Race Bannon was my Intro to Computers professor. Race Bannon was also a character from the television cartoon “Johnny Quest” in 1964.

He was a spy—the cartoon character, not the professor. I think. Dr. Bannon could have been a spy. 

When Dr. Bannon told us his name, I may have been the only one in the room to look surprised, being the only one who was alive and watching Friday evening cartoons in 1964. I probably was the only one to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis and the panic that went with it as well. But that’s another post. 

I had high hopes for Dr. Bannon. Shoot, I had high hopes for Intro to Computers. He insisted that we memorize the two-page explanation for how the letter A gets from the computer keyboard to the computer screen. It took half the entire test time to write out the sequence, which was only one question. I still don’t know how the A gets from the keyboard to the screen. Sigh. 

In addition, Dr. Bannon was a bit of a . . . creeper. He seemed fascinated to impress on our class how many porn sites existed on the Internet. (He used an actual number; I can’t remember what it was, and I threw those notes out.) He talked about porn every single class. He also liked to hit on the bosomy coeds during our class breaks, but that’s another post too.

It’s true; there’s a ton of pointless, destructive websites out there, but I have since learned that the Internet is more than porn. 

Did you know, that you can type in the question, what are the top 100 “Prepper” websites and the Google machine will answer you?

Did you know, that you can type in the question, what is the recipe for making bleach for long term storage AND THERE IS A RECIPE?

Did you know that there are hundreds of sources for buying food storage, often with free or minimal shipping?

Sure. Sure. Plenty of porn but there’s also a heap of dehydrated, freeze-dried corn in number ten cans that can keep your family going even in the worst of times, which is the opposite of the best of times, also beans, meat, soup bases, milk, rice, pasta . . . and so forth.

Now there a lot of highly educated, academic types that might point fingers and call you a crazy, conspiracy, prepper kook. Sure. Sure. My advice: Take a few computer classes, you’ll get over caring.

Dr. Race Bannon? He was arrested halfway through Intro to Computers and escorted off the campus in handcuffs. 

I made an A.

Linda (Ready Steady) Zern 


Too graphic. Too intense. Too scary. “I don’t even watch the news,” they said. Too sad. It’s some of what I heard from a small handful of readers after sending them an advanced copy of my novel, Beyond the Strandline. 

The novel is set in a dystopian future following a collapse of the power grid after a solar storm. Shew! That’s a mouthful. Put it this way, it’s a future without running water or city halls. NOTE: I have to confess that it is a bit of a head rush to be able to write something that gives people the willies. I won’t lie. 

It’s a story set in a future that looks more like the past . . . and the present in more than a few places around the globe.

Discussing the surprising feedback on the book, a friend of mine, remarked, “What are they reading?”

I’m not sure. But what I am sure of is that one of the purposes of fiction is being able to send a reader to places and to experience things unimaginable in everyday life. It’s a safe way to look into the ‘heart of darkness’ and process ways to survive, cope, or even thrive in a world that might be unrecognizable. Fiction is a window. 

In the book, Tess and her family are surviving and thriving in isolation after the collapse of civilization, living off and on the land. Parrish, a young man who comes to live on their ranch, is a survivor of being forced to fight as a child soldier. The local mall has become a haven for slave traders and tyrants.

Presently, the single greatest health hazard facing the globe is a lack of access to clean water. Tess’s family deals with the problem in several ways. Would you know how to purify water not provided by electricity or the big water tank in the sky?

The United Nations estimates that up to a three hundred thousand children are routinely forced to fight in armed conflicts and wars around the world. Women and children impressed into armies and paramilitary groups are a sure sign that the fabric of a society has blown apart. 

American gangs mimic military organizations in a lot of respects. Seventy-five percent of members of gangs are under the age of eighteen. Child soldiers are already here.

The United Nations estimates that slavery has never been practiced in greater numbers in the history of the world. The slave traders are here.

Europe is dealing with the sight of dead babies washed up on beaches as Middle Eastern refugees flee to Europe to escape the gory truth of what is happening to their civilizations.

Survival is being able to have a positive mental attitude in the face of a potentially horrifying reality. 

Reading fiction can be a dry run—an exercise if you will—before the big . . . challenge. 


“It’s a ‘prepper’ novel,” I explained. “Do you know what a prepper is?”

That’s how I start trying to describe my novel, Beyond the Strandline, in the speech that is supposed to last the length of time it takes an elevator to go from up to down—the elevator speech.

Inevitably, a lot of people don’t know what a prepper might be or the act of prepping or grid collapse or even 72-hour kits.

So I try again. “It’s a book about what if.”

Raised eyebrows and polite interest, if I’m lucky, and then I launch into my next explanation.

“What if the lights went out for good and the water stopped flowing? What would the world be like? And what if your family was ready for it? You know, prepared with food storage and emergency plans but the rest of the world wasn’t? And what if your little sister broke the first rule of hiding in plain sight . . .”

Deep forehead wrinkles and some consternation and maybe a question or two and then the elevator doors slide open and the moment passes.

“It’s a juvenile action-adventure, romance . . .”

Got it. That, they understand.

But it’s so much more.

It’s really about how you have to start thinking when it comes to writing a book or in preparing for the future, for that matter. It’s an exercise of the imagination.

What if the lights went out and stayed out and the batteries died and the lamp oil ran out and the moon still waxed and waned as it always has and what if you had to travel through a lonely jungle in the darkest part of the moon and how would you see to put one foot in front of the other and—What would my characters be like; how would they live; how would they cope?

What would I be like? How would I cope?

Imagination. Writing is all about imagining the . . . what if.

So is prepping. It’s a match made in Heaven.

Prepping:  The practice of making active preparations for a possible catastrophic disaster or emergency, typically by stockpiling food, ammunition, and other supplies.

So we started a blog, my best friend and I, to talk about things we can only imagine.

It’s like writing a book.