05 April 2012

E is for EMP (A-Z Challenge)

E is for EMP

A favourite among science-y and conspiracy theory types the EMP (or Electro Magnetic Pulse) is based on the idea that nuclear weapons shot high into the atmosphere would not cause radioactive fallout but would make all electronic devices unusable.  Yeah, no longer being able to watch TV would make for boring evenings, but what about our e-book readers? Arghhhhhhhhh!  On more serious notes it would also make most modern cars unusable, electricity and phones would fail, and you’re going to have to get out the old washboard to keep your duds clean.

Scenario:  Either localized or world-wide, an EMP is going to be a pain in the proverbial.  Suddenly thrown back hundreds of years in terms of technology, humans are going to have to rely on those old basics of survival.  Survival in the big cities will be tougher than out in the country, but scavenging and raiding are going to be the new black.  There are obviously ways to write a good old conspiracy in here too.

Characters:  A group of friends, a township or a family can work, but a stranded traveler is also a unique idea – road trip with limited vehicle choices anyone?  Your characters are going to have to be self-sufficient and smart and if they lack basic survival skills they will either have to learn, or buddy up with a know-it-all.

Location: Cities would work for an action-packed survival tale, making do with the things found in average homes, scavenging and avoiding gangs of raiders.  Country towns may choose to isolate themselves from the rest of the world whilst trying to keep their community alive.  A road-trip (yeah, I love ‘em, okay?) can show a bit of everything.

Stand-alone or series:  A series is going to be a survival/rebuilding exercise for the most part – the actual damage to the earth is limited.  As a stand-alone the ending will be tricky, but is doable.

Recommended by me

One Second After by William R. Forstchen

Published: 1 January 2009

Pages: 352 (hardcover)

A story which can be all too terrifyingly real...a story in which one man struggles to save his family and his small North Carolina town after America loses a war, in one second, a war that will send America back to the Dark Ages...A war based upon a weapon, an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP).

77 Days in September by Ray Gorham

Published: 25 May 2011

On a Friday afternoon before Labor Day, Americans are getting ready for the holiday weekend, completely unaware of a long-planned terrorist plot about to be launched against the country. Kyle Tait is settling in for his return flight home when a single nuclear bomb is detonated 300 miles above the heart of America. The blast, an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP), destroys every electrical device in the country, and results in the crippling of the power grid, the shutting down of modern communications, and bringing to a halt most forms of transportation.

Kyle narrowly escapes when his airplane crashes on take-off, only to find himself stranded 2,000 miles from home in a country that has been forced, from a technological standpoint, back to the 19th Century. Confused, hurt, scared, and alone, Kyle must make his way across a hostile continent to a family he’s not even sure has survived the effects of the attack. As Kyle forges his way home, his frightened family faces their own struggles for survival in a community trying to halt its own slow spiral into chaos and anarchy.

Based on scientist’s predictions of what would happen if a single nuclear bomb is detonated over Kansas, 77 Days in September follows Kyle and his wife, Jennifer, as they are stretched past their breaking point, but find in their devotion to each other the strength to persevere.


  1. Note that modern autos not working is a fictional device generated through authors getting their scientific information from earlier novels. Later research showed that the majority of vehicles if hit by a pulse will be able to restart after the vehicle rolls to a stop.

    Also note, that there are scientific papers that indicate (with math even) that negative feedback loops make the EMP rather limited in effective area.

  2. I loved one second after! I'll have to try the other one too.

    Visting from A to Z.


  3. One Second After really bothered me for some reason, and I was unable to finish it. I suppose the realistic manner in which it was written and the diabetic child made it a literary adventure that I wasn't interested in taking. I've read another novel somewhat recently that used an EMP, but it didn't scare me as much. I'll try to remember what it was and get back to you. :-)

  4. Visiting from A to Z :) I can't even imagine what we'd do if we all had to go back about 100 years tech-wise. We're so tech-reliant now it would be a huge adjustment.



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