How To Survive A Sharknado And Other Unnatural Disasters, by Andrew Shaffer with contributions by Fin Shepard & April Wexler
It is easy to imagine how this book came to be. Let us picture some sort of planning meeting by the fine people over at Syfy Network, where they are trying to encourage viewers to check out their lineup of terrible natural disaster films (of which the Sharknado series is perhaps the best known) and think that a book tie-in that views their disaster films as representing real disasters with a threat to humanity that seeks to blur the line between fiction and nonfiction as a spoof of nonfictional disaster preparedness guides would be a good method. And so a noted parody writer was tasked with creating the book and the result is mildly amusing, and probably even better if one is familiar with (and fond of) the disaster films that are referred to herein. Now, does that make this book worth reading? It is funny, at least mildly so, but like many books that are aimed at humor, not everyone will agree as to their worth as writing, and the book will have little appeal to those who are not at all familiar with bad Syfy movies or contemporary meme culture.
This short book of just over 200 pages consists of two parts and various other supplementary material. After a foreword and introduction, the first part of the book deals with unnatural disasters (I). These are divided into two sections, the first looking at fighting mother nature in antdemics, arachnoquakes, bataclysms, beeclipses, boaricanes, dinonamis, sharknadoes, and whalestroms, and the second looking at ways in which earth attacks such as extreme-weather vortices, firenadoes, ice twisters, meteor storms, polar storms, sonadoes, the Stonehenge apocalypse, or a swamp volcano. The second part of the book examines various monsters (II), divided based on whether the threat is from land, like the basilisk, bigfoot, manticore, mega python, Mongolian death worms, mothman, prehistoric cave bear, rock monster, or saber-toothed tiger, or if the threat is from the sea, like the dinoshark, elektrokraken, gatoroid, ghost shark, piranhaconda, pteracuda, redneck gator, robocroc, sharktopus, or swamp shark. After this there is a final note to readers as well as the Shephard Survival Assessment Test, unnatural disaster kit, emergency supplies for one’s vehicle, an excerpt from Charlie Price’s Space Sharknado and A Whale Of A Bad Time by Wilma Summers, and a filmography of the terrible Syfy movies that inspired this book.
Obvious spoof literature like this one frequently prompts the question of whether or not this needs to exist. There is clearly a business need for this to exist–Syfy has a lot of bad films to promote and this book does yeoman’s service in promoting them. And perhaps that is justification enough for a book like this one. Yet as a reader who tends to take things more seriously than they are perhaps intended (which certainly applies here), my wry smiles at the obviously fictional nature of these disasters was made somewhat ambivalent by my concerns that it is all too easy to laugh at fake disasters in a way that undercuts one’s desire to be prepared for real ones. As someone who grew up in Central Florida and has long lived in areas where serious disasters were a threat, a book like this one doesn’t quite hit all the high notes, in that it simultaneously mocks and exploits genuine concerns about the threats and dangers of our world. And I’m not someone who likes being mocked while also being manipulated into ridiculous fears, which tends to reduce my enjoyment of this book and others like it.