Interview with Mike McKay

So, you believe the new global crisis is coming?
This is the only conclusion one can make upon the careful data analysis.
In the top-most banks, the exposures to the derivatives are many time over their liquid assets. In some banks – more than 300 times over! This is the next bubble which is going to burst, creating the next financial crisis, on proportions larger than both the Great Depression and the GFC of 2007-2008.
But the underlying mechanism is not so in the financial system. What will drive our Civilization down is the resource depletion. We have passed the global conventional oil production peak in 2006 (just 5 years after the Hubbert's prediction) and now quickly approaching two other important peaks: the gas / gas condensate and the unconventional oil production are both set to peak in the US before 2020 and world-wide – before 2030.
The reserves depletion is based on the laws of physics. The Nature is a kind judge, but if it gives you a sentence – there is no amnesty.
But, it has been firmly established that the "Peak Oil" is a myth. They say, the USA will be soon exporting oil, right?
Let me put the things straight. By the Security Exchange Commission's definition, the conventional oil is the one that initially flows from the ground by itself, and does not require hydro-frac (AKA “fracking,”) pumping steam, digging open-cut pits, or similar environmentally-dangerous technologies. I have not seen any valid argument that the conventional oil production DID NOT peak before the end of 2006 (the actual month is December 2005.) In fact, the conventional oil production is declining anywhere between 1 and 3% per year, and this decline is accelerating. Even the EIA admits it now.
The “unconventional oil” (or “other liquids” as they put it in the BP statistics) is not actually “real oil.” It is a wonderful mix, across the board: gas condensate (by-product of the natural gas extraction, very light oil that cannot be cheaply converted into gasoline,) tar from tar sands (very heavy and dirty oil that also cannot be cheaply converted into gasoline,) the “tight” oil (that requires many tonnes of water and sand to be pumped underground before the production can even begin,) the "refinery gains" (oil volume expansion at the refinery - even oil industry executives have no idea why this one is added to the reserves,) and finally, ethanol, which is produced from the crops and results of the soil depletion across the USA and even in Brazil.
M.K. Hubbert, who predicted the “peak oil” in the 1950s, counted only the “conventional oil.” His estimate of the peak production world-wide was year 2000 +/- 5 years. The peak has been achieved in December 2005, done and dusted. The conventional oil production in the continental US has peaked in 1970, also in-line with Hubbert's analysis. Done and dusted too.
The statement that the USA will be exporting the "unconventional oil" by 2023 is no more than wishful thinking, honoured mainly by the politicians, but not geologists. We will get extremely lucky if we can supply 50% of the continental USA consumption from the local deposits through the next 10 years. The good news is that after 2050 the USA will be supplying 100% of the domestic consumption. The bad news is that this consumption will be something like 5% of the volumes we consume now. It is also in the book, by the way.
In your book, the entire Houston is living in slums, and the streets are full of beggars. This can't be right! Is it a "poverty porn?"
By no means!
I have been through many impoverished countries, not as a tourist (looking at the poverty from the air-conditioned bus window,) but living and working amongst the locals. As catchy as the story is in the “Slumdog Millionaire,” I cannot believe in about 85% of it.
In my book, I was trying to build a model of the post-peak society, and had to extrapolate the current trends. After all, the good science fiction (with the stress on “science,” and not on “fiction”) is an art of extrapolation.
In the USA of 2014, every seventh citizen is receiving food stamps. In the USA of 2030, people steal veggies from the neighbors backyards. Very logical extrapolation, don't you think?
Driving through Houston in 2014, you may see beggars on every tenth traffic light. What prevents the USA of 2030 having one at every corner? Another extrapolation.
And, as every extrapolation, each one could be wrong. If you read the book and think of the more logical model – please kindly let me know through a book review!
Are you one of those "preppers"? The people who get ready for all kinds of catastrophes?
Yes and no.
I believe that the typical "prepping," such as hoarding non-perishable food in the basement, collecting AK assault rifles and cartridges, or getting ready to make a run for the woods, - is pointless. As the matter of fact, each one of the above “preparations” can be a benefit or a liability. Being killed form your own “Kalashnikov” is neither better nor worse than being killed from some stranger's “Kalashnikov.” Whatever happens – happens, and the survival will depend primarily on sheer dumb luck (or serendipity, if you want to put it politely,) and not on the resources and weapons you amass. This is also in my book, by the way.
The main “prepping” one can make is mental. It does not matter if the resource crisis takes a form of a swift step-like catastrophe (as in my book,) or a slow, gradual decline. Get yourself comfortable with it. Learn to get by on a shoestring. Learn a tradesman's skill: carpentry, blacksmith, electronics repair, agriculture, sewing, whatever. Learn to deal with people from all the walks of life. I think in the long term – it is better than “Kalashnikovs” and massive runs for the woods.
This is not to say that you should not have 3-days worth of non-perishable food, a fire extinguisher in working order, and a basic first aid kit at home. This is not “prepping,” this is “common sense.”
Why your book is not listed under "Sci-fi->Apocalypse?"
Indeed, the book is about the end of our Civilization.
Unfortunately, the "Apocalypse" and "Post-Apocalypse" genres are firmly occupied by zombies, viruses that have no incubation period whatsoever, and over such impossibilities.
In my book, I was trying to be factual and scientific. To my best knowledge, I have not violated any law of physics, chemistry or biology. If I have, it is by an accident - please kindly write a book review and let me know! Thus, the book is positioned as hard science fiction and dystopian sci-fi. If I was free to give it a subcategory, this should be gone into "sci-fi -> civilization model."
Some readers complain that your dialogues have "broken English." Is it on purpose?
Yes. The language reflects the living conditions.
Some believe, in the post-Meltdown America people will revert to the folk-talk of the 19th century, as in well-renown J.Kunstler novels:
Personally, I think the language will not revert to anything (such events are not known in the human history). The USA has always been a melting pot of immigrant cultures, and the American English has always been fluid, evolving, forward-looking. As in any economic calamity, the language, especially the one of the younger generation, will evolve towards simpler, shorter phrases and more slang. This trend is evident presently.
Now, fast forward to 2030 and imagine that you are talking to a 10-year-old boy, who spent only three or four years in school, and now sorting garbage at the landfill. What are you more likely to hear:
(A) "Yes, this is true. As I may observe, the overall production of our work team has been declining through the last few years." OR
(B) "You betcha. The pick here is no good no more. Our gang don't maka no money for year'an'years."
In my book, quite deliberately, the older the person, the "better" English he or she speaks in the dialogues. The social and ethnic backgrounds are also considered.
Welcome to the brave new world.
P.S. but if you have found a stupid, unintentional typo, especially outside of the dialogues - please kindly let me know.
Your book has been translated into Russian. As an indie author, how dо you manage such a feat?
It happened without me even knowing. Few months after my second edition of “Houston, 2030” was placed on Amazon, I was contacted by a volunteer translator, who asked my permission to publish my book in Russian. I was delighted! For what I can make with Google Translate, the reviews in Russia have been very positive. With some envy I suspect that M.Yakimov professionally composed the Russian text which is far better literature than my humble English original.
In Russia, my book is positioned as a post-apocalyptic novel, alongside with 'the Road', 'Wool' and such. I do disagree (especially with the 'post-' part; in my book, the civilization struggles, but lives on), but I am not going to complain about it. After all, the Russian translation comes for-free!
What are you working on next?
Two books are currently in-progress: one is a sequel and one is a prequel to “Houston, 2030: The Year Zero.” It is not a “series” in strict sense, because neither book shares the same set of characters. The next book, “Houston, 2015: Miss Uncertainty,” is scheduled for the next year.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Well, if I am not writing, I am working on something else! My primary occupation is looking for oil and gas, and it does take a lot of time. Besides this, I, as you may guess, like reading. History books, mainly, but a detective, adventure, or sci-fi – once in a while. Going camping is another passion of mine, but this has nothing to do with the "prepping."
Published 2014-10-15.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Хьюстон, 2015: Мисс Неопределённость
Price: Free! Words: 101,800. Language: Russian. Published: September 10, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Alternative history, Fiction » Science fiction » High tech
У литературных жанров свои законы. Я их знаю плохо. Наплевать на Шекспира! Зато по профессии я нефтяник, законы у меня нефтяные. Вот есть: предел пластичности. Если нагрузить бурильные трубы выше этого предела, трубка рано или поздно – оборвётся, и жахнет по голове так, что окровавленные обломки «защитной» каски достанут у вас из «защитных» сапог… Видите, уже получается «Техно-триллер»!
Houston, 2015: Miss Uncertainty
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 111,750. Language: English. Published: July 4, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias, Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic
This book is a product of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to real persons, real places, real oilfields and real events – is an accident. Let's agree not to sue each other because of a silly book. Heck no, Dear Reader! In literary genres, they have some obscure laws. Of them – I understand next to nothing. Being an oilman, I have my own laws.
Хьюстон, 2030: Дело о пропавшем теле
Price: Free! Words: 24,310. Language: Russian. Published: November 4, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic, Fiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias
Упаси меня Бог заниматься пророчествами, я плохо это умею. Мог ли я предположить, что вирус лихорадки Эбола не только пролезет в Европу и в Америку, но и научится проникать через стандартные, одобренные ВОЗ, защитные костюмы? Да что Эбола! Я даже не сумел предсказать, что Президент введёт в Армии США новый вид приветствия – отдачу воинской чести стаканчиками с кофе!
Houston, 2030: With Proper Legwork
Price: Free! Words: 28,590. Language: English. Published: October 24, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General, Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic
God save me from making prophecies, because I am not qualified. Can I predict that Ebola virus not only finds its way to Europe and America, but also learns how to defeat the WHO protective suits protocols? Hey, who cares about Ebola? I fail to foresee that our Commander-in-Chief is going to introduce those new coffee-cup military salutes!
Хьюстон, 2030: Нулевой год
Price: Free! Words: 93,200. Language: Russian. Published: August 3, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias, Fiction » Science fiction » Hard sci-fi
Ка-бум! Ударил гигантский метеорит. Инопланетный вирус превращает землян в зомби. Извержение супер-вулкана засыпало Китай пеплом. Америка лежит в радиоактивных руинах, а по пустыне носятся банды мародёров на мотоциклах. Стоп! Откуда на пост-ядерных руинах – бензин?
Houston, 2030: The Year Zero
Price: Free! Words: 99,790. Language: English. Published: April 8, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Hard sci-fi, Fiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias
It has been twenty-four years since the Peak Oil, and fourteen – since the world-wide economic collapse (and the Peak Everything.) No, there are no nuclear fall-outs and no zombies on the streets! The Civilization lives on. But: it is a very strange new world. In some ways – similar, and in some ways – totally different from our own. What does the future hold for us?