Here There Be Dragons (with EMP)

The first book I ever read as a child was Little House on the Prairie. (A good series, even if there was a stunning lack of dragons in the books.) I’m not sure what other kids got out of the series, but my reading experience could be summed up with the sentence: I’m really glad I live in modern times. The thought of a life without plumbing, TV, or peanut butter sandwiches was enough to make my second-grade self shudder. I couldn’t fathom how people survived without modern conveniences.

It was years until I realized the harsh truth about life in the developing countries of the world. That Little House on the Prairie existence is still lived by millions if not billions. I shake my head at their plight and give money to humanitarian groups to help them.

The ironic thing about all of this is that those modern conveniences, and our dependency on them, may one day be our downfall.

In my book Slayers, dragons are real and are coming back to the world. They’ve been hidden away in remote corners of the world, but a dragon lord has decided to use them to take over Washington D.C.. Dragons always make good villains in stories as they are large, airborne, and can easily munch on passing tourists. That said, I knew dragons by themselves wouldn’t be enough to create a panic in the average citizen. After all, we have plenty of tourists to spare. (Just kidding. Don’t write me angry emails.)

So I gave my dragons an extra weapon, one of the scariest things I know of—Electromagnetic Pulse or EMP.

EMP is a real phenomenon. I won’t go into a technical explanation because it involves way more about electrons, gamma rays, and the magnetic field than you want to know. The brief summary is this: if an EMP of enough force happens, it will destroy electronics for miles and miles around. When the U.S. conducted a nuclear test 250 miles above the mid-Pacific Ocean, (called the Starfish Prime test) it caused electrical damage in Hawaii, which was nearly 900 miles away. It knocked out about 300 streetlights, set off numerous burglar alarms and damaged a telephone company microwave link.

If a strong EMP happens in the states, all manner of life could be affected. In the worst case scenario, no one would have power. Most cars wouldn’t start. You wouldn’t have ways to contact your friends or family because phone systems and the internet would be down. All the money you have in the bank? When the electronic financial records are destroyed, your money could disappear. Commerce would come to a screeching halt. Farmers wouldn’t be able to use their machinery to harvest crops. Even things like city water pumps would be affected because they have electronic parts.

In short, it could usher in Little House on the Prairie days but without any of the accompanying charm. Especially since not many of us could find a deer, let alone shoot, skin, and preserve the meat without refrigeration. (Just the thought is enough to make me stockpile Almond Joys.) The characters in my book are afraid of the dragons’ EMP abilities. And really, all of us should be a little nervous about EMP too. My dragons may be pretend, but the threat is real.

CJ Hill (AKA Janette Rallison) is the award winning author of 11 books for teens and tweens that have sold over a million copies. Her newest series Slayers, is about a group of teens who have superpowers to fight dragons. You can learn more about her books at or check out her blog.


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