Posted on July 30 2018
We actually ran an experiment before writing Black Autumn.
Gritty, steely-eyed, American preppers. How would they hold up if the Shit Hit the Fan? How would our post-modern sensitivities impact our survival performance?
We wondered too. So, we set up an experiment with twenty American preppers and we rolled the dice. Here's what we learned.
1. Their ability to run a gun went immediately to shit. Alas, with a bit of rain and a combat mission, our boys fell to pieces. Right off the bat, fully-rested and fresh as a spring morning, we sent our two teams on a mission to interdict a convoy of supplies. It began to rain a little, making the trails slick and knocking the guys off-kilter.
They had been armed with laser AR15s, sensor vests and shock belts. Even after a full brief from a Navy SEAL, the teams BOTH lost all coordination the moment they entered the forest. They criss-crossed downrange of one another. Gun safety went out the window. They shot the hell out of their own guys. Leadership collapsed. Chaos ensued. (It should be noted that most of these guys have formal firearm training.)
There's a saying: "If it ain't raining, it ain't training." Well.. let's just say we learned a lot about our level of preparedness. Check out the video.
2. Democracy didn't work at all. One team held to Democracy and tried to give everyone a say. They fell to pieces. The other team appointed a dictator--and he wasn't even a benevolent dictator (he yelled most of the time.) That team did much better. Crisis of leadership plagued the Democracy team throughout the entire 72 hour experience and it cost them dearly.
3. At night, everyone was a lamb to the slaughter. Most of the guys had trained to fight with a gun... during the day. Nobody was ready to fight at night. A single shooter slipped into the perimeter surrounding the "City Slicker" camp. For over two hours, he killed dudes with impunity. Nobody knew how to defeat a threat at night. Then, the guys running the experience loaned the Hillbilly Team a pair of night vision goggles to see what would happen. The Hillbillies owned the other team and even managed to walk away with their generator. Watch the City Slickers come unraveled in the video below.
4. After a single night, one team's morale collapsed and some preferred death over the mental duress. Even with full bellies and a decent night's sleep, the City Slicker team basically folded under the stress of crappy leadership and repeated failure. One guy quit, claiming that his dog got something in his eye. Another guy wanted to quit because his team got mad at him for vanishing without telling anyone. Another guy said, "If the Apocalypse is going to be like this, I would rather die." He said that less than twenty hours into the experience and he was the most-skilled woodsman in the group.
5. Alcohol became a critical morale booster. The Hillbilly Team judiciously applied alcohol and guitar and it saved their asses. Though it compromised whatever discipline that might've had at night, the Dictator Team--the Hillbillies-- broke out the whiskey both nights and restored their team morale and cohesion. Strangely, it made a serious difference in the quality of their decision-making the next day. Morale became the MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR in success or failure.
More than anything, we learned that surviving a collapse wouldn't be anything like we had imagined. Just the switch from post-modern comfort to fighting in the outdoors turned almost everyone into the worst version of themselves.
Some guys abandoned their team to sleep off their ennui. Other guys got angry and stayed angry. Half the guys got depressed and stumbled around the forest like zombies. All this happened within less than two days. Their minds utterly betrayed them, almost without exception.
When you watch Readyman Challenge Three, you'll notice we applied many of these lessons to the Black Autumn novel, overlaying the conflicts and surprises we saw in the ReadyMan Challenge into our vision of post-apocalyptic America.
So, when you're reading the novels and you wonder, "Would it really go down like that?" There's a good chance we saw it happen, either overseas while Jeff was serving or right here in America as we tested men and women in ReadyMan Challenges.
Buy Black Autumn Here!