Origins of the organization:
Until recently, Outer Zone Overnight has been a community without a name, a concept without execution.
As long as there have been writers, artists, performers, and musicians who have portrayed “fictitious” worlds of a dark future, there has been an audience. First came the visions of the era that never was, then dystopian visions, then post-apocalyptic, which served as subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) warnings to their audiences inside the context of morality plays. This dates back to the oral traditions of civilizations long lost, as well as the first usage of recorded writing in most every culture globally.
Every generation has explored these themes and genres in the arts, and every so often, either catastrophes of nature or those by man have made fictions a reality. Unfortunately, mankind has not always been prepared, or heeded the warnings given to them by their cultural builders.
Over the last century, several natural phenomena have laid waste to entire populations. Within this time frame, man has gained tremendous power by harnessing the power of the atom, and has exploited technology in ways that are often premature for the benefit of mankind, which are often developed into weapons of mass destruction.
Regardless of if a major catastrophe comes from the hand of man or the will of nature, history has shown time and time again that mankind is fragile, civilization is fragile, and the order and comforts we create within our centers of mass population can be instantly removed by either man or nature, without warning.
Examining the social reaction within the last 50 years, we see film, music, artwork, literature and myriads of other evolving expressive art forms disguising their warnings and instructions to us as entertainment; the morality play and lesson within these works is often lost, as there is no empirical experience that is tactile, no first hand memory from all senses ingrained into the audience member.
Out of this, some have had visions of bringing communities that acknowledge this together in festivals, conventions, retreats, and other forms of communal gathering. A very minute set of recent examples (from the post-apocalyptic genre) within the continental U.S. to which one would give credit would be:
Road Warrior Weekend (2009)
Wasteland Weekend (2010)
Of course many will doubtlessly argue there were other events and happenings that were relevant to the line of thought of this explanation of origins, but regardless, select members of these events began to have epiphanies.
Though these events provided wonderful entertainment, and some basic element of community, they were based purely on fantasy, spectacle and fanfare, and provided nothing to the community to equip them with the skills, knowledge or mindset to actually function in such a “fantasy” world, that may indeed come to pass. These events, though entertaining, glorify the potential reality of a post-apocalyptic world, which in reality, will be a world that will need hope, not glorification. Hope provided from communities that have learned skills from the dark fantasy. Hope from those who look more to the humanitarian needs of such “fantasy” worlds that could come to pass at any time. Yes the movies, books, video games and such are all a wonderful escape from reality, but what will happen when reality itself is something that simply cannot be escaped?
James Howard, a longtime community service advocate and volunteer organizer, community emergency response team member (CERT), career public safety software specialist, and periodic special event and club organizer, entered into an interesting theoretical discussion with several of his current and former volunteer teams prior to a “Post Apocalyptic Festival” just before the turn of the last decade. It is a discussion that has continued and evolved. The dialog revolved around the concepts of community, enfranchisement, artistic expression, education, and survival.
This is the line of thought that led to the first discussions of Outer Zone Overnight project.
Though always happy to participate and contribute to other fantasy projects, ongoing reflection led to the development of O.Z.O., a new vision, which would utilize the fantasy element of post-apocalyptic and other genre imaginations as a tool to provide for the community. Ironically, this all came to fruition as several major catastrophes were increasingly making stories in the daily news. The morning of Outer Zone Overnight’s first event, a radioactive cloud fell upon the West coast seaboard, and this was not fantasy. The great nation of Japan was hit by nature with major earthquakes and hundreds of aftershocks of enormous magnitude, resulting in a Tsunami, and both contributed to the major crisis at several nuclear reactor plants, where multiple hydrogen explosions launched what can only accurately be called radioactive fallout into the air.
The story that bothered James and his friends the most was the historically repeated one, which was always the same:
People were not prepared for the disaster, and as a result, more suffered and died than should have.
History repeats itself, time and time again, most often without pattern, omens or warning that are distinguishable by the everyman.
Some lessons of history should have enemies in opposition, in legion, that seek to counter concepts that have become the sad but true clichés of a society that is not self empowering itself to survive. O.Z.O. seeks to counter the idea of the cliché in this very regard, and embrace the fantasy to peel it away to the reality, and to bring people to the realizations of the reality that will enable them to prepare for it, simultaneously forming a community of like minds.
The first social experiment for the proof of concept for Outer Zone Overnight occurred March 19th, 2011, as over 100 people participating in a themed fantasy exercise traversed over 150 miles of desert following scout placed waypoints after the fictitious annihilation of Western seaboard cities by an unidentified nuclear attack. (The irony, considering the tragedy in Japan is startling).
Many had never camped before. Many had never had to navigate an actual map, or read a compass. The majority had never taken these particular roads, or heard of the places that they were being led to, and were completely unaware of what the environment would hold for them.
Many learned skills basic to survival, that they had never even considered a skill worth having, such as reading a compass, and correlating it to a map. Many of the more experienced taught those with little or no experience as part of the community ideal of survival in this “fantasy” themed event. All found themselves thoroughly entertained through the day, night and following morning, though the entertainment provided great reflection to participants on the theme, as did the campfire discussions.
The event provided entertainment and education from the first moment it was announced to the moment participants arrived safely at their home.
The event was a great change from the everyday norm for many, and the golden truth about growth is that there can be no growth without change. This is also why O.Z.O. staff will seek to alter aspects of the event and theme, just slightly, on each occasion, providing different waypoint markers for challenges in navigation, and additional reflection on hazards, altering the final destination camp location, and not pre-publishing the first waypoint (but never the last) location until just days before the event.
From this set of origins end exploration of concepts Outer Zone Overnight was born, and now it will continue to evolve to provide education, entertainment, and public service.
Video History Timeline:
Outer Zone Overnight (TM) Observation Z
Bridge Of Fate Adventure Trek (Teaser)
Outer Zone Overnight (TM) Black Ops: Metra Adventure Trek (Interview with Commander Gurney)
Outer Zone Overnight (TM) Black Ops: Metra Adventure Trek (Teaser)