Jul 282011

My novel needs a little flavor.

I’ve been working on some fleshing out of characters and am planning to do part of it by way of a market scene that plays on character interactions. The setting is near future, post-apocalyptic, east Texas in a small town, relatively closed community (two years after a “limited” nuclear war that pretty much destroys the electronic infrastructure that we currently depend on). I’m after ideas on what kind of trade goods one could expect to find in a world where most electronics don’t work.

This means no power tools to manufacture unless they’ve been adapted to work on a power source other than electricity. It means no electrical power plants, but people are learning to make smaller, “personal power plants” from car generators/alternators attached to waterwheels, windmills, or other centrifugal force devices. This means limited electricity and manufacturing capability.

What I’ve envisioned so far –

“Old world” scavenged trade goods – aerosol cheese, canned goods (just make sure they aren’t swollen with bacteria :pain: ), metals from stripped appliances and automobiles, car parts for those cars that still run – or for use in other projects, etc.

Craft or artisan goods – woodcarved items, pottery,  herbal remedies, paintings, hand-woven cloth or clothing, homemade garden tools, homemade fallout detectors, homemade electrical generator kits, etc.

Raw materials – seeds, homegrown garden goods, marijuana, herbs, hunters can bring meats, etc.

What else would you think would be available in this kind of setting? What kind of interactions (bartering, obviously) can you think of that I may have overlooked? I’m looking for a light, friendly, interlude piece – a few pages of “an afternoon at the market”.

So can anyone add to this with ideas on trade goods? Fun items that the kids can find for Mom’s birthday? What a character in this setting should watch out for, both good and bad?

Any ideas will be greatly appreciated.

  6 Responses to “Need Post Apocalyptic trade goods ideas”

  1. My brother and I in our early teens, took an edger engine and a car alternator and mounted it to a board with a belt drive. Bruce, had an inverter that the alternator fed and we were able to make an emergency generator. Many hand tools today are battery powered and with a setup with the generator/motor/inverter, and a gasoline supply, then power tools could be around for quite a few years enabling the community to be able to have power tools for rebuilding.
    Solar panels are huge. There are some solar panels sold today that unfold and can trickle charge batteries especially batteries used by electric outboard motors in the fishing community. These panels can also keep laptops charged.
    Water-powered water pumps
    Hydraulic ram water pumps use downhill water pressure to pump water much higher than it started, with no other power needed. A 20ft fall is enough to push water 150 feet above the source or more. Or as little as a 2ft fall between the water source and the pump at a flow rate of 1 to 3 gallons per minute is enough to pump water 20ft higher than the source — as much as 4,000 gallons a day, depending on the model.

  2. Another posapoliptic gadget would be a solar oven. I read and saw on one of the science channels that there is a company funding some women in camps in Bosina or someplace to make solar ovens out of cardboard and alumininum foil. With solar ovens, the postapoliptic community could have baked goods.

    • Thanks Barry. All excellent ideas. While I don’t see aluminum foil being a common enough commodity to use this way (at least, not two years after D-day), I can easily see polished metal from scavenged appliances being used in the same manner. Looks like I need to do a little research on solar ovens. :)

      Thanks again.

  3. I’d imagine toiletries of any kind, but especially toilet paper, would command a high price. There wouldn’t be a lot left two years after D-Day.

    • I thought about that actually. Quite honestly, I decided to avoid the issue of the tissue for a couple of reasons. First, there is the whole “toilet paper used for air filtration” thing (though, now that I think about it, I believe that was removed from the latest version of the novel for the sake of brevity). I mean, who would want to worry about radioactive toilet paper when they’re squatting over a latrine? :) Secondly, it’s like you said – two years after organized manufacturing goes belly up, how much toilet paper would still be useable?

      And of course, there’s always the old avoidance issue. You never read about how characters go to the toilet except in the most cursory manner (for obvious reasons). I have already broken that rule somewhat in this latest version of the novel (assuming my revisions make it past the editor :) ) in writing about how bad it smells after a week in the fallout shelter. If you’re interested, here’s an excerpt:

      Debra raised an eyebrow at me and I shrugged. We were both too tired to worry about another spat between the kids. It had already been a week, and we were all feeling the pressure of living in a darkened, confined space. And truth be told, Zach was right. The place did always smell like farts – or worse. There were seven of us living in less than three hundred square feet of dimly lit tunnel, and around the corner at one end of that tunnel was what passed for our bathroom. There was no way the place couldn’t stink, but usually I managed to block it from my mind.

      Now, call me a coward, but that’s as close as I’m going to come to writing about the more delicate bodily functions. Especially when I recall how much heat S.M. Stirling has taken over his detailed descriptions of how the body loses control when in the throes of death.

      I did go so far as to research what was used instead of TP before there was TP, and I found that the most common precursors to scented double-ply were cheap books or catalog pages, or (shudder) corn cobs. :shock: I simply wasn’t ready to go into explaining that one. So yes, I took the coward’s way out and ignored the issue (no pun intended) completely.

  4. I used to make some solar panels with the bottom of a fridge and some aluminium paper. I also think that some of the most popular goods in such a situation would be the steam staff, and so everything that can be burned. Hunting and fishing staff, gasmasks, tools, string, gas welding staff, seeds, un-contaminated ground, hunting birds might also become very useful. Wood shaving is super efficient to start a fire and absorbs most of the toilets smells. Some people may also build some underground settlements to protect themselves from radiations. Anyway, I think the best way for everyone to find ideas about post apo essential goods is to figure out you’re in a post apo situation and than to go in a garbage dump and pick up the goods you may need. Good luck!

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