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Lot and Lot's Daughter by Ward Moore

First published as short stories in 1953 & 1954; published by Open Road Media on June 6, 2017

Ward Moore was far from prolific, but some of the science fiction he generated has achieved classic status. The short story “Lot” (1953) and its sequel “Lot’s Daughter” (1954) certainly deserve to be enjoyed by each new generation of sf fans.

“Lot” is the perfect antidote to all of the loathsome prepper porn and self-published survivalist literature that has become so popular with a certain segment of society. Moore seems to have anticipated the genre and savaged it before it was born.

The Jimmon family, car packed full of essentials, no room for the dog, flees Malibu, along with countless others who are heading north from the LA area. David Jimmon is pretty pleased with himself because he put his own selfish interests ahead of those of his neighbors and, for that matter, his family by pushing ahead of the pack on the crowded highways. He views himself as a romantic hero, the individualist who survives while the docile masses perish. His family views him as a tyrant who has gone off the deep end.

David is enormously frustrated with his wife and kids, who (in his view) don’t understand the enormity of the war that has destroyed LA and Pittsburgh, inevitably leading (he believes) to primal battles among the survivors as they try to steal food, weapons, and women from each other. David’s family, on the other hand, is fed up with his “there is no law but the law of survival” attitude. When his son brightly asks if it is now okay to steal cars, only David's wife seems to understand that the breakdown of society is a choice, not an imperative.

The war, and the chance it gives him to show off his planning skills, is the only thing that has gone right in a life as a buttoned-down accountant that is primarily defined by David’s insecurity. But the story’s payoff comes in just how far David is willing to go to bring about his vision of a brighter survivalist future.

“Lot’s Daughter” takes place several years later. David is still awash in the constructs of his antisocial mind. His daughter, who believes that humans have an instinct for cooperation, clearly did not inherit her father’s craziness gene. All of David’s survivalist preparations reveal his ineptness at pretty much everything. He is much better at theorizing how to survive than at acquiring the practical skills that might allow him to thrive.

Both “Lot” and “Lot’s Daughter” involve a shock. In “Lot’s Daughter,” the shock arrives when it the reader realizes just what a hypocritical dirtbag David really is. Both stories excel at giving the reader just enough information to appreciate the themes while allowing the reader's imagination to fill in the gaps.

The quality of Moore’s prose and the depth of his thought set "Lot" and "Lot’s Daughter" apart from most modern post-apocalyptic fiction. The stories are small and personal but they hold up a mirror to an outsized, vocal segment of society that, I’m sure, would be just as useless in a crisis at David proves to be. The second story drips with irony, a perfect counterpart to the first, but both stories illustrate the consequences of a misguided philosophy, an eagerness to abandon civilization, that is just as prevalent today as it was when Moore created David Jimmon.


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