The following article has been generously contributed by James V. DeLong and appeared originally on the American Enterprise Institute.
S. M. Stirling is a science fiction/fantasy writer who specializes in alternate future history. He likes to start from the question “what if X happened?” and then work out the ramifications over many volumes and decades.
His current series is called The Change, and it starts off with a simple premise: one day, electricity stops working. What happens next is not pretty. Stirling is a ruthless realist, and without electricity our civilization is about a week from cannibalism. Heat and water disappear, cars and trucks don’t run, planes fall out of the sky, supermarkets exhaust their few days of food, and the economic system collapses because money, which now mostly consists of electronic blips, vanishes. Since no way exists to move food to people or people to food, some in calorie-rich rural areas survive, but few others, and everywhere within 30 miles of a city becomes a dead zone. The die-off exceeds 99.5 percent.