I'm worldbuilding a post-apocalyptic society, but the problem I'm having is that I'm figuring out how badly an area would be affected 40-60 years later when they aren’t actually in the blast zone. Say, if there's a nuclear strike on the east coast (circa now), how would California fare in the next two generations? (I *can* nuke LA as well, if necessary, but would very much prefer not to. I want the emphasis on society, not fallout.) Specifically, an area in central California – I'm working with Bakersfield and Fresno as the possible north/south end points.
Now, there's a bit of handwavey SF stuff going on that will affect this, but basically I'm trying to figure out a logical way that society would break down into smaller pieces and build itself up again within my desired timeframe. I want it to be just at the point where some local governments are banding together and the biggest one is asserting itself as the overarching government for that area. I can play with the variables all I want – there can be setbacks ranging from pandemics to famine years to the cities (including Bako and Fresno) destroying themselves in riots to looters coming out into the rural areas – but I need it to seem logical that at THIS time, everything is seemingly coming together. I can stretch it out to three generations if possible, but really don't want to go beyond that, as I want there to be at least a few survivors who remember the Old Days.
What I also want is for this geographical area to be as self-sustaining as possible (this is for essential plot reasons) – it doesn't have to be grandiose, but food and supplies and energy sources need to be available, fertility rates need to be at a suitable level, and they need some kind of transportation. (Horses? This is partly ranch country, after all.) How many people would be required to create this kind of society? How large an area can reasonably hold itself together in this manner? Oh, and I need guns, which means being able to make bullets after the existing stocks run out....
This is basically the iceberg – 90% of it will be underwater but I need to know it's there or I can't build the story on top of it. Any suggestions/advice gratefully accepted.
Where I've already looked: some homesteading and survivalist websites, but the emphasis there tends to be on what to stock up on now (I'll keep looking). Some useful sites I've found include Bombshock: http://www.bombshock.com/
and this post theorizing a nuclear attack on Washington DC: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/1429926/posts
and this one on post-apocalyptic pandemics: http://recessional.dreamwidth.org/41902.html
and I think I might need to order the Paladin Press