Eric Shonkwiler, Prepper, Leftist, Bean Enthusiast

Creator and author of When/If, a preparedness newsletter for leftists.
Eric Shonkwiler, Prepper, Leftist, Bean Enthusiast

My interest in prepping began before I knew what it was. Growing up, I watched my Grandma Shiler, born into the Great Depression, stretch a can of soup and sock away food and water in her extra ancient refrigerator. She knew what it was like to come home to an empty pantry, and she prepared against the arrival of lean times that were sure to come again. Ours was a community that didn't bounce back, and so from her I learned that preparing for uncertainty was how we look out for each other. That can of soup might just help our neighbors when they needed it most.

For me, prepping is a pantry full of imperishable (or long-expiry) goods. It’s gallons of water set by (including some distilled) for drinking, cooking, and cleaning if the municipal tap were to suddenly run dry. It’s a fire plan, a get-home plan, and a reliable, efficient plug-in hybrid (with a full tank of gas). It’s giving my neighbors, even the ones I don’t like, some homegrown tomatoes, and letting them know I’m here if they need me for anything. It’s thinking about the future and the living we can sustain.

Before writing When/If, I'd been exploring the future climate change will bring through fiction. I'm the author of Above All Men (MG Press, 2014), which won the Coil Book Award, was chosen as a Midwest Connections Pick by the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association, and was included as a Best Book of 2014 selection for The Next Best Book Club and Chicago Book Review; Moon Up, Past Full (Alternating Current Press, 2015); and 8th Street Power & Light (MG Press, 2016). My writing also appears in Los Angeles Review of Books, The Millions, Fiddleblack, [PANK] Magazine, Midwestern Gothic, and elsewhere.

Whereas my fiction engages the dystopian, my work here ultimately imagines possibility. What future is likely? What future do we want to build? What do we need in order to make it a reality? My aim is to fortify you in the same way a full pantry will: you may not need that can of soup today, but tomorrow you might.