On August 12, 1992, England's tiny nuclear arsenal fell on Ireland, on
South Africa, and finally on China. Instantly the planet went up in
flames. In the first half year of what was to be called the War of '92,
half the Earth's population perished. The United States was reduced to
a vast underpeopled land -- and, to make matters worse, Texas had
seceded and taken her precious oil reserves. But Israel, virtually
untouched in a world ravaged by war, was painfully overpopulated.
I was promised an end. Regan/The Russians were going to drop the bomb, a runway comet was going to pass between the earth and the moon, the oceans were going to rise, the trees were gonna die and it was all going to end. Oh, yeah and Jesus was gonna come back as well. It wasn't just me, it was a large part of my peer group. We watched The Day After, Testament, The Road Warrior and countless knockoffs.
And then there were the books, the well endless series: The Deathlands, The Survivalist, Out of the Ashes, Endworld, The Guardians, and on and on and on. There were also the stand alone book, often the better entries in the cannon: The Stand, Swan Song, Earth Abides, Alas Babylon. It got to the point where I used to joke in high school that we have a Holocaust lit class, we should also have a post Holocaust lit class.
Maybe the first of these that I ever found was today's forgotten book. The Texas-Israeli War: 1999 take a moment to just look at that title. It's kinda, well it's a thinker that's for sure. I have to admit that I don't totally recall reading the book, I know that I did somewhere along the line, but what makes it stick in my brain is more how I came into possession of the well worn copy that currently resides in my apartment, and from what I remember it is the story of how the book made it's way into my life that is the better of the two tales.
It was the mid 80's (cue the lamest 80s synthpop in your collection)-- and I had recently been transferred from the minimum security Elementary School Facility where my local government had assigned me to the Maxim security facility known as Forthsye Junior High School. I was in an alternative Jr High Program called MYA, and it was here that I finally found a group of misfits to belong with. There was Dave, the super smart kid who sat in almost every class with us despite being two years younger (he took 9th grade math, he was 10). Ryan lived with his mom who taught ballet, he was able to talk her in to buying him a ninja suit. Erik was the son of a cab driver who wrote Role Playing Games on the side. Mike, lived with his dad in a shady part of town while his mother lived in the ritzy suburbs of the D. Then there was Jake. He was into all the same stuff we were, pulp novels, Role Playing Games, and of course Comic Books.
Jake was owner of the book The Texas-Israeli War: 1999 and spent most of 7th reading and re-reading it. Somewhere along the way it vanished, and even though we all recalled the title the book was gone. I don't really recall being aware of it's having vanished, and it wasn't until years later that I found the true story behind where it had gone.
My Jr. High internment lasted all of two years and I and my group of friends bolted for the safety of Ann Arbor's Community High School. CHS was free of the gangs that ruled the Junior High School, now more preppies, no more jocks, just a collection of misfits, brainiacs, art fags and the assorted weirdos that a town like Ann Arbor produces. All but one of my group of friends went to CHS and as soon as we reached safety things started to fragment. Jake was the first to go. His older brother was a senior and had a number of friends and contact, and Jake was quick to abandon us for them. The drama club and it's little family pulled away another group member and by the time we were seniors there were only three of the original group of MYA refugees that still hung out.
It was during this last year of High School, while at the home of one of the other guys that he pulled out the copy of The Texas-Israeli War: 1999 and presented me with it. I was stunned to be standing there in his bed room holding that book. Looking at that cover and recalling how far we had all come in the last 5 years. Why? was my question to him, why take the book? Honestly I don't recall what his answer was. Then he gave me the book and I have held onto it all these years.
Like a lot of teenage friends we all drifted out separate ways. Dave, tours the world and has been on This American Life and the David Letterman show. Erik, the son of the RPG writer? He works in quality control for Yahoo out west. Ryan, the only guy I ever knew who really had a ninja suit? I have no idea where he is. Mike? He lives a town over from me, we have coffee once or twice a year. Jake? I have no idea where he ended up. I know he's on facebook, and I
have considered sending him a message simply reading "I have your copy
of The Texas-Israeli War: 1999."
The end of the world came, just not the way we were expecting it to. The cold war ended, the fear of nuclear annihilation has lifted for now. The world changed and all that was true and expected in the mid 80s has mostly been supplanted by new fears, and new threats.
Thoughts, Comments, anyone know where I got the Runaway Comet bit?