In the future, cities will become deserts…

by Stone Semyorka

Remember Pleasantville? Where Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon were transported from their tumultuously teenage lives in a stereotypical 1990s household back into the calm and collected black-and-white world of a TV sitcom set in a perfect 1950s town? You know, something like the hometowns of Father Knows Best or Leave It To Beaver?

Wasteland - yurt welcome center
A yurt welcome center greets a visitor to the post-apocalyptic Wasteland

Reese is hot and Tobey is a nerd, neither of which was imaginable in ’50s Pleasantville. Back home in the ’90s, he had been a couch-potato expert on Pleasantville trivia. She had been sexually precocious.

In the ’50s, she worries about her figure when her stay-at-home mom ladles on breakfasts of eggs, bacon, ham, waffles and pancakes. Reese finds the innocent basketball team captain and teaches him about sex, which changes everything for the satisfied folks enjoying their simple lives in Pleasantville.

A cold war

TV does not always mimic RL in the same way SL mimics RL. For instance, the superpower rivalry in the 1950s was anything but the simple life depicted in TV sitcoms back then.

Wasteland - junk strewn desert
Wasteland of rusting junk strewn across the post-apocalyptic desert

A major period in the Cold War, the 1950s was a time of intense tension and competition between the United States and the Soviet Union that continued to the ’90s.

The Cold War was about political ideology, military coalitions, weapons industries, psychological operations, espionage, technological developments, and massive spending on a nuclear arms race.

Wasteland - silo and propeller
Mutant humans salvaged remnants of a long lost technology to construct shelter and tools for existence in the desert

Golden Age of sci-fi

The renowned writer Robert A. Heinlein tells us science fiction is “realistic speculation about possible future events.”

The 1930s and ’40s were the Golden Age of sci-fi. By the time of Pleasantville in the 1950s, sci-fi writers like Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Damon Knight, Donald A. Wollheim, Frederik Pohl, James Blish, Judith Merril, Arthur C. Clarke, A. E. Van Vogt and William S. Burroughs were stimulating readers with a plethora of sci-fi genres.

Wasteland - rusted panel hole
Whatever can be found must be salvaged when you have nothing else

Contemplation of what we now call nuclear winter pushed amazing realities out of the minds of science fiction writers through their typewriters onto paper and film.

One popular sci-fi storyline depicts a dying earth in the far distant future where the Sun has faded and civilization has long since declined.

A spinoff from that is apocalyptic fiction about a catastrophic end of civilization through nuclear war, plague, famine or some other disaster.

Wasteland - school bus 1
Only scattered elements of pre-catastrophe civilization remain

Beyond that are post-apocalyptic stories about civilization in the world after such a disaster.

Post-apocalyptic fiction

A post-apocalyptic story might be about the physical and psychological troubles of survivors either immediately after a catastrophe or considerably later when much memory of the pre-catastrophe civilization has been lost, myths have grown and only scattered elements of technology remain.

Wasteland - tower of junk
He who has the most junk in the end wins

The Mad Max series of films are popular examples of post-apocalyptic sci-fi stories depicting a bleak Australia of the future after a breakdown of civilization.

The three films from 1979-1985 were Mad Max, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, and Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome. A fourth movie, Mad Max 4: Fury Road, was not released.

Wasteland - bombed out highway
A modern marvel when it was built in the Pleasantville era of the 1950s, this section of interstate highway has long since decayed and collapsed onto the desert floor

Do oil shortages sound familiar?

Mad Max was not nuclear-holocaust fiction about a large scale exchange of bombs among warring powers. Rather, the films depict a bleak, degraded future environment populated by an impoverished society after a breakdown of civil order due to, according to the second film, widespread oil shortages. Imagine that.

Wasteland - Blood Brothers office
The office of a wrecking and salvage company

Like the expression from Mad Max 2, “In the future, cities will become deserts, roads will become battlefields,” Second Life sims by NeoBokrug Elytis are stupefying places where civilization and the environment have degenerated seriously.

The Wastelands and the Junkyard depict people in a desolate place battling to survive through combat and salvage — a ruthless, savage place of stark beauty that is spectacular to behold.

I had to see it for myself

The scene is a broad desert with a long deep gash opened like an exaggerated brown wound — the Great Fissure — in the drab sandy landscape.

Wasteland - the Great Fissure 4
A modest residence at the bottom of the Great Fissure

It reminds me of Stars Wars Episode IV where the Jawas and their droids scour their desert homeworld of Tatooine in pitted and rusty sandcrawlers searching for discarded scrap and wayward mechanicals.

A 36.8 meters long sandcrawler was like a very large mobile home for the Jawas on the harsh deserts of Tatooine, an environment very rough on machines.

Wasteland - the Great Fissure 2
Water, like this small stream at the bottom of the Great Fissure, is more valuable than gold to residents of the Wasteland

One of the sand-scarred crawlers was the size of a building — several dozen meters high, according to George Lucas in 1976.

The scavenger vehicle towered above the ground like some monstrous prehistoric beast on multiple treads, themselves taller than a big man.

Wasteland - home sweet home 5
Home sweet home in the Wasteland desert

Its metal skin was pitted and battered from untold sandstorms, Lucas wrote. Inside, it not only had living space, but also a large maintenance hangar and shop area.

You’ll remember the scavenger species Jawas. They were relatively tiny, one-meter-tall humanoids wearing rough, hand-woven robes. Their faces were concealed in the dark folds of a cowl, from where you saw only their glowing yellow eyes. You may remember the Jawas captured R2D2 and C-3PO and took them away in a sandcrawler.

Wasteland - home sweet home 1
Another desert rat’s sweet home constructed from salvage

In a surprisingly similar scene, the Wasteland sim and the Great Fissure are very reminiscent of Tatooine.

They are a seemingly endless desert cooked by the intense energy of the SL sun. The Great Fissure itself, as well as the flat expanse of kilometers of shifting dunes punctuated by rocky mesas and arroyos, provide stark contrast to the glitz and glamor of distant sims elsewhere on the Second Life grid.

Wasteland - home sweet home 4
Livin’ high on the hog in the desert

Days are hot, hot, hot on top of the land — only a minuscule bit cooler down at the bottom of the Great Fissure — while the nights everywhere are frigid. The soil is parched and the air is dry.

Wasteland - bad desert wind storm
A sandstorm virtually obliterates the desert scene

Even so, there’s abundant human life in this vast wasteland

Life here comes from human stock. If the residents aren’t human today, their ancestors were.

The numerous mutant humans living on the land were driven from pure human genes in various ways — by a quirk of evolution, an element of the harsh environment, or a relic of the past run amok.

Wasteland - there is some color
A little color goes a long way in this dull environment where most hues are tans, grays, charcoals and blacks

There aren’t any aliens here, however. There are no supernatural, extraterrestrial, or purely mechanical beings. With one exception: NeoBokrug. You’ll see why in a moment.

Nobody has super powers

There are no telepaths, vampires, shape-shifters. Nobody fires off energy blasts.

Wasteland - graveyard great leader crab
A graveyard in the desert

On the other hand, some of the mutants have unusual traits, such as being faster, stronger or harder to kill.

People have been here for awhile

The land was settled 40 years ago, according to NeoBokrug, when a ragged band of wanderers gathered here to scavenge what they could from the wreckage strewn across the area.

Wasteland - red warehouse crane
Reconstructed red barn-like warehouse with crane

They knew next to nothing about pre-apocalyptic technology.

Then, one day, they discovered a machine they called the salvager. It took them years to figure out what they had.

In fact, just seven years ago, the scavengers began to understand what the salvagers could do.

Wasteland - railroad track remnant
Remnant of an ancient railroad right of away rests on the cracked desert floor

Human nature being what it is — and for that matter post-human nature as well — everybody wanted to control the powerful machines. People and tribes fought each other for dominance of the region through control of the salvagers, according to NeoBokrug.

In the midst of severe squabbling and fighting that damaged the machines, a strange mechanical man showed up, speaking a odd gibberish, and began to tend and care for the salvagers.

Wasteland - airplane crash junk
The wreckage of a jetliner remains half buried on the desert floor where it plummeted during the apocalypse

The mechanical man lashed out at people who fought near the machines and kept them at bay.

A tenuous peace returned to the desert as the ignorant barbaric people finally got the picture. No one individual or group would be allowed to claim the salvagers.

Here’s the twist: NeoBokrug is that mechanical caretaker of the salvagers.

Wasteland - home sweet home 3
Could this mysterious structure from salvaged junk be someone’s home?

A barter economy

Paper currency and coins are not in use in the Wasteland, although once in a while local notes of credit are exchanged.

Bartering is big in the desert. People trade goods and services to exist.

Useful raw materials are much more valuable than currency, according to NeoBokrug.

Wasteland - the bedroom
A bedroom in a salvaged structure

Recipes are important to the locals

In this salvaging society, recipes are a commodity in their own right and are carefully guarded.

Practical knowledge is power here in the desert so recipes often are traded for other recipes or other useful information.

NeoBokrug explains that most anyone might be able to put together a knife, but it takes considerably more time and effort to gather the parts and learn how to make many of the more complicated projects.

Some typical recipes

  • nails and screws + CO2 cannister + roll of tape = airgun ammo
  • pipe + nuts and bolts + knife blade = crowbill, a fighting pick that resembles the bill of a crow
  • wood scraps + nails and screws + blade = machete
  • nuts and bolts + wood scraps + chunk of plastic = pistol handle
  • twine + pistol handle + pistol barrel = scavenger pistol
  • wood scraps + rope + monstrous rattler fangs = the rattlesnake
  • duct tape + chunk of plastic + knife blade = knife
  • ammunition feed = gears + electrical parts + mechanical parts
  • bullets = spent shells + gunpowder + iron scrap
  • chunk of rubber = tire

You can see in these valued recipes the desperation in the lives of these post-apocalyptic desert denizens.

Wasteland - home sweet home 2
Sometimes, the main living area of a home is underground

There are shops even here in this remote hole

What SL resident doesn’t love to shop? Traversing this harsh place, a visitor finds shops even here.

They sell the kinds of specialized clothing, equipment and supplies needed for survival on the sand under the Sun.

Wasteland - shop merchandise 3
A small shop supplies a few much-needed commodities

And then there’s Scavenger’s Rest, a gas station-turned-bar that is a neutral meeting area in the wastes. Alan Beckett runs it. They say he’s great if you need your machine worked on, too.

There are people extracting value from the odds and ends of scrap scavenged here, using them to manufacture a variety of tools and weapons and other odd implements specialized for this place.

Wasteland - shop merchandise 1
Merchandise in the small shop includes a gun, helmet, flame gun, knife sword, belt, wristbands, fur vest, backpack, and respirator gas mask

There even are moisture farmers using micro-evaporators to suck what little vapor is suspended in the air to irrigate subsistence crops underground.

Ancient bomb shelters

We hear a lot of talk in the 21st Century about weapons of mass destruction. Fear of those is not new, however.

Bomb shelter entrance above ground
Despite the intervening catastrophe, this above-ground entrance to a pre-apocalyptic fallout shelter still displays its 1950s signs

The Cold War reached a crescendo in the 1950s and people were scared missiles would fly and bombs would drop.

When a nuclear explosion occurs, matter vaporized in the fireball becomes radioactive. It condenses into a cloud of dust and light sandy material that looks something like ground pumice.

Bomb shelter main big room
Main room of the ancient fallout shelter today

Fallout is this highly radioactive material falling to Earth as a significant hazard.

During the Cold War, governments, businesses and individuals built what were called fallout shelters or bomb shelters as civil defense measures.

Bomb shelter privacy area
A private space at the rear inside the fallout shelter.

A fallout shelter was a place where people of the 1950s thought they could escape exposure to harmful fallout for some time while radioactivity outside decayed to a safer level. Usually underground rooms with concrete walls, people built them in their basements and backyards.

Bomb shelter bathroom
Fallout shelter bathroom

Hard-bitten scavengers

The hostile environment today is home to a colorful mix of hard-bitten scavengers extracting a lifestyle from the unforgiving geography, as well as transients visiting the world for god only knows what.

Wasteland - rusty iron cat
This junkyard cat and pirate ship suggest humor survived the apocalypse

I’m going back. And on my next visit, I’m going to look closer for other desert creatures — banthas, rontos, dewbacks, scurriers, womp rats, krayt dragons and eopies.

2 Responses to In the future, cities will become deserts…

  1. Here’s an intriguing short machinima video about The Wastelands by HVX Silverstar

  2. Bearcepaica says:

    Solid web site: i will visit once again,,

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