Sam Sheridan’s Guide to the Apocalypse
The Disaster Diaries author on self-reliance, situational awareness, and adulthood
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
Sam Sheridan made his name with A Fighter’s Heart, a bestselling account of his experience training for mixed martial arts. Now the former Merchant Marine takes on Armageddon in The Disaster Diaries: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Apocalypse. Published just two months after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast, Diaries is a curious handbook for armchair end-timers, complete with tips and genre-fiction vignettes. Jon Billman talked survival with Sheridan.
Your book is fun—there are zombie anecdotes, after all. But this is serious stuff, as we’ve recently seen.
Watching the hurricane descend on the East Coast, I just kept thinking about the basic message of the book: self-reliance. If everyone is a little more able to take care of themselves, then a week without power becomes a little less of a crisis. I’m not talking about being able to live off the land forever, or a well-armed bunker. Just have enough food and water to sustain your family for a couple of weeks. The Big One in Los Angeles, a crippling ice storm in North Dakota—there are dozens of scenarios where the grid might go down. Taking responsibility for your survival is part of the onus of adulthood. Understand the vulnerabilities in the systems you depend on. And have a couple of plans.
You suggest that situational awareness is paramount. Are you advocating a slow-food approach to disaster?
Yeah, absolutely. You have to move on a much slower plane. Being deliberate is useful in any survival situation—the worst thing you can do is rush and make more victims.
At one point, you argue with a wilderness guide about Scorpions—not the bug, the band. Is “Winds of Change” the theme song to the apocalypse?
No, that’s a pussy rocker ballad. Maybe it’s a punk song. Something hard and blinding.