Updated: Dec 10, 2019
So you might be wondering what qualifies me to write a book such as The Chernobyl Zone Survival Guide?
At the risk of sounding clichéd, this feels like "the book I was born to write", as I feel my experiences and skills leave me well placed to write it.
Firstly I am an avid reader, and have been so for over thirty years. Naturally I have read most of the English language books relating to / similar to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R, franchise, such as Roadside Picnic, Southern Comfort, Northern Passage, Snorkbait, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Captives of the Zone (diary #1), The Norilsk Incident and the Metro 2033 series.
However I have read a great many other hard sci-fi, military thriller and fantasy books too. Notable examples include; 1984, Brave New World, 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2010: Odyssey Two, Rendezvous with Rama, The Road, Starship Troopers, The Puppet Masters, The Forever War, Dune, Worldwar series, Clear and Present Danger, Neuromancer, Blade Runner: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Annihilation, The Zombie Survival Guide, World War Z and pretty much everything by H.P. Lovecraft and Clive Barker - the creator of Hellraiser.
The longest book I have read is Imajica at some 1136 pages, which I read at the tender age of 16.
Please understand I am not saying any of this to boast, I am simply stating the facts.
How would this help with writing a book of my own?
By having read the best works from a range of authors, who are some of the most respected writers in their respective genres, I have seen ‘what good looks like.’
Therefore I know what to aim for. Hopefully some of their talent has rubbed off on me.
Secondly I have a degree in the biological sciences. This degree included a wide range of subjects, including animal anatomy and physiology, animal behaviour, fresh water and marine biology, microbiology, immunology, mycology, botany, chemistry, genetics and ecology in a range of environments – especially transitional and extreme environments.
How does this help?
'The Zone' is an extreme environment with a rapidly changing climate. It has its own fauna, flora, fungi and ecosystem. It contains wildlife and humanoids that are genetic mutations, with their own unique anatomy, physiology and behaviour. My degree and experience in the natural sciences ensures that the zone and its inhabitants, as presented in this book, remain plausible and believable.
Thirdly whilst at University I served in the military for a year – before illness put a stop to it. Through this I learnt the theory and experienced the realities of military tactics and survival ‘out in the field.’
How does this help?
Since these skills would be essential for the fictional Stalkers of the Zone, I can relay this knowledge from my first-hand experience and education. About 25% of the guide is based on this.
Although illness cut my military career short, my passion for all things military has not waned, and my knowledge of the subject is fairly encyclopaedic. I’m not saying this to boast, I’m just stating a fact. Anyone who studies something for thirty or so years will inevitably become quite knowledgeable about it, and I have been studying it since I was a child.
Fourthly I am also a fully qualified fitness Instructor.
How would this help?
A Stalker would need to be very fit to survive the Zone. A sizable section of the book is devoted to teaching a prospective Stalker how to get their body and mind ‘Zone ready.’ This section was written using these qualifications and my personal experience of training people for competitions, military service and martial arts.
Speaking of martial arts, I am also an experienced martial arts practitioner – until illness put a stop to that as well. I started off doing traditional martial arts, but then switched over to modern full contact and self-defence orientated alternatives. I did this after realising how ineffective most traditional martial arts were in real life confrontations and full contact scenarios. (Sorry traditionalists, but it’s true, I am speaking from painful and injurious experience.)
I was also one of the practitioners who cross-trained in a variety of martial arts, back when it was still considered something of a taboo to do so (i.e, before MMA and the UFC.)
As part of this cross-training I researched a great many different martial arts from all over the world to discover what could be learnt from what, and how to best combine them.
How does this help?
A Stalker in the Zone may be faced with hand-to-hand, blunt weapon and edged weapon combat against a variety of both human and non-human attackers, in a range of environments. A section of the guide is devoted to this, and it was informed by my first hand experiences and research.
I have previously worked within the NHS, in the operating department of a major hospital. There I got to see first-hand the aftermath of assaults, accidents, collisions, fires and the like. This improved my knowledge of anatomy and physiology yet further, and gave me an insight into just what the human body can survive, and what it cannot.
How is this relevant?
A Stalker may become injured or sick. A Stalker would then need to know how to patch themselves up. The guide touches on how a Stalker would go about doing this.
My career in Local Government involved training and advising lay people about quite technical and complicated issues. As a result I became very proficient at ‘jargon busting’ and relaying information in an easily understandable way.
How will this help?
Since the entire book is a survival guide, which involves explaining potentially complex information to a lay audience, this should help a great deal.
The guide does not expect the reader to have any prior knowledge of the subjects contained within it. The reader will discover everything they need to know as they progress through it. Most of the information contained within the guide is ‘top level’, i.e. the most important aspects of each topic. Therefore it has great breadth.
To go into greater depth would probably mean adding a further 500 pages to it. Instead the guide ‘sign posts’ the reader along the way to where they can go to increase the depth of their knowledge in specific topics, should the reader wish to know more.
To sum up, I feel I am well placed to write 'The Chernobyl Zone Survival Guide' as most of the things the guide discusses are things I already had prior knowledge and experience of, and as the saying goes, ‘write from what you know’.