In going through my written works, I’ve come across a number of general locations that appear rather often. One among those is the desert, that harsh, dry landscape where it rarely rains, the winds turns the sand into ferocious storms, and outlaws and bandits find convenient hideaways from the prying eyes of the rest of the world. Deserts are fascinating in their seeming lifelessness, their isolation and solitude, the dichotomy between the days where the sun is like a furnace and the nights that are bitterly cold, the long stretches where there’s not a drop of rain and the sudden torrent that heralds a brief resurgence of life.
The desert is a part of American history, going back to the pioneer days and the Old West. It represented a great frontier that only the hardiest could hope to venture into. It was also a region marred by lawlessness and even those regions that did have law enforcement were often no less dangerous than those without. You couldn’t depend on other people, you couldn’t depend on the State, you could only depend on yourself and what you could do with your own two hands. And when somebody tried to take away what you had, it was up to you to make sure they didn’t.
That’s one type of desert. There’s also the great Saharan desert, filled with trackless dunes that stretch from one horizon to the next and are never the same from one day to another. Those dunes hide great secrets: the lost civilizations of centuries past. Pyramids and great cities, now lost to time but waiting beneath the sand for some traveler to find, protected rooms and chambers still overflowing with gold and jewels but also hiding deadly traps.
And then there’s the desert of the future, the man-made wastes borne about by nuclear war or some other great catastrophe, where the last remnants of humanity eek out a meager existence. It is no longer the frontier, because there is no civilization waiting beyond those desert sands to run back to if things become too difficult. Ruined cities attract those who are still alive, those who can’t let go of the past and search for some piece of that past that still survives. It is a depressing existence, but hope still lingers. Some try to rebuild, to start anew. With no help from outside, and often no small number of dangers, it’s never an easy thing, but that struggle continues.
Some form of each of these has appeared at one time or another in my stories and I suspect that they will continue to do so.