Saturday, November 2, 2013

Silo 49 Email Question Answered - #1

First let me say how much I love getting notes from people. The little 'Contact Me' widget to the right over there is getting some use and I'm happy for it. I'm pretty shy about leaving comments where anyone can see them so I figured the widget might be more comfortable for some people. Turns out that is how almost everyone contacts me. That's okay by me!

So, along with the very kind words which help me keep writing when it gets hard, I get lots of really interesting questions. Some of the questions are really brilliant and a few of them I've gotten several times. Conventional wisdom tells us that for every one person who will ask an author a question many others will have wondered about but not asked.

The first one is from Silo 49: Deep Dark.

Question: What is that soap that Marina sees in the shower and then picks up at home? It was described as a pot or jar of dark soap that smelled like rosemary or lavender.

Answer: That was basically Moroccan black soap. Not African black soap, Moroccan.

Answer explanation for those that are really curious:  Originally, I never gave much thought to the soap and just had a bar in there. But then I realized it didn't fit in with the ecosystem of the silo. (Given that I'm a scientist in a couple of related fields, I created a whole ecosystem that would work in the Silo universe just for fun. Yeah, I know, weird.) Bar soaps require a complicated chemical reaction that would involve more burning of material, especially wood, than the silo would likely tolerate given they need some of that wood ash lye for other things as well. Many liquid soaps also are fairly high intensity efforts with chemistry and materials that can be better used elsewhere. Also, in the silo there probably isn't much in the way of true lotion, so keeping drying soaps away from skin is pretty important when you're talking about babies and older people.

The one thing that the silos have, and were designed to have, is a lot of labor with a lot of time on their hands. That means that the quicker and more efficient processes aren't necessarily the best ones for silo use.

Back to the explanation...I had a better answer than bar soap right in my own bathroom so I researched it and found that it fit just right. Moroccan black soap is made of the leftovers after squeezing olives for oil, scent squeezed from plants as oil and a bit of water when made traditionally. The process can be sped up by adding a bit of caustic material to saponify the olive paste.

It makes a sort of rubbery goo that goes in nice, reusable jars or pots and requires only the smallest amount to get clean. It is also completely non-drying, good for hair and fine for babies. Also, bubbles from soap and shampoo are the absolute bane of gray water systems on ships, and that would be equally true in the silo, given their recycling nature. Again, this kind of black soap lathers very little so it was a nice fit.

Hope that answers the question for those that wondered but didn't send a note to ask the question.

There are loads of questions that I've gotten that I'd be happy to answer. Just let me know if you'd like that by either doing that +1 thingie on the post, tweet, comment or whatever. always...all the shy ones can just contact me directly!

If you have a question you'd like answered, go ahead and ask away!

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