NRA: The night Chicago died

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist, pp. 66

When we last left Buck Williams, he was standing in the parking lot of his newsmagazine’s office, watching the bombs fall on Chicago.

I’m not clear exactly where this office is, but it seems to be in the suburbs somewhere — near enough to Chicago that their power goes out when the bombing begins, but far enough away that Buck and his co-workers feel comfortable “climbing atop their own cars to watch a huge aerial attack on the city.”

So the GCW staff don’t seem to think they’re in immediate danger, but they still have great seats to take in the spectacle of World War III.

Witnessing that aerial attack, Buck says exactly what you’d expect him to:

“Who’s got a cell phone I can borrow?” Buck shouted over the din in the parking lot. …

A woman next to him thrust one into his hands, and he was shocked to realize she was Verna Zee. “I need to make some long-distance calls,” he said quickly. “Can I skip all the codes and just pay you back?”

“Don’t worry about it, Cameron. Our little feud just got insignificant.”

Verna is right. Personal conflicts mean nothing now. Her lawsuit regarding Buck’s workplace intimidation and violence can wait. Chicago is under attack. The newsroom has been cut off without electricity. Only one thing matters now for journalists like Buck Williams and Verna Zee: How can we file this story?

“Maybe you got lucky.”

Journalists, you have to understand, are first responders. And like all first responders, they have a duty and an instinct to run toward calamity. Police rush to restore order. Firefighters rush to rescue those in danger. EMTs rush to attend to the injured. And journalists rush to bear witness so that the public can know what is happening.

As it turns out, Buck and Verna are not really journalists. It never occurs to either of them that they need to be reporting any of this.

Nor does such a thought flicker for even a second across the minds of any of the other GCW staff there in the parking lot. None of them looks to Buck or to Verna — their bosses — for marching orders or assignments. None of the photographers even bothers to snap pictures of the view from there in the parking lot. After pausing for a moment to take in the sight of the third-biggest story any of them has ever witnessed, they all just wander off to their cars and head home.

The power’s out, after all, so the work-day must be over.

Buck never says a word to suggest that they might do otherwise. He doesn’t ask for volunteers to head into the city. He doesn’t set anyone to work to find an Internet connection or a backup power supply to let them begin reporting or broadcasting or printing. He never gives another thought to this job, just as he never gave another thought to any of his former colleagues in New York when that city was destroyed.*

“I need to borrow a car!” Buck shouted. But it quickly became clear that everyone was heading to their own places to check on loved ones and assess the damage. “How about a ride to Mt. Prospect?”

That paragraph is something of a break-through for Buck and for the authors, so let’s take a moment to celebrate this landmark moment in the series.

Something just happened that hasn’t happened before in these books. Buck doesn’t quite seem to realize it himself, but he’s just had an epiphany.

Once again, calamity has struck and once again Buck Williams is desperate to get home, to check on his loved ones and to assess the damage. But here, for the first time, Buck looks around and sees the other people around him. He suddenly realizes what he had never realized before — that calamity has struck them too and that, just like him, they also are desperate to get home, to check on their loved ones, and to assess the damage to their lives.

That didn’t occur to Buck early in the first book when the Event turned the world upside down. He raced across the rubble-strewn tarmac of O’Hare, viewing all the dazed and injured people around him as nothing more than obstacles in his path. Nor did it occur to him earlier in this book when O’Hare was destroyed and all the other cars rattled by the blast and fleeing along with him seemed to him as nothing more than traffic — more obstacles and not people just like him, trying just as he was to escape the destruction.

Yes, it’s a bit disappointing that this epiphany strikes Buck here only because he realizes that his urgent needs are not their priorities. He only sees their corresponding needs due to the inconvenience it entails for him.

But still, it’s progress.

“I’ll take you,” Verna muttered. “I don’t even want to see what’s happening in the other direction.”

“You live in the city, don’t you?” Buck said.

“I did until about five minutes ago,” Verna said.

“Maybe you got lucky.”

“Cameron, if that big blast was nuclear, none of us will last the week.”

Just like earlier, with the bombing of New York City and the airport, it seems the attack on downtown Chicago is employing perhaps-nuclear technology. At least with nuclear war you know where you stand, but the uncertainty that follows a perhaps-nuclear assault can be agonizing.

“I might know a place you can stay in Mt. Prospect,” Buck said.

“I’d be grateful,” she said.

Yep, Verna Zee is joining the gang, sort of. Her sudden transformation from cartoon workplace villain to sidekick might seem to strain plausibility, but then nothing about Jerry Jenkins’ portrayal of Verna so far has been at all plausible, so that’s not really a concern.

The important thing, though, is that readers don’t miss the lesson from this scene: Cities are dangerous places full of violence and lesbians. Stay in the suburbs and stay safe.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* Three months from now, salvage workers in the ruins of Manhattan will find the body of Stanton Bailey. The former publisher of Global Weekly was fired when Nicolae Carpathia took over the magazine, renaming it Global Community Weekly and putting Buck Williams in charge of it as his puppet.

Bailey had certainly been rich enough to retire, but he was a newsman at heart and he couldn’t just sit by while the new global leader made every news outlet an official mouthpiece for the new global government. He’d funneled his retirement savings into an underground alternative newspaper. That is where he’d been, at the offices of that little outlaw rag, when the attack on New York City had begun.

His body was found near that of a photography intern, an off-duty firefighter, and the old woman the firefighter had rescued from a crumbling building after the first wave of bombing. All four were killed when the bombers returned and destroyed the entire block. On the dead intern’s camera, the salvage crew found pictures of the firefighter carrying the woman to the street.

The firefighter’s name was Richard Czerwinski. The woman’s name was Sondra Jefferson. Neither of them had any ID on them when their bodies were found, but their names had been written — with proper spelling carefully recorded — in a notebook found in Stanton Bailey’s left hand.

Buck Williams had been warned about the coming attacks on New York City, and he could have warned his old boss to get out of there before the bombing started. The authors don’t tell us why Buck never warned his friend, but I think I know. Stanton Bailey wasn’t Buck’s kind of journalist. He couldn’t be trusted with secrets the way Buck could be. If Buck had told Bailey what President Fitzhugh had told him, then you just know Bailey would have leaked that to the public.

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  • Tofu_Killer


  • Abel Undercity

    First (to actually read the piece ;-) )!

  • hidden_urchin

    Are we surprised that Buck’s staff isn’t comprised of journalists? I mean, just a few pages ago these people were watching someone else’s coverage of the first bombing in their city. We were warned.

  • Enopoletus Harding


  • Michael Pullmann

    When the big Northeast blackout happened in 2003, Stephen King had a column due in to Entertainment Weekly that week. So he wrote it longhand and had it express mailed to their offices. THAT’S professionalism.

  • P J Evans

    THAT’S professionalism.

    The woman I knew who, when the 1989 earthquake hit, hit ‘save’ on her computer before diving under her desk.

  • Abel Undercity

    Whoa, dang, seriously?

    I can’t help but think of Verna, upon hearing Buck telling her  “maybe you got lucky,” flashing to thoughts of her very-likely-dead neighbors.  Maybe the lady down the hall with the cat and all the juicy neighborhood gossip.  Or her favorite waiter in the diner at the corner.

    Buck just assumes, being Buck, that Verna’s only concern is like his:  Getting away from the scene buttus intactus.

    And gosh, World War III seems to have rattled Cameron to the point where he’s forgotten to insist that we call him Buck.

    Oh, how I loathe him.

  • Münchner Kindl

    Yep, Verna Zee is joining the gang, sort of. Her sudden
    transformation from cartoon workplace villain to sidekick might seem to
    strain plausibility, but then nothing about Jerry Jenkins’ portrayal of
    Verna so far has been at all plausible, so that’s not really a concern.

    important thing, though, is that readers don’t miss the lesson from
    this scene: Cities are dangerous places full of violence and lesbians.
    Stay in the suburbs and stay safe.

    Actually, after that terrible mistreatment of Verna by Buck in book 1 (or 2?), I’m just glad that Buck (maybe Meta-Buck) shows a sliver of human decency for the first time and offers to take her somewhere safe. Even if she has become his bestest friend by borrowing him a friend (as Fred snarked earlier when in Israel, the Rabbi allowed Buck to listen on his phone when the prophets called), she is still treated decently for a change, without saying the magic words or even being witnessed to.

    This is all the more astonishing after the cruel way Loretta – a real believer after all, so a member of their tribe – was treated just last chapter.

    So I think I will savour it while it lasts, before ugly things happen again or before Verna becomes brainwashed by saying the prayer (I hope not).

    Only one thing matters now for journalists like Buck Williams and Verna Zee: How can we file this story?
    Journalists, you have to understand, are first responders. And like all
    first responders, they have a duty and an instinct to run toward
    calamity. …. And journalists
    rush to bear witness so that the public can know what is happening.

    It shows how much both the media landscape in the US has changed (With weight given to pundits, not reporters) and how much the insidious influence of continious bad writing can go that I completly forgot about that even if Buck is a “bury the news and smug about being a gnostic insider” journalist, the rest of the staff aren’t or shouldn’t be.

    Or maybe it’s because even if the Globabl Weekly staff is failing as journalists, they are at least reacting like humans: worrying about their loved ones instead of staying at work like drones.

    Interesting how La Haye messed that up, too: hotel staff and car dealers stay at their posts, but journalists go home. Oh what could have been if written by better writers!

    Oh, and Fred: nice work on the Right Behind-alternative viewpoint.

  • Tofu_Killer

     Don’t worry, Verna is safe from being saved. She presumably dies a heathen.

  • GeniusLemur

    Good catch on hotel staff/car dealers vs journalists. Anybody doubt that’s because the Jenkins/Buck needed the hotel staff and car dealers, but not the journalists?

  • D Johnston

    The simple explanation is that the post-Event, post-Antichrist world is completely ordered and normal, except when it’s being observed – or vice versa, as the case may be. We don’t see the chaos at the dealership, so obviously there is no chaos at the dealership. Jerry Jenkins may well be the world’s first quantum hack.

  • D Johnston

    Either Verna is developing Stockholm Syndrome, or she’s yet another example of an ancillary character far more decent than any of the leads. I feel like Jenkins finally realized just what a monster his self-insert was turning out to be, so he slipped this in to humanize him a bit. Apparently, LaHaye didn’t feel similarly inclined towards his own Mary Sue. As long as we know he’s a big manly Christian, that’s enough, right?

    Still, I’m expecting Verna to end up in the same boat as Loretta – neglected unless she can be useful. It reminds me of any number of high fantasy parodies in which the heroes are all dopes being assisted from the shadows by a ragtag group of commoners. I think Chloe should gather Verna, Loretta, that tech guy, and whatever competent reporters are left at Global Weekly and start her own Shadow Trib Force.

  • Alicia

     More or less. I remember that Verna actually moves in with Loretta. Neither of them are invited to join the Tribulation Force officially but they share resources with Buck and Rayford and both women suffer horrific fates as a result of a nightmarish power struggle between two powerful forces — nightmarish entity bent on annihilating the universe, and the Antichrist himself, Nicolae Carpathia. Neither of them are ever really made privy to what’s going on though and neither of them never even gain the illusion of being able to control their own fates.

  • spinetingler

     I see what you did there…

  • Münchner Kindl


    I think Chloe should gather Verna, Loretta, that tech guy, and whatever
    competent reporters are left at Global Weekly and start her own Shadow
    Trib Force.

    You missed all that (well written) Right behind fics where “Astarte” and the others run a ring of real resistance right under Bucks and Rayfords eyes, since women are irrelevant and thus ignored by our manly heroes? (Plus one fic where Chloe is apparently the Antichrist instead of Nick.)

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Still, I’m expecting Verna to end up in the same boat as Loretta – neglected unless she can be useful.

    That’s pretty much what ends up happening. Buck Douchebag barely spares a thought for her except when he finds her useful to an end (either to bully or cadge a ride from), and I think L&J end up bumping her off, unsaved, of course, because Ho-mo-sex-u-als are Too Gross to be Saved.

  • chris the cynic

    My understanding is that Verna is saved in the Kid’s Series which is written under the influence of a different author (who gets less credit than Ellenjay) but I’d have to look that up to be sure.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    The fact that the Wiki lists her as “possibly condemned” suggests that she doesn’t show up in the “Kids” to be saved. Mouse is further ahead than Fred so when Mouse sees this we can get the final word.

  • Bificommander

    Isn’t the downtown, as Fred points out, where all the seculars and wellfare queens live? Ya know, the 47% who’ll support Obama’s/Nicolae’s policies regardless? Why isn’t Nicolae leveling the suburbs, where the hardworking real Americans live? If Nicolae has WMD’s where the radiation can be switched on and off at will, surely he can aim them such that they hit the suburbs but leave downtown intact?

  • Münchner Kindl

     Well – maybe this goes into fridge logic: Nicky says explicitly that he doesn’t want to kill too many people because his loyal minions live there, too. That means evil people must be spared – along with those who like Buck and Ray follow orders no matter how terrible. And where do those people live? Right, in the suburbs.

    The inner cities, on the other hand, contain people already desperate. There’s an old wisdom to never back somebody in a corner, because then they turn around and assault you. So Nicky wants to kill people who might be motivated into real resistance; the Tribbles go along with his plans, so they are allowed to live.

  • Ross

     Technically, if you’ve backed  them into a corner, they don’t need to turn around first before they attack you.

  • Mr. Heartland

    Well to paraphrase what several here have said better.  This series is basically revenge porn for especially unthoughful RTC’s.  Many of whom are suburbinites who see themselves as responsible, ‘self-reliant’ property owners.  Those who are unable to simply deny their economic dependence on the dirty central city (with all its dirty race & class mingling) are likely to feel a deep resentment towards the city. 

    “You live in the city, don’t you?” Buck said.

    “I did until about five minutes ago,” Verna said.

    Well of course she has to live where a woman can walk around unchaperoned without any of the local degenerates batting an eye.

  • aunursa

    Verna is not heard from after the “Wrath of the Lamb” earthquake at the end of this book.  The only mention of her is in the middle of Book #4 when Buck wonders if she ratted him out.

  • Münchner Kindl

     So lots of opportunity for our writers!

  • PollyAmory

    “presumably condemned.”

    Chillingly heartless bastards. Who uses language like this? What has happened to their humanity?

  • Münchner Kindl

     Hey, it’s much better than what I expected “Condemned for sure because she never said the magic words”.

    After all, most people in Ellenjays universe are automatically condemned for not being RTCs.

    But maybe they realized that she wasn’t seen for a long time in canon and might have said the words silently off-screen.

  • aunursa

    Most of the characters are labeled either “Saved” or “Condemned.”  The only other character whose spiritual status is unknown is Nicky’s biological mom (from Prequel #1), who is identified as “Possibly condemned.”

  • GeniusLemur

     “Condemned?” That’s a curious word to use. For starters, Jesus made it quite clear that making that call is no mortal’s business. Also, according to their cosmology, God doesn’t “condemn:” the person either says the magic words or doesn’t, and God has no input whatsoever. Finally, “condemned” has the implication of cruelty. I’d  go with something like “lost” to emphasize the tragedy of the situation. Not that L&J think there’s any tragedy, but Christians who have actual concern for their fellow human beings would.

  • Lori

     I’m pretty sure that Christians who have actual concerns for their fellow human beings aren’t heavily involved with the LB wiki.

  • karasumaru

    Perhaps Buck’s minor change in tone here stems from his devastating realization that hundreds of thousands of phones are being destroyed at that very moment…some of which he had used…

    I’d be vaporized, by the way, in this scene.  Just so you know. 

  • Tofu_Killer

     “Oh the telephony…”

  • LouisDoench

     Are you sure? Perhaps you were only “nearly-vaporized”

  • flat

    Buck acting as a human being, the surprises never seems to end.

  • Tricksterson

    Well of course he’s being (semi) nice to Verna.  She lent him her phone,/i>, the greatest sacrifice one human being can make for another.

  • PollyAmory

    Is the postscript a summary of actual events in the book or just a bit of flash fiction by Fred? Because it moved to tears, and I can’t live with myself if I think something Ellenjay wrote would do that. 

  • Münchner Kindl

     Well that’s your answer already: it’s well written and moving, and about what real people would do. It can’t be Ellenjay.

    Now, whether Stanton Baileys body being found is canon or whether Ellenjay just forgot him – that I don’t know. Maybe aunursa with her wide knowledge of the whole series can clear it up?

  • aunursa

    Maybe aunursa with her wide knowledge of the whole series can clear it up?


    Stanton Bailey is not mentioned after he was fired from Global Weekly.

  • vsm

    I imagine it’s that -a ending in your nick.

  • aunursa

    It’s happened many times before.  It’s due to the “-a” or the “nurs[e]”.

  • Elizabeth2000

    >>It’s happened many times before.  It’s due to the “-a” or the “nurs[e]”.

    My bad – I also assumed you are an “Anna” variant.

  • Sleepin0809

    Steve shows up somewhere down the line. SPOILER ALERT

    He’s horribly scarred, stuck in a wheel chair and missing 1/2 his face and has adopted a new identity. The trib force find him right as the ‘mark of the beast’ is being applied to all GC employees. Steve of course has become a believer and has his head chopped off.

  • aunursa

    The postscript is not from the book.

  • PollyAmory

    Amanda was a part of that, wasn’t she?

  • JustoneK


  • Chris Doggett

    Buck Williams isn’t just a bad reporter; he’s an anti-reporter. Not only does he not engage in journalism, but his very presence prevents others around him from engaging in journalism. He’s an anti-catalyst, preventing reactions all around him. 

     “I need to make some long-distance calls,” he said quickly. “Can I skip all the codes and just pay you back?”

    This is one of those sections that doesn’t age well at all. “Long-distance?” The Millenial readers mouth silently. “What’s that? What ‘codes’ is he talking about skipping? You have to dial area codes…”

    I think the authorial intent with that bit was to make Buck seem fair-minded: “I know it’s the end of the world (as we know it) but I pay my debts and treat people fairly.”
    Unfortunately, like all of the hack writing, it expresses something else entirely: at best, Buck is oddly focused on trivial, material things during a time of massive existential crisis. (No, seriously, when a significant fraction of humanity is due to die, “existential” is exactly the right term to use) At worst, Buck’s remarks suggest he believes these things matter to Verna, making him seem petty for trying to sneak in such a small insult under the circumstances. 

    “Don’t worry about it, Cameron. Our little feud just got insignificant.”

    From this point forward, Verna (MetaVerna?) starts acting the way we would expect normal, rational people to act. WW3 breaking out? Well, then it’s time to quit the day job, leave the apartment in the city behind, and “flee to the hills” and “do not turn back to get your coat”! 

  • P J Evans

     You used to have to put in special codes for the long distance service you wanted the called billed through.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    You used to have to put in special codes for the long distance service you wanted the called billed through.

    The thing that always confused *me* was that this usually was needed for corporate PBXes, not ordinary cell phones.

  • P J Evans

    this usually was needed for corporate PBXes, not ordinary cell phones.

     The ones I’ve met for dialing out of the company system are just one number, usually 6 or 9. The ones for long distance dialing were as many as five digits.

  • Ralovett

    Oh, at the time this was written, it probably meant credit-card dialing. I had that. You called a special number, dialed the one you wanted to call, and entered a code to charge your own phone, rather than the one you were using. It really was cumbersome. I hated it, partly because it took me 30 digits or so to charge myself 30 cents a minute to save my mother 8 cents a minute. 

    Like it or not, L&J knew their phones at the time they wrote.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Oh yeah, I’d forgotten about that! Yeah, I remember third party dialling back in those days so I could call long distance and not charge my friend’s phone, but my own.

  • PepperjackCandy

    Someone has probably suggested this by now, but I thought he was talking about “dial around” long distance.  Those are those “10-10”  numbers that were advertised in the US, oh, around the time these books were written. 

    I did a little digging and apparently some of them are still in business, though since cell phones are now nearly ubiquitous and so many of them have unlimited long distance, or long distance for the same price as a regular call, and such, not very many people use them anymore.

    But who the heck is Buck calling?  Certainly Jenkins knew that a call to the suburbs from the city was a local call, even though they had different area codes (708 and 312, respectively, at the time this was written).  The only other people in the world that Buck cares about were on an airplane, and thus unreachable at the time.  I don’t suppose that Buck’s car phone had an 815 area code or something?

  • Roger Cole

    She hasn’t come out of the closet yet right? She’s still just some lady with ‘sensible shoes’? 

  • Mordicai

    The asterisked annotated Left Behind, the alt-universe of secular heroes in the End Times…I would read that.

  • GeniusLemur

    “Don’t worry about it, Cameron. Our little feud just got insignificant.” Once again, Jenkins serves up a masterful bit of anti-dialog. That line would ruin five pages of timeless prose. And the worst part of it is, this is a well-worn trope with easily a dozen ways to say it, quickly and naturally.

    “Don’t worry about it.”
    “You’re worried about that NOW?”
    “Now’s not the time to worry about it.”
    “Just CALL!”
    “This isn’t the time to worry about codes. Or feuds, for that matter.”
    “You think anybody’s gonna worry about it?”
    “Just call. And pray you get through.”
    “Codes? We don’t have time to worry about that!”

    BTW, what does Buck do with the phone? Who does he call, and why (no JOURNALIST, obviously)? And how many pages does he spend reminiscing about cookies with Chloe or whatever?

  • aunursa

    He calls his father in Tucson.  Presumably next week’s excerpt.

  • D Johnston

    In fairness, that kind of overwritten, bad film trailer-style dialogue is depressingly common in some genres. I wouldn’t be shocked if Jenkins was “borrowing” that style from some writer he liked, much in the same way he “borrowed” a number of plot devices from other people. 

    Speaking of which, how much oversight do you think LaHaye had in terms of the dialogue? I’ve been stacking all the blame on Jenkins, but is it possible that he was told to write like this? Or was LaHaye too busy for that kind of micromanagement? Either one would make sense, really.

  • aunursa

    Speaking of which, how much oversight do you think LaHaye had in terms of the dialogue?

    LaHaye provides (his interpretation of) the prophecy timeline and Jenkins does all of the writing.

  • GeniusLemur

    I wouldn’t say film trailer dialogue. Film trailer dialogue has to flow off the tongue. “Our little feud just got insignificant” is amazingly clunky.

    The “borrowing” you refer to is using tropes. And as we’ve seen, one of Jenkins’ truly amazing skills is to take simple tropes everyone knows and understands (like “crusading reporter”) and botch them completely without realizing it.

  • Jurgan

    I don’t know why journalists keep complaining about how hard they have it these days; journalism must be the easiest job in the world.  You get to fly anywhere for free, lay about the office gossiping, meet some of the most famous people in the world and learn their secrets, and all you have to do in exchange is every now and then write a few tepid paragraphs about something you saw on CNN.

  • VMink

    I read the title, and flash-filk filled my mind.  You can probably guess the song.

    An’ he was singin,
    Why, why did Buck’s phone have to die?
    Bought a Rover from the dealer and he waved him ‘good-bye.’
    The Anti-Christ was droppin’ nukes low and high,
    Singin’ “This’ll be the day Chi-town dies.
    This’ll be the day Chi-town dies.”

  • Tofu_Killer

     …And I know
    that Verna lives in sin/
    and she’s a godless lesbian/
    but she handed me her cell/
    as the bombs created hell/
    The day that Chi-town died…


  • Vermic

    I read the title, and flash-filk filled my mind.  You can probably guess the song.

    It’s a very good job, but I had in fact guessed “The Night Chicago Died”, so I hope somebody filks that too or I’ll feel a bit disappointed.

    “Our little feud just got insignificant” is amazingly clunky.

    Yeah, it’s not quite Hollywood-level dialogue unless Verna spices it up with a pun or something.  Like she could say “Don’t worry about it, Williams.  Today –” (removes sunglasses) — “I’m dropping the charges.”

  • BC

    Or she could have said something like, “It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of two little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

  • aunursa

    Again, a flash-forward to Book #7…

    David lay in bed with his laptop, knowing he would soon nod off, but perusing again the abandoned buildings and areas in northern Illinois that might provide a new safe house for the stateside Trib Force. The whole of downtown Chicago had been cordoned off, mostly bombed out, and evacuated. It was a ghost town, nothing living within forty miles. David rolled up onto his elbows and studied the list. How had that happened?
    Hadn’t the earliest reports said the attack on Illinois had been everything but nuclear?
    He searched archives, finally pinpointing the day when the GC ruled the city and surrounding areas uninhabitable. Dozens had died from what looked and acted like radiation poisoning, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta had urged the ruling. Bodies lay decaying in the streets as the living cleared out.
    Remote probes were dropped into the region to test radiation levels, but their inconclusive reports were attributed to faulty equipment. Soon no one dared go near the place. Some radical journalists, Buck Williams wanna-bes, averred on the Internet that the abandoning of Chicago was the biggest foul-up in history, that the deadly diseases were not a result of nuclear radiation, and that the place was inhabitable. What if? David wondered.
    He followed the cybertrails until he was studying the radiation probe results.
    Hundreds had been attempted.
    Not one had registered radiation. But once the scare snare was set, the hook had sunk deep. Who would risk being wrong on a matter like that?
    I might, David thought. With a little more research.

    From The Indwelling

  • Randy Owens

    Some radical journalists, Buck Williams wanna-bes….

    I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Some radical journalists, Buck Williams wanna-bes,

    Me? My jaw just dropped as I was utterly stunned by the idea that Jenkins thinks Buck Douchebag’s example is one to follow.

    Good lord, I’d hate to see what Jenkins thinks of people like H. L. Mencken.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    Basically, the wanna-bes bumble randomly through the wreckage tripping over bodies, falling into giant bomb craters, and whining about their crappy phone reception and the lack of respect from their coworkers while mumbling about how they’d much rather be somewhere REAL news is happening, like a meeting between the executives of the world’s five largest furniture manufacturers or a vinegar crisis at a major pickle manufacturer as a result of war shortages.  The scattered survivors who emerge from the other side of town go on to happily never write anything of any importance ever again. 

  • Vermic

    The entire idea that a cover-up exists over whether a major city has or has not been nuked — I dunno, the concept just makes my head hurt.   In fact, everything about this Indwelling excerpt makes my head hurt.  I don’t even know where to start.

  • heckblazer

    Yeah, it is pretty painful.  I would start though with the question of whether Buck saw a giant glowing mushroom cloud or not.  If  yes,  nuclear.  Do the people downwind of Chicago show a spike in thyroid cancer?  If yes, probably nuclear.  Are people analyzing the Earth’s atmosphere finding radioactive xenon isotopes?  Definitely nuclear, and that’s a test that can be done, like, from other continents.  Even if it was nuclear there would be no need to Cordon off Chicago by the time of The Indwelling, as the worst of the residual radiation would decay away in a few days.
    I will say that the attacks as described, while an extremely nasty piece of  mass-murder, wouldn’t necessarily  be the end of the world(*rimshot*).  You just need one warhead per city to get the “Don’t f*** with me” message across.  One American W-76 warhead has a yield of around 1oo kilotons,  for a rough estimate of 1 megaton total for 10 cities .  Being immediately downwind would suck,  but globally the radiation wouldn’t have much of a health effect.   The smoke from the massive urban fires ignited by the bomb would be the big problem.  Guestimating from the more recent modeling of nuclear winter the soot in the stratosphere would cause something along the lines of The Year Without a Summer in 1816.   That produced a real nasty food crisis, but obviously humanity survived reasonably well.Now that I think about it that’s a good lead-in to”Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages”.

  • Münchner Kindl

    Sorry about misunderstanding your nick, aunursa.


    David lay in bed with his laptop.


    Some radical journalists, Buck Williams wanna-bes

    ugh. That hurts.

  • Becca Stareyes

     You know, right now Mark Reads… is covering the Newsflesh trilogy, which is a thriller staring a brother-sister pair of journalists (25-ish years after zombies became a real thing, but life goes on).  He’s only partway through the first book (where Our Heroes become part of the press convoy of a presidential campaign), and already I can think of scenes where Shaun and Georgia make it clear that even when the dead are devouring the living, they’re still going to keep the cameras rolling and at least make sure someone on staff edits and posts the footage while they go through decontamination afterward. 

    While the author does really hit home with ‘your friends and family are in danger’ (and without even a metaphysics that allows for eternity in paradise), seeing the characters do their jobs in tough circumstances lets the ‘oh, shit’ moments really shine. 

    Buck Williams continues to look unworthy to write ad copy for After the End Times in comparison. 

  • D Johnston

    That’s why journalist characters are a writer’s best friend. They have good reason to be absolutely anywhere; they don’t need to be heroic, but they can if the story calls for it; and they’re guaranteed to make enemies of all the right people. Jenkins was aware of the first part – Buck’s status gives him access to places other people can’t go – but he blew it by not having Buck actually behave like a journalist. On top of that, it seems like it’s actually Buck’s celebrity that’s giving him access, not his credentials. Buck may as well have just been some rich guy’s kid, for all it mattered.

  • aunursa

    Houston, TX: I read the first book and was struck by how all the
    characters and “heroes” are elites who love the finer things in life. How can
    you reconcile such smugness and materialism with the teachings of Christ?

    Tim LaHaye: I would contest your
    interpretation by pointing out that an airline pilot, a college student, a
    mechanic, a housewife, a nurse or even a doctor can scarcely be called an
    elitist. Buck Williams was an award-winning journalist, which gave him the
    necessary entree to the highest divisions of government leadership which would
    be required in the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the leaders of
    global government and Israel. The Tribulation period will be so chaotic that
    even the world’s elitists will suffer grossly.
    Jerry Jenkins: Yeah.  What Tim said.

    Left Behind interview: The Indwelling

  • Ruby_Tea

    I’d say that the elitism displayed by Ray and Buck is just a practice run for the elitism displayed by Paul Stepola in Soon and (especially!) by Joshua Jordan in Edge of Apocalypse.

  • Charity Brighton

     It’s interesting that LaHaye seems to define “elite” as solely a function of profession. In his mind, the well-paid personal chauffeur and trusted confidante of the Emperor of the World is not an “elite”, apparently only because his official job title is “pilot”.

  • GeniusLemur

     And it doesn’t matter that he’s a front-page celebrity either, he’s still not an “elite” because he’s a “pilot.” 

  • Ken

     Whoa, talk about missing the point.  Really reinforces the idea that L&J have no idea how repulsive their “heroes” are.  Hint for them: the key words are “smugness and materialism.” 

  • Aaron Boyden

    Bah.  How are we supposed to waste time pointlessly speculating about the yield and fallout and delivery systems of perhaps-nuclear weapons?  Geeky knowledge of actual military hardware is utterly useless here!

  • D Johnston

    I still say they should have made it an antimatter bomb. Why set a story in the future if you’re not going to take advantage?

  • LoneWolf343

     They may not have known what antimatter is.

  • GeniusLemur

     They probably have no idea what atoms or fission are, and think “nuclear” is some kind of super-TNT. It would explain a lot.

  • P J Evans

    They probably have no idea what atoms or fission are, and think “nuclear” is some kind of super-TNT. It would explain a lot.

    I always figured that was Reagan’s view of nukes. It doesexplain a lot. It doesn’t make me feel better, though, because it makes me think they’d be more likely to use them.

  • heckblazer

    Reagan actually thought they were pretty evil, which is why he was so big on SDI.  It took him awhile to figure that his bluster scared that crap out of the Russians to the point of almost starting a war, but to his credit once he did he started up the negotiations with Gorbachev.  The rest of his administration was pretty hawkish though; starting up the talks went against the express advice of his advisers.  That in turns leads me to note that the things I like about Reagan not only are not the things Republicans like about Reagan, they’re things Republicans pretend Reagan never did.

  • Dave Pooser

    …and yet they’ve successfully developed antijournalists and anticonspirators.

  • Ima Pseudonym

     Ellenjay’s imagination is as stunted as that of the audience they actually wrote these books for.  Even if they actually knew what antimatter was, it wouldn’t have occurred to them to use it in this dog, since they’ve proven abundantly they can’t project even near-term tech advances. 

  • Greenygal

    The firefighter’s name was Richard Czerwinski. The woman’s name was Sondra Jefferson. Neither of them had any ID on them when their bodies were found, but their names had been written — with proper spelling carefully recorded — in a notebook found in Stanton Bailey’s left hand.

    This made me cry.

  • GeniusLemur

     This is why I’ll never write post-apoc stuff. I could never drop nukes all over the world, ending all those lives, even if they’re all fictional and never seen, so some bozos can drive around in spiked cars with guns.

  • mistformsquirrel

    Fred, the characters you flesh out/invent as we go along are so much better than the real thing in these books…  Totally with Greenygal, brings a tear to the eye.

  • hidden_urchin

    Fred, the characters you flesh out/invent as we go along are so much better than the real thing in these books…

    Yeah.  After I read that part I started thinking that if Fred wanted to write a novel I would totally buy it. Hint hint.

  • Chris Doggett

    I keep trying to write flash-fiction, but it never quite gels. 

    I like the image of Cameron Williams (baby-faced publisher who gets no respect from his staff) kicking the TV off the lunch-room table to get the attention of the staff of journalists who should be covering the apocalypse instead of watching it. 

    I like the idea of Cameron Williams (ever-travelling at the beck-and-call of Carpathia) reluctantly depending Verna Zee with managing the Chicago office (“Friendship,  trust, and respect? I can offer two out of three, Ms. Zee.”) and I especially like the idea of this scene being the one where Buck “comes out” to Verna. (“You’ve been doing your job and mine the last few months. Normally, I would owe you a raise. But these aren’t normal times, and what I owe you is the Truth. Flee to the mountains; someone on the housetop must not go down to take what is in the house; someone in the field must not turn back to get a coat.” …and then handing her the Cliff Notes’ version of Bruce Barnes work. )

    I just can’t make it all come together as tight and neat as I want. 

  • mistformsquirrel

     There’s no shame in that Chris, that could be an entire chapter’s worth of writing, so trying to jam it all into a flash fiction would be monumentally hard imo

  • GeniusLemur

     That’s because you’re starting with left behind. You can sculpt clay into anything you want, with incredible detail. It doesn’t work nearly as well when you try to sculpt shit.

  • Guest

    Has it ever accured to anyone that if the Nuclear Holocaust is really here ‘journalism’ suddenly becomes mighty meaningless?!
    If the world ends there is not really much of a point in recording it for …nobody (since the world ends?!).

  • Twig

     There’s a rather good Superman story that, I believe, has Superman eventually teaming up with Lex Luthor to fight some enormous threat to humanity.  Superman dies, Luthor survives for a while, and the world continues on.  Eventually we’re being given summaries of life through Jimmy Olsen as an old man, watching a world where humanity is quietly dying out.  He ends his last report, and the book itself, with the traditional -30-

    While I laughed pretty hard at the apocalyptic headlines that actually got printed in the Resident Evil movie, I think I understand why reporters would continue to report, come hell or high water (literally, in recent cases) in the hopes that someone, somewhere would want to know. 

    It’s kind of what humans do, and definitely what reporters do.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Except that we aren’t seeing a nuclear holocaust here. The story is rampant with still alive people…Tons of them, in lots of countries. 

    People who need to know what’s happening, and who, in the context of the story, need to know the prophecy. 

    So…Your point is kinda invalid. 

  • Guest

     A real journalist, someone who sees it as a calling, documents what’s happening right up to the end– for whoever or whatever might come after.

  • Jared

    True but aside from RTC’s, how many of the people that live in this world, (I’m starting to picture LaHaye & Jenkins as some kids with a copy of Sim City and a couple afternoons to kill) think the world is going to end instead of just going through bad times?

    The image of the people that inhabit this world as the virtual people of the Sim City world suddenly makes a lot of sense. I’ve seen population booms coincide with giant disasters. Nothing says “real estate boom” like Bowser walking through town

  • chris the cynic

    This is an installment of Skewed Slightly to the left.

    [previously Ray has given Cameron the list of ten cities in North America that Nicolae intends to obliterate.]

    The Range Rover, now with more than a few bullet holes, and it’s three passengers, thankfully lacking any, arrived at New Hope.
    Cameron and Alice got out without pausing their cell phone conversation, a desperate attempt to find anyone able to warn the targeted cities that they were being targeted, made more difficult by their decision to to turn on the government at the start of the war, hours before they had the information.

    By now the tide had turned, a GC victory seemed unavoidable, and all that remained was to try to get as many people out of the way of the “lesson” the GC planned to teach to traitors.  The problem was that getting people out of the way required getting the message out, and the GC had been dismantling the media since it realized the media was no longer under its control.

    Most of those who weren’t dead or detained were on the run themselves, in no shape to disseminate information.

    Verna, who had been occupied by driving, had handed her cell phone off to Cameron, and now that she was out of the car she was ready to get back to trying to find someone, anyone, who could get the word out.  She held out her hand, Cameron gave her his phone as he continued to talk on hers.

    As Cameron walked into New Hope he was talking to one of the few surviving reporters on the ground in Washington.  Cameron hoped that the man was just one of the few they knew about, and feared he was simply one of the few.  Perhaps, at this point, the only.  He’d talked to him earlier in the day and the situation sounded bad.  “This is Camr-”

    “I told you before I don’t-”
    “Just listen.  Something is coming.  Something worse than all the bombs that have been dropped so far.  Maybe someone can stop it, but if the bomber gets through then there will no longer be a Washington DC so I need you tell everyone, no matter which side they’re, on, to get out now.  Head for the city limits and keep on going.  Shelter if they have to, but it’s not a safe bet.”

    There was a pause.

    “I can’t evacuate an entire city.”

    “Neither can I, but unless you know of a network of fallout shelters-”

    “Would the subway work?”

    “I have no idea.  Just tell as many people as you can, however you can, the biggest bomb they’ve ever seen is coming.”

    “I can do that.”  *Pause* “Thanks for the heads up.”  The reporter hung up.

    Cameron looked around, the inside of the church was a sea of faces and pain, most of the church now serving first aid needs.  If there was an order he couldn’t discern it and he didn’t have time.  He shouted, “I need to see Loretta!” over the cacophony.

    A young woman he didn’t recognize came up to him and said, “You’re in luck, we just got back.”

    When the reached Loretta, Cameron introduced her to Verna, explained, about the list of ten cities of be nuked, and asked if they could use the church’s underground network to get the word out.

    This was interrupted by the phone Verna had ringing, “It’s for you,” she said to Cameron.



    “Yeah.  Listen, how important was your friend?”


    “I’m holed up in an abandoned building looking over the tape.  It looks to me like the hospital wasn’t collateral, it was the target, and it’s not just that, there’s-”

    “Listen, Jake, we don’t have a lot of time, where are you?”

    When Cameron asked where the nearest shelter was, the same young woman as before answered.  “Can you give directions?” Cameron asked.  She nodded.  Into the phone he said, “I’m giving you to…” he looked at the young woman, “I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.”


    “I’m giving you to Jane, she’s going to guide you to safety.”

    He handed Jane the phone.

    Verna and Loretta were hastily trying to combine the resources of the still-free media staff and the underground church system, in an effort both to save the rogue reporters and to get the word out using different methods.  Phone trees and church PAs and commandeered radio stations.

    Alice was helping, but she felt like she should be doing something else, something more in line with her skill set.

    Cameron interrupted this to say, “Jake thinks the initial attack might have been targeting Bruce, does anyone have a reason why that might make sense?”

    The New Hopers were wondering who Jake was, Verna and Alice were wondering who Bruce was.  This was cleared up quickly when Cameron said, “Bruce was the pastor here, Jake is the one we sent to cover the attack that destroyed the hospital Bruce was in.”

    Lorretta shrugged, “He didn’t have a lot of time to tell us anything before he got sick.  We tried to look at his laptop but couldn’t break the encryption, and it’s been low priority.”

    “I can take a crack at it,” Alice said.
    “It’s in his his office,” Loretta offered.

    Cameron said, “Everyone else is busy, I’ll show you where.”  Verna and Loretta returned to the work of combining their networks.

    In Bruce’s office Cameron said, “I told you this day was prophesied right?”

    “Yeah, you made a big speech, we all agreed to fight fate.”

    “That hasn’t gone very well,” Cameron said glumly.

    “Day ain’t over yet,” Alice said while she booted up Bruce’s laptop.

    “Anyway, what I was trying to say is we’ve been preparing, to the best of our ability, for this day.”

    “Meaning what?”

    “Meaning that there’s a shelter under this church intended to protect it’s occupants from nuclear war.”

    “How big?”

    “Big as we could make it in 18 months.  And scattered others throughout the city.”  He paused for a moment, wondering how Chloe was doing in her’s. “The point is, if things go to shit, follow the others into the shelter.”

    The door burst open, “You have to see this!”

    Cameron looked toward Alice.  She said, “Well go and report, reporter.”

    Cameron patted his pockets, “I don’t have a camera.”

    Before he finished saying it Alice had produced a small video-camera from her bag.

    By the time she finished saying, “I do.” Cameron was out the door with it.

    Most of the New Hopers were to busy to look outside, but those who weren’t crowded into the parking lot, some standing atop the cars to get better views.

    Cameron scrambled to the top of the Range Rover that had brought him there and recorded what had captured their attention.  Straining the camera’s zoom he could make out an aerial battle.  From everything he had heard the insurgents didn’t have much of an air-force left, but they must have found something to try to defend the city.  It gave him hope that his warning had gotten through.

    Then the battle was over.  Balls of fire streamed from the sky, but there was no more fighting.  One side had lost.  As the plane zoomed closer Cameron’s heart sunk.  He wasn’t a military reporter, he knew little about planes, but he knew that the thing that passed overhead was more likely to be used to drop a bomb than to shoot down a bomber.

    It didn’t pass directly overhead, but it did come closer on it’s way passed, heading toward the center of Chicago.

    It dropped its payload on parachutes, a way for the plane to get a safe distance while the bomb was still in the air,Cameron assumed.  His hand shook, and the camera magnified every insecurity, since it was zoomed in so far.

    Cameron zoomed out, but made sure the thing dropping on parachutes was still visible and mumbled something about the possibility he wouldn’t keep it in frame because he was going to shield his eyes.  Then he covered his eyes with the elbow he wasn’t using to hold the camera, and waited.

    The time seemed to drag on forever, the temptation to take a peek was almost overwhelming.  Then he was bathed in light.  Someone screamed, “Everyone inside!”

    Cameron looked at the camera, it said it was still recording, but the video screen was black, he checked the lens cap and assumed that the light had knocked out the visual sensors.  Maybe it could still record sound.  He tried to describe what he was seeing, but the description felt like it fell flat.  How do you describe your home in flames?  How do you describe hope dying?

    Then he ran.  God only knew what the shockwave would be like.

    [As a disclaimer, I know nothing about bombs, perhaps-nuclear or otherwise.]

  • esmerelda_ogg

     Chris, what can I say except another really great job? THIS Buck/Cameron really is a hero – and so is everyone else on stage. No matter what the Monster in the Sky eventually does to them (and, as a Christian myself, I’ve got to class L&J’s so-called god as an antiChrist), these are characters who deserve our respect and admiration, and who cares what they believe.

  • Nirrti

     “Witnessing that aerial attack, Buck says exactly what you’d expect him to: ‘Who’s got a cell phone I can borrow?'”

    Wha…..Bucky Boy somewhere without a cell phone? How the heck he survive that long?

  • Elizabeth2000

    I was just thinking about trying to write something for NaNoWriMo, which is coming up – and then I thought: Maybe this is how Jenkins thinks *all* writing is done and is supposed to be done? You just bang out 50,000 words and hit ‘send’ and get a certificate saying you’re a winner! What else do you need??

  • Charity Brighton

     You’re more right than you possibly realize. Jenkins actually describes his writing process in an interview he posted to his website (?) and… well, the actual process itself theoretically can work but he basically kills any chance of that by his slapdash editing policies and general lack of perspective or insight.

    Jenkins would definitely make a great NaNoWriMo contributor though; he feels no compulsion to self-edit at any point during the writing process; in fact, he’s pretty much the kind of person who would sit down, write 50,000 words in one sitting, and send that immediately to his publisher for immediate distribution and sale without taking even a second glance at any of it.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I think you dignify his process too much to call it “writing”.

  • D Johnston

    The interview was in Christianity Today, but the only link I have is dead and I can’t find the article anywhere else.  Here’s the key bit, though:

    Jenkins shared some insights into his writing regimen. “By the time I get here I have done my research and information gathering, so my goal is to produce 20 pages a day,” he says. “Each morning I edit and rewrite what I wrote the day before, and in the afternoon I finish the next 20 pages. When the manuscript is complete, I do a thorough edit and rewrite again.”

    Now, “page” can mean a lot of things, but you’ve got to figure that he’s writing 5,000 words a day. That’s an insane pace, though not unimaginable. However, he also claims he spends half of each day on editing (sure, Jerry, I believe you), so he’s pounding out a good 1,500 words an hour. Not to get bogged down in the craft again, but that’s basically stream of consciousness speed. No one’s producing quality work at that rate.

    The standout part in that quote is how he describes his writing. His standards are based in quantity, not quality. He doesn’t view himself as a craftsman, but as a line worker. Explains a lot.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Well, as I do like saying he rather crapped these books out.

  • GeniusLemur

    And yet that’s still no excuse for these things to be as bad and pointless as they are. The great pulp writers of the 30’s would often turn out 100,000 words or more every month. And a lot of them are damn good stories, and quite well-written for mass-market stuff. And when you remember they were written by someone who’d been turning out 100K words/month for ten years already, it’s staggering how good they are.

    And needless to say, there’s no Doc Savage novel where he spends page after page making phone calls, or spends ten pages in the restroom, or endlessly drives to and from the airport to no apparent end, or… well, you get the idea.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    And even the pulp writers of the 1930s had to send their stuff through editors. Isaac Asimov, for heaven’s sake, got rejection notices on occasion well into the 1950s, or requests for revisions into the 1980s.

    Nobody’s immune and Jenkins acting like he is, is a bit… irksome.

  • Mrs Grimble

     There was another well-known writer who wrote like that.  His wife described to a biographer how he would just sit down at the typewriter, start typing straight away and would never stop for editing or corrections. As each finished page came out of the typewriter he would drop it to the floor and leave it all for her to pick up, put into order and send to the publisher.
    His name?  L Ron Hubbard. 

  • vsm

    I’ve never read anything by Hubbard, but I’ve known people who insisted some of his pre-Dianetics work was actually quite good. Anyone know more?

  • Winter

     Of his pre-Dianetics work, I’ve only read Typewriter in the Sky and it’s pretty good for pulp. It’s about a pulp writer on deadline who has to write a pirate novel in two days and decides to base the villain on a friend who happens to be nearby when his editor comes calling. The friend then becomes the villain, trapped in a world every bit as badly written as the LB series.

    For me, the best part is the main character’s reaction to being pulled into a sloppily constructed and nonsensical world, forced to mouth inane dialogue, and even having long segments of time blotted out by a rewrite. He plots during time skips when the Author’s hand is away and almost manages to come out on top, which is what caused the rewrite.

    What I’ve read of his post-Dianetics output is outright horrible. The novel Battlefield Earth is not as bad as the movie, but not by much, and the Mission Earth series is one of the largest piles of stupidity ever committed to paper.

  • vsm

    I think that was used as an example of a good Hubbard story. I imagine I’d find reading it depressing, however. It sounds like a fun and likeable book with an original premise (it was written in 1940, before postmodernism became a thing), and it’s always sad to realize a person with a good sense of humour is capable of evil.

  • Tricksterson

    I will confess to liking Battlefield Earthh, the book, not the movie.  It’s good cheesy fun.

  • Mouse

    We do get, in the kids books, heroes, who actually do stuff: Taylor Graham and Hasina Kamen. Both realize the GC are hypocritical monsters and actually try to stop them, but I don’t think that Ellanjay intended for us to like them because they steadfastly refuse to convert and ultimately die unconverted which makes me like them all the more.  

    Here’s a small sampling of Taylor’s awesomeness.

    “I saved my own neck,” Taylor snapped. “I don’t believe you people. If you want something done, you do it yourself. You don’t sit around and wait for some god to do it for you.”

  • Mouse

    Forgot to add, for those wanna to read more about Taylor, look under the tag “Taylor is Awesome.” But I’m afraid not everything involving him is carefully noted, so read my blog for more. :)

    And Loretta tries to talk Verna into converting and Verna says that a worldwide quake would convince her, but after that, we never hear from her again.

  • SkyknightXi

    I imagine that’s supposed to be the corruption in Taylor. To the RTC mindset (and very particularly the supralapsarian mindset…although I’m pretty sure LaHaye is infralapsarian), humans, like everything else, exist solely to reflect God’s glory back to him. Taking your own initiative means God doesn’t get that chance to show off, essentially. You’re SUPPOSED to wait for God to do it for you. Sort of like how an RTC wife is supposed to wait for her husband to make a judgement on an action before going through, come to think of it. (Note: The RTC mindset probably assumes that the likes of Jael and Judith didn’t so much act on their own, as let themselves be animated by the Holy Spirit.)

    Perhaps more importantly, everything is thought to be directly ordained by God, down to the fall of a sparrow. Taylor is proud in believing he saved his own neck; in reality, according to this cosmology, God saved him by manipulating circumstances.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Holy micromanagement, Batman!

  • Mouse

    Yeah, I still think Ellanjay fail to realize just how cool Taylor is, well, unintentionally cool that is; I know they didn’t mean for him to be so cool. It’s just when compared with the heroes that don’t do anything (even less happens in the kids version)…a character who actually does stuff is a breath of fresh air.

  • Jessica_R

    Love your flash fiction Fred. I’ll be back later with some. Astarte and company I think have reached their end of what I can do with them. Time for something new. 

  • Ralovett

    In this sequence and what follows, actually, Verna shows more Christ-inspired behavior than the heros do in the entire book, if not series. She..

    1. Gives him her cell phone, when she probably has people to call, too.
    2. Forgives the person who has persecuted her.
    3. And, in the ensuing pages, gives him her cloak (oops, car) as well. 

    Even in the office scene preceding this, I really like Verna. I’m a short fiction writer, and I’ve written a couple of sociopathic narrators. In these stories, people like Verna exist to make sure the reader gets the narrator’s unreliability. Here it’s like having Lewis really believing that Screwtape is the hero.

  • SisterCoyote

    In five paragraphs, Fred’s got a better, more human story than Ellenjay managed to write in two books (so far). This is… unsurprising. But it’s a damn good story.

  • Ross

    /Look at me, I’m Verna Zee
    Obstinate with Lesbianinity
    In states that are red, can I legally wed?
    I can’t, I’m Verna Zee

  • phoenix_feather

    If Verna is possibly condemned, instead of definitely condemned, that means she’s not going to hell automatically for being a lesbian.  So… that’s kind of nice. 

    (Unless … I don’t remember how strongly Ellenjay hinted that Verna is actually a lesbian?  Maybe they only meant for her to be a strong feminist, in which case its ok because she can repent of her feminism before she dies?)

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Oh, they do establish Verna as a lesbian. Buck Douchebag casually threatens Verna with it:

  • Randy Owens

    Dammit, IN, I’m trying to cut back on the throwing-up-in-my-mouth this week!

  • Tricksterson

    Thank you for reminding me why I never made it to the next book.

  • D Johnston

     She’s probably not a lesbian. The logic was that she was referred to as “militant,” which in PMD circles is always appended to “feminist” or “homosexual” (or “atheist,” but maybe they weren’t saying that in the 90’s). And since, to most PMDs, feminist=lesbian, we just made that assumption. It’s not textual, though.

  • Charity Brighton

    Aren’t those “spiritual states” from that wiki mostly conjecture? I don’t remember Jenkins or LaHaye including an itemized list of every single character in the books and checking off which ones were sent to Heaven and which ones were sent to Hell, though it’s honestly been a while. Verna Zee is “presumed condemned” because she was killed before she explicitly converted to Christianity by saying the magic prayer. Her sexual orientation does play a part in how she’s negatively portrayed by Jenkins but she would have been damned to Hell even if she was a perfectly chaste heterosexual like Chloe and Buck are.

    The standout part in that quote is how he describes his writing. His
    standards are based in quantity, not quality. He doesn’t view himself as
    a craftsman, but as a line worker. Explains a lot.

    This, of course, does not stop him from offering Writers’ Guild to train new Christian authors. And he charges a lot of money too, which must be disconcerting to the 85% of clients who were already better writers than Jenkins before signing up for the class.

  • Randy Owens

    I would guess that that wiki bases their “spiritual states” from the last two books in the regular series, and assumes that if they’re not mentioned in the Good Place, they must most likely be in the Bad Place.  That’s at least a partial definitive list from LH&J right there.

  • Albanaeon

     “And he charges a lot of money too, which must be disconcerting to the
    85% of clients who were already better writers than Jenkins before
    signing up for the class.”

    Don’t worry.  I am sure he fixes that…  Taking the old maxim “Those who can, do.  Those who can’t, teach,” to an all new level.

  • Ross

    Remember, lesbians don’t really exist for folks like Ellenjay; there’s just straight women who are arrogantly rebelling against their god-given need to be submissive wives to strong men.  If Verna says the magic words, surely she will be cured of the her sinfullness and immediately realize that what she’s really always wanted deep down is for a man to put her in her place.

  • Tricksterson

    I believe at one point in this book she does say she’s a lesbian.  I thought they were going to have her being the poster-girl for being able to “pray the gay away” but evidently they didn’t go that route.

  • Ruby_Tea

    That’s my countdown: Buck inadvertently outs Verna in 282 pages.  Despite the inadvertence, he has no qualms about using the information against her.*

    *Which information you’d think would be useless in a Global Community world, what with their laid-back (I mean sinful) attitude about the sex lives of others.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Inadvertently? The book all but implies that God furnished Buck with the question, and given how L&J make sure they heavily imply that the Good Guys are Led by God, that means they endorse the viewpoint that threatening someone with their sexuality is God-ordained.

    Also, given all the logical inconsistencies of the ‘verse L&J have created, the only conclusion I can come to is that L&J can’t overcome their homophobia long enough to figure out a way to make a QUILTBAG-positiive world still look bad to the target audience, so they settle for button-pushing and the concomitant readiness of their target audience to mentally fill in the gaps and ignore the inconsistencies thereof.

  • Charity Brighton

    I don’t really remember the OWG doesn’t really get into real-world politics that often in the books. Only one gay character are depicted openly in the series; one of them is more “serious” (Verna Zee) and she is closely associated with the protagonists.

    (There is another character that is clearly intended to be a stereotypical gay man as imagined by someone who has seen roughly three episodes of “Will & Grace”, but he is more comedy relief.)

    We never really get the impression from either character though that Carpathia’s empire is more friendly to QUILTBAG people than our world is. Apart from the whole World Government thing, Carpathia’s rule has much more in common with a cartoony Roman Emperor than a parody or distortion of mainstream liberal beliefs. He commissions giant statues of himself, he surrounds himself wit decadence and nonsense, and in later books he even grants superpowers to some of his followers to create his own Legion of Doom.

    think L&J would have thought of that when they had Mac McCullum
    think some rather obnoxious things about Carpathia after TurboJesus gets
    through with him.

    To be fair, they do make an attempt to contrast McCollum’s unworthy thoughts to Jesus’s. I remember them making a big deal about how Jesus is sad about this and how he regretfully has no choice but to send Carpathia to his doom (for justice!)

  • Carl Eusebius


    Carpathia’s rule has much more in common with a cartoony Roman Emperor

    That’s because it’s an attempt to follow John’s Revelation, which is about the oppressive rule of a Roman Emperor.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    You mean L&J actually figured out part of the real story behind Revelation?

    I may need to lie down.

  • vsm

    There’s also a good reason to think Buck is lying. In chapters told from his POV, Verna is described as wearing sensible shoes and being militant, both of which are code for “lesbian”. He must have at least had a hunch and was only trying to look less like an asshole in front of Chloe.

  • Ruby_Tea

    It also doesn’t help their case that they set up the two gay characters against two of the most hateful characters in the entire LB oeuvre (and that’s saying a lot), Buck Williams and David Hassid.  It’s no wonder that non-RTCs often end up liking Verna and Guy.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Oh yeah. David Hayseed wins NEGATIVE points for explicitly, in the books, promising himself he would be nicer to Guy Blod and actually, you know, bring him to Christ, and then turning right around and being the same old ineffective passive-aggressive douchebag as ever.


  • GeniusLemur

     So how is that different from Rayford, Buck, or any other character in these hatefests?

  • Ruby_Tea

    David Hassid (gaaaahhhh haaaaaaaate!) has a sweet, intelligent, hard-working and very loyal secretary.  When David first meets Chang Wong, Chang sneers that she isn’t saved (she doesn’t have the mark of the believer on her forehead).  David responds that he’s “working on that.”  Except…we never see him working on it, and he abandons her when the Mark of the Beast is to be applied. 

    This is horrible of him for two big reasons: 1) she thinks he is dead, and she truly cared about him and 2) he has left her to get the Mark, as all GC employees must, and thereby be condemned to Hell, no tagbacks.

    Of course, Buck and Chaim and Alby all do the same thing (abandon the undecided to Hell, and on a much larger scale), but there’s something about the personal betrayal by David that just gets to me.

  • aunursa

    Chang: I don’t miss anything, like the fact that she’s not a believer.
    Brave Sir David: I’m trying to figure out a way to work on that.
    Chang: You can’t let her in on where you stand for fear she’ll turn you in.
    Brave Sir David: Of course.From The Mark

    Looking ahead to Book #17, Eternal Destinations

    Tiffany:  [screaming in agony and wishing that someone had warned her to accept Jesus rather than the Mark of the Beast]

    David: Praise the Lord! I once was lost, but now I’m found.  Thanks to a dear friend who led me to Jesus.  Hallelujah!  Let’s all sing another song to praise our Lord!

  • Invisible Neutrino

    And then on top of that he browbeats Chang, too. Hayseed is an ass to everyone. (-_-)

  • Invisible Neutrino

    As RubyTea and I have elucidated, there is something particularly rude and obnoxious about Hayseed’s behavior around people. He goes to considerable lengths to passive-aggressively let every unsaved person around him know he regards them with amusement and contempt even as he claims, in his mind, or to other saved people, that he’s going to try and be nice and try to ‘bring them to Christ’.

    Incidentally, his behavior seems very reminiscent of the BOFH, the caricatured system administrator who treats his job as a joke and the users he is nominally required to serve, as mindless morons.

    Did LaHaye or Jenkins meet a Christian sysadmin in the 1990s who all but literally crapped over anyone who came for tech support?

    Even Rayford and Buck seem less… hard-edged sometimes about their passive-aggressive contempt for others.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Good point: David is one of the most passive-aggressive characters in the series.  Much more so than (for example) Rayford, who has no qualms about being a dick to someone’s face.

    The real irony is that I have always assumed from the tone of the books that Jenkins really likes David, and really wants the readers to like him, too.  I think David is the hip, witty*, young tech-whiz that Jenkins wishes he could have been.

    (Please don’t get me wrong–I don’t think David is hip or witty.  I just think Jenkins thinks he is.)

  • GeniusLemur

     My Biblical knowledge isn’t real thorough, but offhand I can’t think of a single instance when God directly provided the faithful with blackmail material.

    It’s like George W. Bush and his “guidance” by God. I still can’t think of a Biblical instance that God said to someone, “you must do exactly what you wanted to do anyway.”

  • Charity Brighton

     My Biblical knowledge isn’t real thorough, but offhand I can’t think
    of a single instance when God directly provided the faithful with
    blackmail material.

    Now I’m getting a mental image of an angel in a trenchcoat and sunglasses “accidentally” bumping into a believer on a crowded street in order to discreetly pass him a folder full of incriminating photos.

  • chris the cynic

    Buck’s outing of Verna was inadvertent on Buck’s part but advertent on God’s part.  Which just goes to show that Left Behind God is a bigger asshole than Buck Williams.

    Now the subsequent blackmail, that was totally a Buck and God team up.

  • Makabit

    Can’t you repent of lesbianism before you die? I mean, not that anyone should have to, but it seems as possible to repent of as feminism.

  • phoenix_feather

     I guess I assumed lesbianism would be harder to repent of because it would involve changing your behavior… whereas I think of feminism as something you believe, so once you make RTCism your belief system, all conflicting beliefs go away.  That was the very illogical logic behind my statement, anyway.

    I should mention that I don’t think either of those are things anyone should actually have to repent.

  • Tricksterson

    In the eyes of RTCs there’s not much difference between behavior and belief system.  Change one and the other follows automatically.

  • phoenix_feather

    Then they go over it together and make adjustments where needed.

    I can’t get over the thought that these books were actually WORSE at one point. 

    Or maybe they were better, the editing actually ruined them.  Now I’m picturing a scenario like this:

    *LaHaye looks at the first draft of today’s scene*
    LaHaye: “Jerry, you made a mistake–you have a bunch of reporters actually reporting in the wake of a disaster.  It makes Buck’s character look bad by comparison.” 
    Jenkins: “Good catch!  We can’t have that happen.  I’ll change it so they’re all idly standing around staring at the sky.”
    LaHaye: “Good idea!  And maybe have Buck make another phone call…”

  • VMink

    There is anecdotal evidence based on Jenkins’ solo work ‘Soon,’ that Tim LeHaye actually was a moderating influence on Jenkins.

    Chew on that for a few moments.  Study the flavor of it.

    Tim LeHaye, Biblical fanfic writer, Bircher, and theological elitist and exclusionist, made these books more tolerable than if Jenkins had written them himself.

    (Seriously, Soon is a thousand flavors of D8 and will make you weep for humanity. Herb “Call me Cameron “Call me Buck” Williams” Katz is absolutely cuddly, and Rayford “Fully Loaded” Steele is a considerate and loving father, compared to the jackwagons Jenkins populates his world with.)

  • Ruby_Tea

    Shameless plug:

    I read it so you don’t have to!

    /shameless plug

  • Ruby_Tea

    Verna Zee Sensible Shoes Confrontation Countdown: 282 pages

    Also: it fascinates me how Jenkins recycles the same scenes, just substituting different characters.  In The Mark, David Hassid rushes around the chaotic GC headquarters, desperately searching for a car and later for his phone, utterly oblivious to the humanity around him, except to bark orders at them and occasionally think about how “ignorant” they are.

  • SisterCoyote

    Y’ know, it only makes Verna an even better person when you put this into perspective. “Don’t worry about it, Cameron. Our little feud just got insignificant.”

    “Don’t worry about it, Cameron. I know you just literally kicked the door shut in my face, standing on a desk to do so, verbally abused me for taking your calls, and generally have treated me like shit for doing my job, but I’m willing to forgive you, because all of us are in mortal danger and I have almost certainly just lost everything.”

    Doesn’t sound like anything the Mighty Protagonists would do.

  • Ken

    the uncertainty that follows a perhaps-nuclear assault can be agonizing

    This, more than anything else, led to the international treaties banning perhaps-nuclear weapons.

  • FearlessSon

    The important thing, though, is that readers don’t miss the lesson from this scene: Cities are dangerous places full of violence and lesbians. Stay in the suburbs and stay safe.

    That is it, I am getting an apartment near downtown.  

  • Chris Doggett

    So I think I know why I had trouble trying to re-write this scene, and it’s the same problem as last week. Normally, I try to re-write while keeping as much of the dialogue, action, and plot as possible. (so, Buck still kicks something, Verna and Buck* begin at odds but end in a more amicable position, and bombs fall) 

    The problem I’m running into is that to do this, I need to first understand the purpose of a scene, and then re-write it while preserving that purpose. And while I understand the purpose of the “Buck visits the office” scene, I don’t agree with it and can’t really re-write it in a way that makes it work. Why, you ask?

    Well, let’s get the obvious out of the way: the purpose of these scenes is not to advance the plot. Yes, Buck learns he & Chloe are in danger, but we (the readers) already knew that; it doesn’t increase the tension any now that Buck knows. Yes, Buck and Chloe need to escape danger, but they would need to do that anyway. So while the events of the scene are “Buck learns he is in danger”, that’s not the purpose of the scene. 

    The purpose of this scene is all an elaborate setup to show us how a RTC man responds when he learns his family is in danger! This is such an important thing to show us (the readers) that we get it twice: once when Rayford learns his family (Chloe & Buck) is in danger, and then again when Buck learns from Rayford that his family (Chloe) is in danger. Both times, the RTC man is driven into a furious frenzy of fear for family! 

    The problem for me is that this scene really reduces Chloe to nothing more than “something to be threatened for plot purposes”. It also renders Buck myopic (“My boss, ruler of the world, is on the phone wanting to tell me something during WW3? Take a message, I need to reach my wife!) and turns both Buck and Rayford into unsympathetic monsters (“I need to leave a message for my daughter and son-in-law. Tell them ‘icago-Chay is oin-gay to be uked-nay’. Yes, that’s the message for them and only them, no I don’t have anything to tell you or anyone else. And no, I won’t be calling any of my co-workers, friends, family, church, or relatives”)

    Seriously, the only purpose served by this scene is to create a reason to separate Buck and Chloe so Buck can freak out over Chloe’s safety. That’s it, that’s all. And I just can’t preserve that purpose and have the scene work in any real way. 

    *Normally, it’s “Cameron” if I’m writing for my version of meta-Buck, or Call-Me-Buck because I hate the nickname, but in this case, “Buck” is faster to type than Cameron. Which is probably why L&J use the nickname as well…

  • flat

    You know there is one reason I always say that I leave the judging to God.

    It is because a human no matter how smart, wise, noble etc, is still a human being and somehow will screw something up no matter how much he/she tries to prevent it from happening.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    You’d think L&J would have thought of that when they had Mac McCullum think some rather obnoxious things about Carpathia after TurboJesus gets through with him.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Mac had to contrast the righteousness of Christ with his own humanity. Had he been in Jesus’ place now, he would have been unable to resist rejoicing in the triumph. Mac would have said, “Not such a big man now, are you? Where’s the sword? Where’s the army? Where’s the cabinet, the sub-potentates? Now you’re only the supreme impotentate, aren’t you?” 

    Mac McCullum, in Glorious Appearing.

    Yeah, real prize human being he is, eh?

  • Ken

     I like that Mac explicitly contrasts Jesus’ behavior with what he would have done. Do RTC churches use “and live according to the example of Christ” in their liturgies?

    At a meta-level, it lets L&J indulge in that same behavior while (sort of) condemning it, and is a shout-out to the readers who would do it as well. Characters, authors, readers, all with but a single thought, sweet sweet revenge.

  • Will Hennessy

    My theory is that Verna doesn’t actually die in the “Wrath of the Lamb” earthquake as is assumed. She actually dies before that from an alcoholism-related liver issue that was born of having to spend 18 months as essentially a secretary to her subordinate, Bucky, writing the stories that won him CarPulitzer awards (that’s what they’re calling them now in the post-Event world, since Nicky SixPeaks is President of Earth), and generally having to take his shameful-even-for-the-1950s sexism with a grin.

    The poor thing. She’d be the person I’d hire to run a paper if I started one.

  • aunursa

    She actually dies before that from an alcoholism-related liver issue

    Alas, Verna is alive and appears well minutes before the earthquake.

  • Chris Doggett

    Flash Fiction effort:

    Cameron “Buck” Williams pushed open the doors to the Chicago office, expecting to see a frenzied newsroom trying to report on World War 3. Instead, it was oddly quiet. He could hear sounds from the break-room, and headed over to investigate. The staff of reporters were huddled around a television set on the tabletop. Buck was momentarily stunned before fury replaced shock. He took two strides into the room and kicked the TV onto the floor where it exploded with a loud ‘pop’. He found himself shaking with anger, and shouting.

    “You are REPORTERS! JOURNALISTS! We do not WATCH the news, we REPORT the news! The single biggest news event of the last 18 months is happening less than 10 miles from here, and you’re watching TV?!?”

    The staff, some who had been crying, stared silently at him, none moving.

    “GET OUT! Get to your desks, grab your stuff, and either get to WORK or GET OFF THE PAYROLL!” Buck stormed out of the room, not waiting for a reaction. He stomped towards the office of Verna Zee.

    What the heck happened to Verna, Cameron wondered. When the Event happened, she had taken over running the office. Not officially, but because of her, the weekly got published on-time, and that kept the advertisers happy. After the acquisitions and mergers that pushed Buck into the publisher’s seat, he wanted to fire her and put his own impression on the magazine, but between the church groups, finding time for Chloe, and being at Carpathia’s beck-and-call, he simply didn’t have the time. The truth was that he had come to depend on Verna for getting the magazine published. Which, as he approached her closed office door he realized, was a pretty bad deal for her, since she never got a proper promotion or pay raise. He took a deep, calming breath, and opened the door. 

    Verna looked up at him in shock, an instant later hanging up the phone and turning off her computer monitor. Her eyes were red-rimmed and Cameron spotted wadded-up tissues on the desk. He was confused, but still fairly angry; dereliction of duty was a serious thing.

    “I just came in to find our staff watching TV. Not calling sources or getting information or working on leads, but watching TV. This used to be a  leading source of top-notch journalism, home to up-and-comers and go-getters who would be halfway to O’Hare by now. What happened?

    Verna gave him a confused, searching stare. Cameron said nothing, waiting for her answer. They locked eyes for a good ten heartbeats before she spoke.

    “What happened? What happened?! Eighteen months ago, this office was absorbed into the media arm of the Global Community. We were given clear directives passed down from Nicolae Carpathia, through your office, on what we were to report on, and how it was to be reported. Maybe you were too busy playing personal secretary to the Mountain Man to notice, but the last sixty-four issues we’ve published have been nothing but fluff and fancy for the new world leaders. Or maybe you just think that’s what journalism is: access to the powerful people and dictation for dictators!”

    “Me personally? I think it’s something more than that. So do a lot of the other folks in this office. So we decided to write the trash your boss asked, but also to report the truth, and use GC’s expense accounts to do it. We worked with other serious journalists to build a network up and down the coast for reporting and publishing underground newspapers that tell the truth.”

    Cameron said nothing; Verna was taking a big risk, telling him all of this if there had been memos with his name on them about how to report. Cameron realized that he didn’t know what had been said in his name through “official channels”, and shame made him bow his head. Verna kept on.

    “We had contact with some of the militias, but we couldn’t get very high. If we had even one high-level contact who might have warned us about the attacks, our people could have been moved to safety. We were getting ready for another print run; most of our people were at the airports, loading and unloading palates. When the government bombs where your subversive reporting network is, and then uses it’s state-run media to announce that it’s bombed the location where your subversive reporting network just happened to be without mentioning them, it’s not hard to get the message.”

    “Everyone that kept working in this office over the last year and a half was part of the cause. We all had friends at O’Hare helping us move contraband. And we’re all smart enough to get the message Carpathia sent today. So what happened? Today we found out just how clever we aren’t, how well hidden we weren’t, and how safe we aren’t. Now I have to figure out what comes next, because what came before is definitely over.”

    Before Cameron could speak, distant rumblings sounded, and the power went out. Verna was right: what came before was definitely over.

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    Just wanted to say that was excellently written! 

  • Randy Owens

    Now I’m imagining J. Jonah Jameson or Perry White taking over Buck’s place in these novels.  That would be a change!

    (Would that make Rayford either Spider-Man or Superman, then?)

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Rayford Steele in no way is fit to breathe the same air as Spider-Man or Superman. :P

  • Eric Oppen

    I was reading above about how the book of Revelations is a veiled slam at the Roman Empire, and thinking about how the Emperor Nero would have responded to the destruction of Chicago:

    “You FOOLS!” screamed Nero.  He yanked the laurel wreath from his hair and threw it on the floor, stamping on it in fury.  “You’ve just seen a city destroyed, and all you can think of is watching these ‘television’ devices?”  His face went nearly as purple as the stripe on his toga.  “Get out there and start helping people, or, by Jupiter Optimus-Maximus, I’ll have the lot of you  thrown to the lions!

    When Rome caught fire in his reign, Nero was down in Antium (modern Anzio) if memory serves (at least, he was out of Rome) but he hauled-ass for the city the second he got the word, and started organizing fire-fighting and rescue efforts.  Of course, afterward he did want to build himself a huge self-indulgent palace on the burned-out area, but at least during the fire he was on duty doing the things a Roman Emperor should have been doing.  He may have taken up his lyre at one point and sang something about the destruction of Troy, but, what harm did that do?   Not doing it wouldn’t have made the fire one whit less destructive.