Recently I had the chance to create some radio tracks for a Fallout themed Live Action RPG, held at a local con. The setting had a lot of different factions gather at a Vault to talk about the possibility of an imminent Super Mutant threat, with updates delivered over the radio by Catch 22, my post-apocalyptic DJ persona.
Music of Armageddon
DJs have been a part of Fallout since the games began including sound, with the AI DJ of New Vegas, the awkward DJ out of Diamond City in the Boston Commonwealth, and Three Dog, the voice of the Capitol Wasteland in Fallout 3. In addition to providing story updates and giving players the chance to meet and connect with them, they spin tunes non-stop to keep you company on your explorations.
Fallout 3 eschewed the metal and thrash music that one anticipates from a wasteland full of raiders, mutant bears, and deathclaws in favour of lighthearted tunes from the forties and fifties, played with scratchy LP overtones. In a derelict subway station filled with firebreathing ants, a bit of music is good company. And the DJs are your constant companion through it all, keeping you company in the dark.
The mere notion of apocalypse DJs turns so much of what we see in doomsday prepping on its head. Radio is a cost. One that provides no immediate value. In a desolate world, maintaining a radio station doesn’t bring you food, water, protection or ammo. It doesn’t have a trade benefit, and it’s possible that the people you’re trying to reach don’t even have the equipment to hear you. But it matters. It offers solace. It offers normalcy. It reminds you that even in the darkest of hours, the darkest of places, someone wants to take the time to talk to you. In Fallout, DJs are torchbearers, doing their best to light the way for everyone in their range.
It’s a far cry from the peddled notions that the most well-armed, the best stocked, or the most ruthless will have what it takes to survive an irradiated wasteland. People for whom conscience is a waste of time, and humanity is an object to apply force to until resources come out. Fallout illustrates that with Raiders, the metalhead maniacs preying on settlers. It goes even further with Super Mutants, people who have been changed into something else entirely, immune to radiation and devoted to aggression and conquest.
Shouting in the Dark
In some ways, post-apocalyptic DJing is the purest form of shouting in the dark. Spending resources and time creating a thing to generate signal, and sending it out to whomever can hear it. Maybe ten thousand people. Maybe no one. There’s never a way to know. But it makes the world sane. As bits fall off buildings around you and rounds clatter out of pipe rifles in the street, the signal still needs to go out. The show must go on. It’s art in Armageddon, resources never wasted on making a life worth living, on not letting our humanity and history fall apart with the rest of the world.
We are here, it says. We are reaching out.