Monday, February 24, 2014

So You Think You've Had an Exotic Vacation


I have a real treat for y'all this week. It's something a little different from the usual Tiki Hut fare.

My guest is Sean McLachlan. He's the handsome hunk sitting in that comfy wicker chair near the Margarita machine, so drop by and say hi.

Somaliland and other post-apocalyptic vacations
By Sean McLachlan

Like a lot of full-time writers, I wear many hats. A friend recently asked me if my adventure travel writing informed my post-apocalyptic novel  Radio Hope. I've written series about Somaliland and Iraq, after all, and both of those places have been through their own apocalypses.

Iraq we're all familiar with, but Somaliland doesn't get into the news much. Somalia descended into a terrible civil war in 1991 that still keeps much of the country in chaos. Much, but not all. The northern third of the old Somalia is now the independent but unrecognized state of Somaliland. There's a functioning government, a growing economy, and enough rule of law that tourists can visit, although they still have to hire bodyguards if they want to leave the capital Hargeisa.

Before I was a writer I spent ten years working as an archaeologist and it was a combination of the ancient sites and modern political situation that drew me to these countries. Iraq is famous for its ancient civilizations, and there are some fine ancient sites in Somaliland as well. It was there that I got to see Laas Geel, an amazing group of painted rock shelters. Vivid images of animals and people are almost as fresh as when they were painted thousands of years ago thanks to the paint the ancient Somalis used—a mineral-based substance that has the thickness and durability of nail polish.

In Iraq I was in an archaeological wonderland. Grand minarets, ziggurats, and the wonders of Babylon all view for my attention. Centuries of weathering have worn them down some, but they’re still impressive. One of the oddest sights I saw was just outside the gates of Babylon, where a long ceremonial road made of asphalt is still clearly visible. Built in the 7th century BC, it’s the oldest asphalt road in the world, and it looks better than some of the roads I've driven over in rural Missouri!

Iraq and Somaliland taught me that what endures most after the fall of civilization is what that civilization put the most effort into—the grand monuments, the protected art, the large-scale infrastructure. I wasn't thinking about it consciously when I wrote Radio Hope, but in my world, less than a century after the final crash, what remains are what our current society puts the most effort into creating—weapons and toxic waste. The denizens of my futuristic world carefully preserve the weapons of our fallen civilization, and live short, unhealthy lives thanks to the toxins we’ve spewed into the air and water supply.

Let’s be kind to our descendents and build a few ziggurats instead.

Sean McLachlan is an archaeologist turned writer who is the author of several books of fiction and history. Check him out on his blog Midlist Writer.

1: Many buildings in Somaliland still bear the scars of war.


2: Construction in Hargeisa and other Somaliland cities is booming, and many new buildings are cropping up.


3: One of the paintings at Laas Geel.


4: Ancient road at Babylon.


5: More ziggurats, please!

 All photos by Sean McLachlan




In a world shattered by war, pollution and disease. . .
A gunslinging mother longs to find a safe refuge for her son.
A frustrated revolutionary delivers water to villagers living on a toxic waste dump.
The assistant mayor of humanity's last city hopes he will never have to take command.
One thing gives them the promise of a better future--Radio Hope, a mysterious station that broadcasts vital information about surviving in a blighted world. But when a mad prophet and his army of fanatics march out of the wildlands on a crusade to purify the land with blood and fire, all three will find their lives intertwining, and changing forever.


Purchase RADIO HOPE here:
http://www.amazon.com/Radio-Hope-Toxic-World-Book-ebook/dp/B00I5HHTVS/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1391243036&sr=1-1






56 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You've definitely seen some wonders in your time, Sean!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I took an intro to archeology class in university. Like many other students, I envisioned being the next Indianna Jones. Heck, the professor wasn't even as good looking as Harrison Ford (major let down). And that was the end of my archeology career. lol

Sean McLachlan said...

Thanks for having me at the Tiki Hut!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I've never heard of Somaliland. That's a shame they can't be declared their own country.

Julie Flanders said...

Fascinating to get a peek at what you've seen. Great to meet you, Sean. And best of luck with your book, it sounds excellent.

Delores said...

Sounds like another book for my 'must read' list.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Nice to meet you Sean. Wow, you've had some amazing adventures!!

Shelly said...

Fascinating! I've learned new things just by reading this post this morning, and that's always a great start to the day.

Bish Denham said...

I LOVE the rock painting and the ancient road. And your book... it'll be added to my ever growing TBR list!

David Oliver said...

It's good to hear about these places that are no longer news items everyday.

Robin said...

Sean, thank you for sharing your experiences (and pictures) here. Your take on the world post-apocalypse in your novel sounds fresh and interesting (as well as a bit sad). It is a terrible thing to think that the most enduring things we have created are toxic waste and the like.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Love the rock painting!

Jennifer Shirk said...

Wow, very cool that you could bring some of those experiences into your writing.

DAVID WALSTON said...

Love all the pictures! I keep reading about this book, I guess it is about time I did something about it!

Sean McLachlan said...

Thanks everyone! I'm not sure why Somaliland hasn't been recognized. The international community recognizes the government in Mogadishu as the sole Somali government, even though it controls only small parts of the country and doesn't even have a firm hold on Mogadishu. Somaliland is more of a real country and gets ignored.
This is a problem in all sorts of ways. For example, there's no postal system because the International Postal Union doesn't recognize it. If you want to send a letter to/from Somaliland, you have to use a private courier service!

Val Poore said...

Wonderful! The great thing about travelling is what you can do with the experiences afterwards!

Elephant's Child said...

Oh wow. My mind is off and wandering. Again. With luck it will return in the fullness of time.
Thank you both.

Elephant's Child said...

Oh wow. My mind is off and wandering. Again. With luck it will return in the fullness of time.
Thank you both.

Carol Kilgore said...

Isn't Sean great? Glad everyone is having fun. Margaritas are half price starting now 'til midnight :)

Lynda R Young said...

ziggurats are super cool. I love ancient history and to walk among it, well... wow! :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Very cool pics! Great point about what we put the most effort into being preserved as well. Kinda scary too.

Christine Rains said...

Awesome post and pics! What wonders you've seen, and yes, I could see how they've been inspiring.

cleemckenzie said...

When I was about ten, I read about the discovery of Troy and decided I would be an archeologist. I didn't do that, but archeology ithas always been a fascination for me. This was a wonderful post to read. Thanks to you both.

Carol, I've left a little something for you at The Write Game. Hope you'll stop by and pick it up.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Radio Hope landed in my Kindle about halfway through your post, Sean. Thanks for being here, and thanks to Carol for hosting you.

VR Barkowski said...

Riveting post, Sean. I think it was Mark Twain who said that travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. My own travel experiences have changed me and opened my eyes in ways I could never have imagined.

Wishing you the best of luck with RADIO HOPE.

VR Barkowski

Helena said...

You were an archeologist? I'm so jealous! How exciting that you have an intimate knowledge of ancient art and buildings in that part of the world, and how grim that what we're building now are weapons and toxic waste. I'm going to check out Radio Hope -- it sounds like it has a depth of experience.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I am fascinated by ancient history Sean, so I envy you a little bit. Mind you its healthy envy :)

Empty Nest Insider said...

Thanks for sharing this incredible civilization with us. The brilliant photos really bring it all to life. Best of luck with your new book, Sean! Thanks Carol!

Julie

Shelley Munro said...

Thanks for sharing. The colors in the painting are still very vivid after all this time. They've endured as well as the road.

Sean McLachlan said...

Patricia: Thanks

Rachna, Helena, & Clee: There are plenty of volunteer opportunities around the world for working on digs. The Archaeological Institute of America makes a list every year. Most volunteer opportunities are during the summer.

Teresa Coltrin said...

Hi, Sean and Carol.

Sean with your background, I bet you have many great stories to be told.

Stephen Tremp said...

Good luck to Sean! I love post apocalyptic stories. So many directions one can go in.

Janie Junebug said...

I learned from Sean. I might not remember it, but I learned it for a minute or two. Thank you.

Love,
Janie

Rula Sinara said...

Amazing post and experiences, Sean. You really have me interested in your books. Your photo of Laas Geel reminds me of the Tasili cave paintings we used to go see in the Sahara, when I lived, for a few years, in N. Africa as a child.

Carol Kilgore said...

Sean chose excellent photos to include with this post. I love those cave paintings and the style of the shelled building in the first photo.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I envy your viewing the wall paintings at Laas Geel. You have been amazing places. I do not envy you the bathroom facilities of the Middle East -- words cannot do them justice!

What survives of civilizations is what survives within us -- what we put the most effort and heart in.

Thanks for having Sean, Carol!

Medeia Sharif said...

This looks like an awesome read. Wow, amazing pictures. That part of the world is so fascinating.

Karen Lange said...

This is interesting. I did not know about Somaliland. Thanks Sean and Carol!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Fascinating stuff. You left me no choice but to go ahead and buy this book.(Thanks!)

JoLynne Lyon said...

Thanks for introducing Sean. What a fascinating post!

Sean McLachlan said...

Rula: I've always wanted to see the Tasili cave paintings! If you ever want to do a guest post about your experiences in N. Africa, I'd love to have you over at my blog at Midlist Writer!

Linda G. said...

Wow! Fascinating stuff. And great photos. Thanks for sharing Sean with us, Carol!

Melissa said...

Love the cover and the premise.
Best of luck, Sean.

Sean McLachlan said...

Melissa: My brother-in-law designed it. He also did the cover for A FINE LIKENESS. Life as an indie author is hard, but having a talented designer in the family makes it easier!

M Pax said...

Great travels, Sean. Archeology interests me greatly and Sumer is a bit of an obsession for me. I'd love to visit Iraq. Congrats on the new book!

Waving at Carol.

Southpaw said...

Oh the ancient cities and the art...so beautiful and fascinating.

klahanie said...

Hi Carol and Sean,

This book intrigues on a personal level. My son works with a Somalian refugee, over here, in England.

I'm going to check out this book and mention it to our Somalian friend who has spoken of atrocities.

Gary

Ava Quinn said...

Thanks for the peek into other worlds and global realities, Sean. I wanted to be an archeologist when I was in kindergarten. That and an opera singer. Neither panned out, I'm afraid.

Good luck with your writing. You're obviously off to an excellent start.

Thanks for hosting, Carol!

Sean McLachlan said...

Klahanie: The book isn't actually about Somalia, I was just linking the two subjects.

Ava: I met some opera singers here in Madrid. Their life is harder than freelance writers. It's very competitive and there are few gigs.

Lexa Cain said...

I loved the guest post and pics from Sean! So exciting that that's a real road from Babylon. His book sounds awesome, too. Congrats! :)

LD Masterson said...

Weapons and toxins. That's too true and so sad.

Kittie Howard said...

If my Kindle hadn't died yesterday, I'd purchase your book Right Now. (Ordering new Kindle this weekend, so jotted info down.) I visited Somalia before this on-going debacle. Saw a good bit of the countryside, but didn't make it to Somaliland but would love to go one day. And, yes, more good stuff for the future and fewer toxic wastes.

Carol Kilgore said...

Sean is away this weekend on another little jaunt, but I know he'll appreciate all your comments when he gets back home.

Old Kitty said...

I bet I'm pronouncing ziggurats wrong but oh yes please to more of that and moreso, to more of erm... nice archaeology writers and general hunks sitting on wicker chairs in tiki huts...!!! Take care
x

Milo James Fowler said...

Interesting premise. Considering how much time people spend online staring at their smart-phones, and that it would take only one massive EMP to wipe out the Internet -- I wonder if we'd leave anything behind? Besides toxins and weapons, of course.

Carol Kilgore said...

Old Kitty - I'll go on a hunk hunt and see who I can lure over :)

Milo - Wanna visit and sit in the wicker chair?