Honors College dean writes post-apocalyptic novel

Brian Railsback, dean of Western Carolina University’s Honors College, is directing proceeds from the sale of his post-apocalyptic novel “A Going Concern” to his daughter’s upcoming mission trip through the World Race organization.

Brian Railsback

Brian Railsback

A fan of post-apocalyptic movies and literature, Railsback was inspired to write the book after pondering what would happen if most of the human population was finished but the rest of the world was fine. He also wondered if it was possible to write a book in the genre that was at once frightening, dramatic and humorous.

Award-winning author Ron Rash called the resulting novel “excellent” and noted that the story that “has taken the bleakest of human scenarios and within it found decency, and hope.”

Railsback dreamed up someone completely ill-equipped to survive: Trent Sheets, a 42-year-old guitarist in a band called Subculture who fled to the woods near Cullowhee after a disastrous concert. Sheets discovers most of humanity has succumbed to a virus and decides to travel home across the country to Southern California. Points along the way include Sylva and downtown Asheville.

Sheets “escapes packs of wild dogs, meets dying remnants of humanity, loses the only healthy woman around, picks up a very unhealthy teen, … jams at the last radio station, finds one thriving town that kicks him out and finally comes home to Southern California – a land of sunny beaches, unchecked wildfires and unlimited booze,” according to the book cover.

Cover of "A Going Concern"

Zack Keys from WCU designed the cover of “A Going Concern.”

Railsback titled the book “A Going Concern” to capture the story’s exploration of the future of humanity – will we thrive or fade away?

After five years of working on the book during work breaks, Railsback completed the novel in 2009 and sent some queries to literary agents. He had put the writing project aside until his daughter, Cadence Railsback, shared her interest in participating in the World Race. Adventures in Missions, a Christian organization, sends “World Racers” in squads to 11 countries in 11 months to “serve ‘the least of these’ while amongst real and raw community,” according to the World Race website. To participate, his daughter, who is graduating this month from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a degree in film studies, will need to raise at least $15,000.

Railsback offered to self-publish the book, an experience that would help him learn about the emerging e-book industry, and direct all proceeds from sales to support her fundraising effort.

Cadence Railsback, who grew up attending Cullowhee United Methodist Church, said she wants to participate in the World Race to gain perspective about how the rest of the world lives. She expects to have raised enough money and acquired the gear needed to be able to participate starting in July 2014, and she is touched by her father’s gift to help her reach her goal.

“It makes me feel like he really supports what I am trying to do,” she said. “It also makes me feel very humble to know that I am so loved. This is a project that he spent at least five years of his life on that he handed over so readily to help me.”

Railsback’s previous works include the novel “The Darkest Clearing,” which was published in 2004. Awards for his writing include the Prose for Papa (Hemingway) award, which was bestowed in 2006 for his short story “Clean Break.”

“A Going Concern” is available at Amazon online. For more information, contact Brian Railsback at 828-227-2101 or brailsba@wcu.edu.