Wastelands: “The End of the Whole Mess”

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As stated on Twitter, I recently picked up Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse an anthology of post-apocalyptic shorts. The series includes many notable authors, some of whom were recommended to me. With this series, I want to look at each story to get a better grasp on the plot, characters, and the apocalypse itself. This promises to be one of the few times The Rad-lands will be breaking away from specifically post-nuclear fiction.


134-stephen_kingOur first story is “The End of the Whole Mess” by Stephen King. Truthfully, this was the first time I read King. He didn’t disappoint; the prose has a nice flow and is both easy and pleasant to read aloud (so easy, they chose Matthew Broderick to narrate the audiobook).

So what kind of apocalypse is this anyway? Well, we only get hints about the outside world. The story is a cross between stream of consciousness writing and character establishing flashbacks. The apocalyptic setting is really just a framing device to carry the irony. That said, the cause of this apocalypse is Calmative, a water additive dispersed across the entire planet that first made humans docile and later resulted in dementia, cognitive failure, and death. That’s a unique apocalyptic scenario, almost like a reverse Planet of the Apes.

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Cult Classics: Warriors of the Wasteland

Following the success of Mad Max 2 was a handful of post-apocalyptic B-movies. Among those was The New Barbarians (aka Warriors of the Wasteland), a dirt-cheap Italian knock off. Despite a slow start, this movie actually isn’t terrible, it just has low production values. However, I noticed a lot of similarities between this film and She Wolves of the Wasteland. Both have alternate titles. Both have promising, but underdeveloped plots and concepts. Both suffer from poor editing and a lack of closure. For that reason, let’s use a similar four points system as She Wolves, with one exception.

  1. The Plot
  2. Interesting concepts
  3. Editing
  4. Characters

The Plot: The year is 2019. It has been 9 years since the nuclear holocaust of 2010 (thanks, Obama). The film opens on a small caravan who has just discovered “The Signal,” a mythological radio frequency supposedly originating from the last civilization on Earth. Unfortunately, before the tribe can decipher the coordinates, they’re attacked by a rival tribe of motorized marauders called “The Templars” whose only goal is to destroy all human life…because reasons.

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The Templars crush their enemies with a mixture of explosives and laser guns. That night, timid humans wrapped up in white rags appear to loot the burned out caravan. We never learn who these scavengers are, but they have a striking resemblance to the Buzzards from Mad Max: Fury Road.  Before they can divvy up the loot, a muscle car with a glowing green roof roars out of the blackness. Enter our hero, Scorpion. Continue reading

What is MUTATION: The Wasteland Survival Guide?

MUTATION: The Wasteland Survival guide is a six episode long series exploring the quirky and unusual world of MUTATION, as seen in The Journal of Joe Junkman. The show itself documents the writing of the Mo-Javi Wasteland’s very first survival guide. Charged with writing this book is wasteland legend James Gray and local shyster Joe Junkman. Throughout their journey, our heroes will struggle with radioactive dust storms, water scarcity, and each other.


I want to break character for a moment to say how excited I am to be moving forward with this project. The world of MUTATION has gone through a lot of change since its conception. What originally began as a pen and paper RPG has transformed into serial fiction, a website, and a show. I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

To make a long story short, Ben and I got together in the summer of 2015 and began brainstorming ideas for this short series. Although we have all the footage, brainstorming was about as far as it got. It seems embarrassing now, but we didn’t have a script or anything. Essentially, we had a concept for each episode and a location. For better or worse, almost every scene is improvisational.

When I first established this website, I had no idea what the response would be. These past few months, I’ve been consistently amazed at the hospitality and support I’ve received from the online post-apocalyptic tribe. Thank you for giving us a chance and following our stories week after week.

I’d also like to announce at this time that Ben and I are planning to attend Wasteland Weekend this year! I’ll be in character as James Gray and I believe Ben will appear as Joe Junkman.

We hope to see some of you there! The Rad-Lands wouldn’t be here without you.

-Ron Welch

Hi Ho Silver!

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I hate my life.

So I’m walking through this desert pass, climbing high into the hills surrounding the valley, when I spot another town. As I got closer, I realized that all the buildings were old, rusted. Most of them had collapsed roofing. A sign outside the town read “SILVER MINE.” Being an enterprising man, I decided to go have a look. I was hoping to find signs of ground water to point me in the right direction.

As soon as I stepped onto the main street, I knew something was wrong. I should have turned around right there. I heard rustling coming from a two story tin building to my left, but I figured it was just a rat or maybe a lizard. The point is I really didn’t think any of it. Like an idiot, I continued down the street, looking for anything that might be useful. It was obvious all the buildings had been stripped clean decades ago, probably before the apocalypse.

I admit, I was lost in thought. Visions of scrap crews tearing the place down flashed before my eyes. I considered what I’d do with all that metal. If Saul Fore was still alive, I could probably get the Blacksmiths to buy all the tin. Maybe I could go back to the Boulevard. If not, I could build a wall around Abundance and charge traders a fee to enter the town.

I was caught off guard by a pressurized hiss from a second floor window. I didn’t have time to turn my head before I was caught under a net. The more I struggled, the faster the lace tightened. It was tearing at my skin like razor wire! I couldn’t move. I could hardly breathe. My lungs were caught in a vice. All I could do was helplessly gasp for air.

I saw the silhouette of a woman standing over me.

Then, everything went black.

-Joe Junkman

Wasteland Angel: The Mad Max Arcade

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Wasteland Angel is a post-nuclear themed vehicular arcade shooter from indie developers Octane Games. I like to pick up any post-apocalyptic games I can find, especially indie games, just to see how they use the setting. With that in mind, Wasteland Angel is a serviceable top-down arcade shooter, though not an especially great post-apocalyptic arcade shooter.

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Although an arcade shooter, Wasteland Angel boasts a story, told in comic book form, about the titular Angel (essentially a female Mad Max) driving across post-nuclear America to find an old acquaintance. In her quest, she will pass through a number of villages, each of which is being attacked by slavers with either a generic raider, Russian militant, or super mutant theme. Continue reading

How A Boy and His Dog Established a Genre

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Like science, fiction is often built on the shoulders of those who came before.  That is to say, most images from our imagination comes from putting a twist on what we’ve already seen. In horror, we can see a very clear progression from Poe->Lovecraft->Kolchak: the Night Stalker->X-Files. Though it seems odd to say it, building on the work of others is the surest way to come up with new ideas.

In the 1970s, post-nuclear fiction had been developing into a small (but growing) genre for nearly 20 years. Many nuclear holocaust films in the 50s and 60s were about the start (and end) of WWIII rather than survival in the radioactive wastelands to follow. Dr. Strangelove, for example, is counted as a nuclear holocaust film.

In 1975, something happened to solidify the tone of a desert wasteland. Harlan Ellison’s A Boy and His Dog provided audiences with a visual medium to express the post-atomic world. The little details in storytelling, set design, and costumes would inevitably shape the Mad Max franchise, the Fallout franchise, and much more.

A Boy and His Dog would define the tone of the post-nuclear genre in 4 ways: Continue reading