Saturday, September 10, 2011

Communicating after EMP.

So I am editing my second completed book. I am over 20k words in and well on track to finish on time as planned. I have a new thread to add in after my first read through that will help push my word count over the 70k mark like I want. I am very pleased with that.

On to my other creation. North has helped me get my basic Apocalypse event figured out. My series is going to take place about 25 years after the event I think. So civilization is trying to rebuild but it isn't great. The event is man-made and natural. Basically a large scale EMP prevents the world from stopping an asteroid. The event also has the effect of boosting the paranormal/magic on the planet. I am kind of combining multiple genres here, hehehe. Soooooo anyway here is where I need thinking. The event destroys all things electrical and the asteroid hits in the pacific taking out a large chunk of the west coast. We are now 25 years later. Obviously things are rebuilding but when you wipe technology out pretty much back to the stone age and take a giant chunk of population with it building back is slow as molasses. So I am having my main character be a cop. Federal though I am not sure yet how that will look. I am thinking the entire continent may become one country.  Obviously basic power was the priority so cell communication is still going to be down. I want communication ideas. Maybe not a way to go nation wide though, more of a relay type system. Not sure really. My girl is going to need to be able to get info from all over but not very easily. Travel is also going to be slower than normal. Which is part of why her job is going to suck.

So ideas? Thoughts?


  1. Teletype... simple, yet complicated enough to be a challenge...

  2. Vacuum tube radios are mostly not susceptible to EMP. Also, in the very early days of the ham radio hobby they used spark transmitters and very, very simple receivers with 1 or 2 tubes. Stuff like that would likely survive an EMP. Their effective range was a few miles to tens of miles, although depending on atmospheric conditions occasionally hams could make brief contacts across the continent or across the ocean using Morse Code. Spark transmitters only exist in museums these days, but they could be improvised by people who know what they're doing.

    In the early 1900s the American Radio Relay League ( formed to organize hams into a network that could relay messages from station to station across the country. Today they are active in providing communication assistance for emergency relief agencies during disasters. Many of their members (like me) would be able to cobble together some simple radio gear in that situation.

    Old NFO is right about teletypes. They use electric motors and magnets but are mechanical and not susceptible to EMP. They could operate between any two points where you could find or run a pair of wires and a supply of electricity. Telegraphs work in the same way, but are easier for someone to build in a garage with common tools and supplies. Telegraphs are slower and require an operator trained in Morse Code.

  3. And don't lock yourself into technology, either. Most likely there would be a lot of old pony express type stuff going on. It might not be a bad idea to do research on how primitive villages and small towns in developing and third-world countries communicate right now. That's most likely what it might be like. Nothing like being able to actually see the details of what you're trying to create if at all possible.

  4. Telegraph is fairly easy to build and not very sophisticated so that might be an option.

    In desert or clear air mountain regions heliography worked for the U.S. Army in the late 19th century.

  5. While they’re all great ideas don’t forget the simple stuff. In many far corners of the world news still get around by messengers, on foot or bicycle.

  6. You guys are awesome! Thanks. These are all awesome ideas for me to look at and honestly I had only thought of ham or telagraph myself.

  7. Dave's point is a good one, maybe start with telegraph, moving up to teletype, and 'some' ham rigs that survived for long range comms.

  8. Random thoughts,

    • Find some of the old "Ashes" books from William Johnstone. His main character is a guy named Ben Raines and the books' premise is just about what you're going after.

    • Having your hero be a cop will be difficult. Making him a "national" cop will make him the villain in the eyes and minds of your readers. (Never forget your target audience.)

    • In a state of rebuilding, you'll need "common" communications and you'll need secure communications. When a society or organization rebuilds, there is always a power struggle which means sensitive communications need to be sent via trusted, secure methods.

    Good luck.


  9. AOA- Thanks for the book recommendations I will look them up. The survival/rebuild aspect isn't the focus. The storyline focus is the crime and the magic/paranormal aspect. My target audience is mainstream paranormal crime readers. The post apocalypse world is the backdrop so I want to build it true which is why I asked for advice but I plan to go for the crime. For example the first book is basically my heroine investigating a missing girl only to discover it is much bigger and is actually a white slavery type case. So I am going to be taking liberties with some things. While we all know the majority of survivors of this type of event would be those most prepared and those with darn good ingenuity the world at large doesn't want to hear that. I write to entertain not educate. I want my reader to see a world and think but I mostly want them to curl up on a stormy day and escape the world. You are very right about multiple layers of communication. That is an aspect I hadn't thought of. Thank you.


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