Archived Reading Room

Forschen novel looks at collapse a year later

bookIn the spring of 2011, there appeared William Forschen’s One Second After, a novel set in Black Mountain, North Carolina, following an Electro-Magnetic Pulse attack on America. This sort of attack, which involves setting off nuclear devices in the atmosphere, kills the electronic systems in devices as varied as computers and cars.

According to Forschen, a professor at Montreat College, such an attack would throw the afflicted regions into a state of turmoil and return our America to the pre-Civil War era. His book is a terrifying account of what such a collapse would bring: the dead piling up in nursing homes, diabetics unable to receive treatment, widespread starvation, the unchecked spread of disease, the formation of bloodthirsty gangs, perhaps even cannibalism. 

Now Forschen has issued a follow-up to this book, One Year After (Forge Books, Sept. 15, 2015, 303 pages). Here John Matherson, the military officer turn history professor in the first novel, leads the survivors of the Black Mountain community through its first year of struggles. After fighting off an army of renegades, Matherson and his people must scrounge for the basics of life: food, water, shelter, protection from outside renegades.

Then a different enemy comes on the scene. Matherson and his community find themselves forced to deal with bureaucrats who claim to represent a newly formed federal government. This government declares a state of emergency, effects a draft that will send young people to serve in widely dispersed military operations, and behaves in many ways as the antithesis of the former federal government.

One Year After offers some interesting points of view. Who would we trust in the wake of a catastrophe? Would local communities willingly band together to fight some enemy far from home? How would we recognize a legitimate national government? 

Though not as tightly plotted or as exciting as One Second After, Forschen’s new novel does show us how the collapse of our technology — the electrical grid, the Internet, the ability to produce and ship basic goods such as food and medicine — would affect all of us. One Year After also reminds us of the tyrannical nature of a government removed from the will of the people.

Related Items

Sharyl Attkisson’s Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment In Obama’s Washington (HarperCollins, 422 pages, $27.99) takes a look at another side of tyranny. Here, rather than addressing the explosions of EMPs above the atmosphere, Attkisson, a reporter with the reputation of a “pit bull,” calls to task certain officials in the Obama administration as well as other politicians and many journalists. She examines “the use of the administration’s hardball tactics” to suppress the work of investigative journalism.

Attkisson’s book is important for two reasons. First are her views on the presidency, particularly the Obama administration. In her investigative work for CBS News — she delved into issues as varied as Benghazi and the Affordable Care Act — Attkisson found an administration unwilling to face up to its own blunders. This inability to take responsibility frequently led to deceptions and prevarication from the president’s staff and from the president himself. At one point, near the end of Stonewalled, Attkisson quotes David Kirby, another investigative journalist and “a self-described left-winger.” A year into the Obama administration, Kirby reports meeting a friend, who asks him what he thinks of President Obama so far. “Well, I gotta say … At least when it comes to getting information out of the Obama people, I hate to say it, but it’s worse than Bush. Much worse.” 

The friend never spoke to Kirby again.

Even more importantly, Stonewalled takes us into the newsrooms and editorial meetings of major news organizations and shows us how deeply mired these individuals and groups are in duplicity and fear. Some are progressives more intent on pushing the administration’s agenda than on reporting the news while others are afraid of reporting certain stories because of political or economic repercussions. Attkisson, who dug up and reported many negative stories about the Bush administration, wants all presidents, regardless of party, held to this same tough standard of facts and truth-telling. Again near the end of Stonewalled, she writes that she’s heard from “a great number of people who claim to be either liberal or down the middle or politically disassociated altogether, and want me to know that they support journalism that follows a story no matter where it leads.”

It’s no wonder, as Attkisson tells us, that a June 20, 2014 Gallup poll found public confidence in the news media at an all-time low and confidence in TV news ranking below the Internet. 

When Richard Nixon was president, we used to hear a great deal about “the imperial presidency.” I haven’t heard anyone use those words in years, but maybe we need to pay more attention to how much attention we give a president. With each new chief executive, the power of the presidency grows. War and terrorism in the administrations of George Bush and Barack Obama have allowed both men to grow the power of the Oval Office. 

Given the candidates running for office in 2016, we might do well to remember this: the powers of the presidency do not disappear with the man. To check those powers we need a national press less interested in taking side and more interested in investigation.

(Jeff Minick is a writer and teacher. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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