There was no universally accepted theory on why the electricity
went sour. Some hypothesized it had to do with the earth's magnetic
fields, or solar flares, or the approaching armageddon. But it's
five years later and Jesus hasn't announced his arrival, nor
done anything to correct the problem. Ever since the summer of 1994,
all electric systems have gone down to 10% of their former efficiency,
for no apparent reason anyone could agree on. You feed a ton of coal
into a burner to generate electricity, and it puts out 90% less juice
than it used to. Cars, trucks, trains and planes were immobilized,
except for a few huge planes and trucks that were outfitted with
massive fuel systems, most of their cargo space now used for their
own fuel tanks and enormous engines.
Since fuels still burn the same way and water still boils at 212
degrees F, you can still power mechanical devices by steam. It's
taking a while to adapt that forgotten technology to cars and trains
again, so you're going to see more people riding horses than you'll
see steam cars around. (And steam can't solve all problems. If you
use steam pressure to turn a generator, you still get a piddling 10%
of the juice you used to get out of it.) Chemicals still react and
explode the same way, so old or new guns or mortars or grenades with
no electrical parts still operate perfectly.
Society tried to break down, but the Republicans stepped up to
bat and made sure the trains ran on time. Which is to say, the
federal government was neutralized in favor of state and local
dictators. Some state officials declared themselves "Counts" or
"Dukes" and divided the counties among themselves. The Union
eventually broke down the same way it would have without the
"leadership" of the Republicans. Except multi-national corporations
were able to convert their organizations to nations and city-states
more easily than they might have done in a more rapid breakdown.
The few freedoms protected by the old, sorta liberal U.S.
government are now forgotten, depending on how hungry your local
politicians are. As before the breakdown, people know who they are
and where they belong, maybe a little more strictly enforced than
before, since local cops can shoot your ass for any reason they want.
How is the average citizen affected by this? Materially, figure
90% less of the income and luxuries that average people used to enjoy.
Forget the phone, the tv, the vcr, the lights, the microwave. Upper
middle class families will have two bicycles and maybe a handcrank
radio. How many of your friends & family have big screen tvs?
That's how many would have handcrank radios. Gas stove & heat are
awesome luxuries now. Most get by with woodburning stoves. Poorer
people move South, or catch pneumonia and die. Lots of people roam
from town to town with their families, looking for better places to
work or forage. Some go North or South to work the fields for ADM or
Bell South. You'll be well fed if you pledge 10 or 20 years to the
In other ways, your standard of living depends on who controls your
region of the former United States. . .
** The South is pretty much run by Bell South, and their human
rights record is fairly good, as long as you do your job right.
Slavery is not allowed, for example, except on a contractual basis.
They aren't racist, don't get the wrong idea: they treat any race or
ethnicity as a potential slave.
** Texas was taken back by Mexico, only to be taken again by the
Zapatistas, who have also taken much of the Baja peninsula. NAFTA?
** The "Presidents" of California and Nevada were smart enough to
take Portland, Seattle and all of the West Coast. Now it's the
Pacific Federation. Bill Gates escaped to Samoa, biding his time.
** All around the Rockies are territories ruled from county to
county, mostly feudal systems, with no major corporations or
dictators in power over the whole area. Survivalists who cocooned
themselves in bunkers beneath the desert have been partying harder
than Mardi Gras for five years, singing "We told you so! You were
unprepared and you suck! We are the Champions! Facial Disgracial!"
** The Great Plains of the Midwest (from the Rockies across to
Illinois and Missouri, including the rebuilt remains of Chicago) are
now called The Democratic Republic of ADM (Archer-Daniels-Midland),
known to its slaves and victims as the DReADlands. Since ADM has a
strangle hold on growing and distributing food [and if you think I'm
exaggerating, check out their real live website, www.admworld.com ],
they are the most powerful corporation and the most powerful nation
in the former USA. The DReADlands Army makes continuous attacks on
Mexico, Canada & the Rocky Mt. City-states to capture more slaves.
A true multi-national corporation, DRADM also holds colonies in Asia,
and most of Central and South America.
** Alaska is now a battleground between several thousand socialist
eco-hippies and the armies of Skull Oil Company, a subsidiary of the
** New England is another scramble of a dozen big and little
territories battling and resting and battling again. The major
players are: Vermont, which greatly expanded to include some of
upstate NY and Mass.; the Mennonite Republic (most of Penn.); and
Trump's Taj Majersey which controls New York City, Jersey, Philly,
down through Maryland and DC. Trump rules Long Island with a titanium
fist, his little home away from home now that he has eradicated all
** Michigan, Ohio and Indiana pulled together as Patriot Nation
under the triumvirate leadership of Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper and
** Ted Turner fled Atlanta, Georgia, before it seceded from Bell
South and became an unconquerable, uncontrollable city-state known as
** Virginia and the Carolinas are hardly different, except the
tourist trade fell off a little. If you can still afford to go to
college, you can still afford Spring Break in Myrtle Beach.
** Canada is just Canada. They really haven't noticed anything is
** West Virginia is the firearms manufacturing center of the newly
disintegrated nation. W VA maintains a massive army to defend itself
** Hawaii hasn't been heard from in two years.
** Europe? Asia? Africa? Hell, I don't know. If you want to play
any of those locations, start your own damn game!
Music Industry in the Down Beat world.
It used to be you'd make a demo tape, send it around to the
companies, get a record deal, press some CD's and tapes, then you'd
make a video, pray for heavy rotation, and finally you'd tour to pump
up sales of your album.
These days, the process is backwards and partially obliterated.
First, you can cross off videos. Five percent of the population
can afford TV's now, and they don't want to waste it watching Matt
Pinfield introduce the latest Matchbox 20 video. And of course, you
can't make the kind of money off records or tapes that you used to,
now that only a third or half the population has radios, and fewer
have functioning tape decks or record players. Even if they did, it
costs the musician and/or the record company ten times as much for
studio time and manufacturing costs.
The main money now is made by touring. We still call them "record
companies," but their larger functions are to set up tours and promote
their performers. Any tapes or records made after that are a small
Now imagine you're on a tour through Kosovo, Bagdad, Afganistan,
and the East Side of Detroit. You better be Evel Knievel just to
survive the bus ride. If you get to the club or cornfield or
bunker where you're booked to play without severe wounds, then you
can breathe easy. ...Until a neighboring city-state starts shelling
the club and harvesting fresh slaves from your audience.
It's a hard way to live. But what else you gonna do? Train as
a blacksmith's apprentice? Better go practice your scales more. . .