Chris was kind enough to answer some questions from the ZeroGov staff about himself, his books and his prognostications for the future. Enjoy. I highly recommend them. Chris’ responses are in italics.
You can buy it here. Be sure to look for the second volume if you are interested. -BB
- What motivated you to write Operation SERF?
I started writing the first book purely for fun during some of my limited free time on weekends one winter. It was an exercise in creativity which was encouraged by author/blogger Charles Hugh Smith. The entire book was originally posted as free weekly installments on his oftwominds.com website. The idea grew larger than I had initially imagined and the web series became the first book of a trilogy. My time spent boots on the ground in Iraq and my studies of the collapse of Yugoslavia gave me both the concrete hands-on experience and academic knowledge needed to breathe life into a fictional scenario. But aside from the creativity associated from doing art for the sake of it, part of my motivation was to warn my fellow Americans about a devastating course should we chose such a path in the future.
- How close are we to a collapse similar to the book’s portrayal of the slow and grinding fall into the abyss?
Right now we as a nation could go either way. Keep in mind that I’m thinking about a time-line over the next 10 years. I’m focused on economics today because that is the main crossroad we’re at in 2011. The question we’re faced with now is can we create enough jobs for not only the adults who are currently out of work, but all the new graduates who will be seeking work each year from here on out. The question tomorrow at the next critical junction will be do we have the natural resources and fuel supply to meet the demands of a growing population. No matter how I project various scenarios out in my own mind, my intuition tells me we will be forced to change our way of life. I’d like to think we’re capable of decentralizing governance and production to meet regional needs in a sustainable way, but I doubt the people currently in power are capable of relinquishing their grips on the reins. I see no evidence yet that the flawed personalities of our so-called leaders who’ve brought us to the brink of collapse will be miraculously healed in time to avert a hard landing. Therefore as it stands now, their proposed solutions will either still fail or only bring greater strife.
- Since writing the book, have real time events around the globe caused you to think that it may happen just as you extrapolated?
The word “austerity” had not yet entered the common American vocabulary when I began writing the book in late 2008, but in 2011 we’re beginning to understand how it will affect local, state and federal budgets. It will take a few more years before we see how this plays out on the street in concrete terms. More people will become unemployed and even if they’re able to find work later, it won’t be for the same pay they had in the past. Their standard of living will fall. When there’s no money to fix the infrastructure and the concrete literally begins crumbling under our collective feet, only then will the people who’ve had continuous employment all along realize that our slow downhill trend had been afoot the entire time.
- What is wrong with a splintered nation? I would suggest that the US is not too big to fail and that its devolution rent by secession and separation may make it more vital economically. There may even be pockets of freedom and liberty in certain states and confederations. Thoughts?
The consequences of devolution could include hyperinflation which would be economically harmful for many people. Honest hard-working citizens who played by the rules in the old system would likely see a lifetime of wealth destroyed. In many ways, this is another form of theft. The splintering process itself could also be physically harmful. I see the potential for actual armed battles like 1990s Yugoslavia or the Spanish Civil War rather than an indifferent separation like the Baltic nations and the old Soviet Union. Up until the mid-20th Century, America had a long history which included episodes of violence, internal warfare and oppression. Combine that with the personalities of the people in power and a lot of desperation in the cities and it’s a recipe for real blood in the streets. There is plenty of room for directed manipulation of events.
The potential certainly exists for some states to be places of relative economic prosperity where people live within their means and respect each other. However, the possibility also exists for fiefdoms of repression which hearkens back to the days behind the Iron Curtain and even outright corporate serfdom. Either way, a splintered United States would leave former Americans more vulnerable to outside military threats from nations which have not splintered. China and Russia immediately come to mind as forces to be reckoned with. Despite some minor ruckus in some cities around Europe today, I also wouldn’t rule out the EU as a major force in the future. We Americans should always remember that the original native inhabitants of North and South America were divided into separate tribes who were all conquered by relatively small expeditionary forces from foreign lands.
- You and I have both served and fought in the Army. From your experience, do you suppose there is going to be some surprise guerrilla talent emerging in post-Federal North America? The Israeli Defense Forces were stopped cold and essentially defeated in their incursion into Lebanon in 2006 by what is arguably the best equipped, trained and resourced guerrilla force on Earth – Hezbollah [the Tamil LTTE used to have that distinction but have since been eclipsed]. Are there some interesting players on the horizon in America?
I anticipate a state governor (or a block of states) will assert authority in the future against federal and/or corporate encroachment. However, this will require backing from big players within their respective states. The old state government and local business apparatus would still form the backbone behind any military muscle which could move in the field against similar forces from other opposing elites. The question then becomes who is the head of that body. Such leaders might be in positions of power right now, but are playing their cards very cautiously. This lends itself to my view of the factions who today normally work together in their mutual interest fleecing common Americans, but could turn on one another when the going gets tough in the future. If those powerful players are physically threatened by their peers, things could get nasty in a hurry. Those factions would have no shortage of both trained operators and cannon fodder to wage actual battles in the future. To preempt such a situation, some states and the federal government will restrict the civilian possession of arms. Private corporations could jump in on this by making it difficult to import and/or produce arms, ammunition, critical components, and raw materials in some states. Without ammunition, modern weapons are useless. Law enforcement agencies that run afoul of another quasi-governmental or corporate group’s desire to retain possession of control might find themselves restricted on paper as well.
On the flip-side, some states might encourage an increase in weapon possession, arms production, and even training of civilian volunteers. This might not be with the intent of creating an army to oppose various factions or their neighboring states, but rather to protect their own state as a whole should the national or global situation devolve into one of uncertain chaos.
- How would you suggest readers prepare for what is obviously an economic calamity ahead of us for America?
I will combine with the question below.
- What critical survival skills will be important in the near future?
Maintaining good relationships with extended family and friends is of critical importance. Pooling resources, skills, and money will be necessary to make it through the tough times ahead. When it comes down to the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter, the majority of Americans need to relearn the skills of self-sufficiency which go beyond the grocery store or the community food pantry. Most people can’t grow acres of grain in their backyards, but they can certainly plant a small garden and learn how to grind wheat to make their own bread. Every suburban backyard deck should have planters full of vegetables. Practicing the basic skill of growing your own food while times are still good puts you far ahead on the learning curve. Trying to figure this out for the first time at the beginning of a long crisis is not only a day late and a dollar short, it may leave you without a loaf of bread and literally starving.
- I get the feeling you are very cynical about political parties and solutions. Where do we go from here?
The two-headed party and certain large corporations have completely failed the people of this country. We’ve had so-called leaders who either had a complete lack of foresight and were easy dupes to be manipulated by powerful interests or those who were willingly bought off and chose to betray the American people for personal gain. One group you can excuse to some extent due to their own ignorance, the other one needs criminal charges brought against them.
I would like to see a culture of responsibility instituted again in this country. This needs to begin first with the leaders who would hold their peers accountable. Only then could trust be re-established from top to bottom in a system which is supposed to operate under a rule of law.
- The staff at ZeroGov is what one could classify as “gun enthusiasts” of the highest order. Are you a practiced shooter? Any preferences for rifle and pistol?
I practice frequently, moving forward while shooting up close on some days and precision shooting from a distance on others. I’ve fired every type of firearm over the years, but I prefer semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines. I like M4geries with Trijicons on top, but I spend a significant amount of time with AKs and iron sights, too. I’ll break out a battle rifle in 7.62N from time to time, but the ammo has been prohibitively expensive over the last few years.
- Operation SERF is a trilogy, when will the third book be published?
I’m aiming toward later this year before Christmas, but it might be spring of 2012. My writing has slowed this past year due to focusing more time on my own family and other personal pursuits. I think some of my earliest fans assumed the final book would be done by now because I published the first two books only a year apart. I was very driven and mostly wanted to prove myself that novels could be created within a few months. Writing is an easy thing for me, but finding the time to do everything I want to in this one short lifetime is not. To make a long explanation short, I’m committed to finishing the trilogy and that goal will be accomplished.