Remington Nylon 66.

Thanks again for such a good essay. I'm saving this one to read again.


Paul X said...

Great post, Mike!

Look at the bright side. If the ammo-producing industry is and has been for months running 24/7 at full capacity, that's a Hell of a lot of deterrence being squirreled away for that rainy decade.

Bless Obama, the world's best gun salesman ever. If Romney had gotten elected, gun owners would be asleep.

Anonymous said...

Years ago my much wiser friend Chuck lent me an older copy of this book. I was fascinated, so sought out my own copy.

Much to my dismay it had been made more "politically correct" by removing the attack on the bee keeper & his family. The only part remaining was an offhand reference to the "sticky" weapon taken from the dead highwaymen.

Makes me wonder what else was removed, or altered. Since I no longer have access to the older version, all I have to rely on is my memory, and it's a bit questionable these days.


The Imfamous Oregon Lawhobbit said...

First book I ever bought with my own money! Only 95 cents, in one of those school deals where you wait impatiently for the Big Box Of Books to arrive and be parceled out among all the students who ordered off a list of available titles.

Still have the thing, too, though it's wrapped in "Protective Ziploc Custody."

Still waiting on an electronic version so I can stop wearing covers off 'em - I'm on my third one, now.

Herb said...

The one line in Pat Frank's 1962 book that sticks in my mind concerns barter:

"The day may come when a pound of tobacco is worth more than a pound of gold."

Or, paraphrasing, a brick of .22lr Stingers may someday outvalue a brick of gold. Another good reason to stock up.

Thanks for a great article on an unobtainable book. Would uploading your xerox copy as a .pdf file be too terribly illegal?

Anonymous said...

Too cool, I have a copy of "How To Survive The H Bomb And Why"
Great companion to "Alas, Babylon"
It would go much cheaper to someone that would appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I have a set of loading dies for every gun I own. That includes my Civil War .56-.56 Spencer that I have a center fire breach block for.
I try to keep loading components on hand, sometimes its easier to find than loaded Ammo.
If it's kept clean and dry, ammunition will last practically forever. The Military Shelf Life is 25 years, I even have some 1918 that still shoots. (I wouldn't trust my life to it, though.)
I wouldn't trust my life to 9MM, either. I use good old .45ACP
Alas Babylon, Earth Abides and even Red Dawn are great food for thought.
Sgian Dubh.