Matt Staggs of Suvudu interviewed James Howard Kunstler (The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century) about his forthcoming novel, The Witch of Hebron, which is anther novel set in the same universe as his end-of-cheap-energy novel, World Made by Hand (which I liked and reviewed here).
Staggs: Both World Made by Hand and The Witch of Hebron take place in the world of The Long Emergency, which you've written about in the non-fiction title of the same name. Could you very briefly explain what the Long Emergency is for our readers?
Kunstler: The Long Emergency is the culminating crisis of modernity, growing out of the limits to growth, resource scarcity, and the collapse of the complex systems that keep us going – everything ranging from industrialized farming to oil-based transportation to electronic communication. It can also be described as the crisis of over-investments in complexity – resolving in a traumatic wave of sudden de-complexifying.
Staggs: Reading your novels, I find myself in some ways envious of the sense of community enjoyed by the residents of Union Grove, yet I remain aware of – and wary of – the incredible loss of life that our world would experience following a collapse of our oil-based infrastructure. On the whole, would you imagine that we'd gain or lose more in such a world?
Kunstler: It's part of the tension of the story that we are constantly having to measure what's been gained against what's been lost. The losses are perhaps more obvious: comfort, certainty, and the whole prosthetic nimbus of technology that we are so used to. The gains are perhaps more subtle: making your own music, enjoying the sounds, scents, and sensations of nature much more directly, the blessed absence of cars and other motor-driven annoyances, unmediated relations with family, friends, and community members, a reconnection with the elemental ceremonies of birth, death, the harvest, the coming of spring, etc.