I am currently reading Jared Diamond’s Collapse, subtitled How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive.
If you write fantasy or science fiction and want to build worlds, this is another book I recommend.
Collapse talks about the impact of climate change, environment, friendly/hostile neighbours and how society responds to these first four problems. The way it responds then determines whether that society survives or fails.
The world we created in Shared Memories was devastated by a war 40 years previously. In that war the people in our story lost their ability to produce energy, lost immediate access to major food supplies, and lost most of their healers.
The population crashed.
When we wrote it I wanted the population to drop by 80%. Sherylyn convinced me it would be more like 50%. I eventually came around to her way of thinking, but after reading Collapse I’m starting to think that an 80% drop in 40 years is still possible.
We’ll stick at 50% though, because to drop 80% the world would need to be a closed system, with no outside contact at all.
Our world—Roland’s world—did have external visitors and contact with others, albeit slowly.
The great thing about books like Collapse is that they show you how other factors, not just politics, influence a society, and make it survive or fail. As writers we often focus on the politics and omit the rest.