When I was a young child, before I read much, I created stories with my brother, as we played in the woods. These stories were often about surviving after the world ended. We built lean-tos out of downed branches and pine boughs, and stole old pans from my mother’s junk pile in the garage. We never decided how the world ended, but in the snowy springs before the snowmelt really kicked in, we would pretend that the world had gone dark and cold.
As I grew older, I started writing stories. I watched the old Doctor Who shows with my dad and my little brother. Sometimes my dad would find some old science fiction movie based on some old science fiction book, and we would watch that.
At ten, I first read The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. I loved the story that created a whole new world and built new kinds of people in this new world, but I couldn’t ever imagine writing about a different world. I liked to imagine myself in this world, building stories about the past or present that would either alter the events of the world of today, or that would explain the events of tomorrow.
By fourteen, I had started to read The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan, the first book in his “The Wheel of Time” series. I imagined myself there, along with the characters, experiencing the world as they experienced it. This same summer I wrote my first novella. It’s not a good or engaging story, but looking back on it, I was utilizing fiction to help me cope with being bullied by my peers.
I thought I could write about a “new world,” but looking back on it, I still see myself drawn to science fiction, particularly dystopian fiction. I am not a real fan of aliens or space travel, but I do enjoy the particularly pragmatic approaches to science fiction literature in dystopian literature. Books like Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell were two of the first dystopian fiction novels I read. It really sunk in when I read Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood in my high school “science fiction literature” class. All three books focus on future societies, but the interest for me was that their “future” societies are all based on trends that have continued to exist from the time of writing to the present day.
Atwood’s novel was particularly heart-wrenching and personal, because then, as now, it creates a conversation about the possibilities of extremist religious view percolating into politics. Her writing influenced me to start thinking about why I wrote what I did, and what I was trying to convey to my audiences. A lot of my work focuses on the detrimental nature of humanity’s impact on earth, and our over-emphatic consumption of resources. Sometimes it’s more of an examination of our step away from spirituality, or rather, our disconnection from other human beings.
It’s telling how in this day and age, our communication largely happens at our fingertips, and not face-to-face; it is not a physical meeting. Socializing has a profoundly different meaning than it did thirty years ago. I like to examine these disconnections and how they seem to affect people. What might happen if they continue on this path? Alternatively, it is fascinating to think about what might happen if all of these habits came to a sudden halt – completely changing, very suddenly, the way we have learned to think, react, communicate and establish relationships.
One of the more recent novels I was pulled in by was Dark Eden by Chris Beckett. For most of the novel, it is almost as if the world is not Earth, and perhaps the characters are not human. There is no indication otherwise, only that they are mortal and can die. The land around them is completely foreign and unknown. In the end, this ends up being an almost “Adam and Eve” in space story, with the original humans to this new world crash-landing, coming from Earth to try and crash-landing on a livable planet. They could never leave, and so they started a new world, a new culture, and a new population. It’s an interesting look at an old biblical tale, reinvented for a more modern approach.
In the case of Dark Eden, I think what draws me back to this book again and again is its reliance on mythology, and even its reliance on creating its own mythology, as a part of the book’s culture, to sustain the story. In my own writing, I find my characters relying on mythology to justify their reactions or to explain unknown events. I think when we examine humanity moving backwards to a “primitive” state, away from technology, it’s natural to also want to examine how a new mythology would arise. Part of the fun for me is showing how that mythology arises in the story, without necessarily giving the reader the exact history. Instead, there are small connections for the reader to find and make their own conclusions from.
I have been writing and working on a number of stories over the past two years, none of which have come to fruition completely. My goal is to create a believable world that represents a possible future of our own, one that examines the sociological and cultural issues we face presently, particularly the prevalence of rape culture and underlying misogyny and how that affects the perceived “ownership” of women by men. We see this in some of the more recent college shootings, where men felt like they were “cast off” by women and if no woman was “interested,” then those women (and women “like them”) deserved to die. How does that mindset change? What changes it? If it doesn’t change, what could happen to us? I also like to present readers with possible matriarchal societies, to examine the possibilities and differences that would offer in contrast to one that is largely patriarchal now.
As a child, I created stories of possible futures and acted those stories out with my brother. As an adult, I seek to explore those old childhood stories and create new stories in their wake, to create a conversation about our present sense of societal and cultural affairs and ailments, to maybe create a movement for change. Nothing happens in a single generation, but it’s fascinating to see how science fiction authors can start that conversation. I hope to be a contributing, vocal, and visible member of that group some day.