Between now and December 20, go to Goodreads to enter for a chance to win a copy of my recent release, Aftermath: Beyond World-Mart.
Aftermath picks up right where World-Mart left off, beginning with the end of civilization. Readers who enjoyed World-Mart, Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, Orwell's 1984, and Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 will enjoy this last installment of the World-Mart trilogy. Thanks for entering--and good luck!
Every advancing generation will say it: Things just aren’t what they used to be. We all allow that which we knew and loved growing up to color our views on changing times. When we’ve lived is as important as where or how we’ve lived: I’ve no doubt my parents thought about as highly about my teenage clothing choices as I feel about the saggy ass look. I’m sure a similar case can be argued regarding my generation’s Queensrÿche, Metallica, Marilyn Manson, and Tori Amos versus whatever noise the kids these days are calling music. Times change. Tastes change.
One constant I’ve noticed through the years, however, is the slow but steady decline in overall quality in nearly all popular products. I’ve grown to understand that if a product or company alleges something is “new and improved,” there’s no “improved” about it. “Improved” is code for “made with cheaper materials or ingredients, and we hope you won’t notice the change in quality.” Dress up a seedy move with pretty words, and maybe most of the population won’t take notice. Even more, the latest generation won’t notice. They’re already accustomed to a level of quality those of us who know better can only reminisce about.
In the world I’ve built for The Private Sector and World-Mart, “quality” is just a word printed on a label. When corporations control everything, monopolies slowly take hold right under the noses of the masses, and with those covert monopolies come zero quality control. The whole world is new and improved. Complacency allows such changes to take hold.
The same complacency has anesthetized society as we currently know it, and the problem is nothing new. Things just aren’t what they used to be, and we’ve let that happen. Complacency has placed blinders on all of us. It has allowed words like “new and improved” to go overlooked—or, even worse, taken at face value. It has allowed the American Dream to go dormant, overall quality of life to take a nosedive, and far too many people too caught up in either surviving or one-upping the Jonses to notice.
What does “new and improved” mean to you? What kind of world do you see when you step outside your home, go to work, pick up your kids from school, or go to the supermarket?
What kind of world do you think the children of tomorrow will see?
Is it a world you’d want to grow up in?
After much anticipation, my loose prequel to World-Mart, The Private Sector, has finally been released. The Private Sector takes place roughly forty years before the beginning of World-Mart, back when corporations are still on the rise toward absolute rule; “deviants” are still “designer children,” society’s answer to the plagues of antibiotic-resistant diseases crippling the world; people still live aboveground; and the effects of climate change have only begun to show.
Imagine, if you will, a tax-free society. Government as we know it is nearly nonexistent. The public services we currently rely upon—police, fire departments, public works, primary and secondary schools—all belong to the private sector.
And none of it comes cheap.
Imagine your house happens to catch on fire. Better have the right insurance and enough money saved up for the co-pay, or your provider will let it burn. How about if someone breaks into your house? Same deal if you want the police to come running.
Just be careful—the provider wars are alive and well, and if you choose the wrong company, someone might just stop by to make an example of you to your neighbors.
I wrote The Private Sector in response to the rhetoric that circulated during the 2012 presidential elections, rhetoric about significant cuts to taxes and government size, rhetoric that took a decent idea and took it to its extreme.
My response: Be careful what you wish for….
About The Private Sector:
The world of corporate greed runs rampant after the government collapses, leaving police, fire, and social services in the hands of the wealthy. Debtor prisons for the lower and middle classes overflow and quarantine camps have filled to capacity, turning the streets into a personal battleground for terrorists fighting against a world headed toward ruin as resources run dry and civilization becomes ruled by The Private Sector.
“A versatile literary maestro, Lane’s characters breathe, her language sings, and her plotting is nothing short of remarkable. You owe it to yourself to give her a read, no matter what kind of fiction you like. You’ll love her work. I promise.” –Trent Zelazny, Nightmare Award-winning author of Fractal Despondency and Butterfly Potion
“In the tradition of 1984, Leigh M. Lane delivers a terrifying vision of the future—a horrific future that may not be so distant after all….” –Lisa Mannetti, Stoker Award-Winning author of The Gentling Box and Deathwatch
About the publisher:
Eldritch Press is a publishing company based out of San Antonio Texas. It is a relatively new, press, but its owner believes in building the company one person and one book at a time, with quality at the heart. Eldritch publishes different genres from fantasy, horror, contemporary women literature to poetry. The owner, Michael Randolph is a horror author and Active member of the Horror Writers Association. He is also a sponsor for the 2015 World Horror Convention.
The Private Sector is available in paperback through Amazon, but will soon be available through multiple retailers.
Today, guest author J. P. Lantern is here to share about his new release, Dust Bowl, a post-apocalyptic thriller about a future torn apart by war, disease, and social collapse. J.P. will be awarding a grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour, and one commenter on each stop will receive a digital download of a backlist book, so be sure to leave a comment for your chance to win.
Since Dust Bowl is a dystopian novel, I asked J. P. if he might offer his thoughts about the importance (political, social, etc.) of dystopian literature and what place it has in the current climate of readers expecting the ever-abused happily-ever-after ending. Here's what he had to say:
Can a dystopian story have a happy ending?
In some ways, the objective of the dystopian story is to rule out any possibilities for a happy ending as a sort of warning. At the end of 1984, for example, there is no hope or release for Winston Smith, just the promise of death after being driven insane. In many ways, the happy ending for a dystopian tale is closing the book after digesting it fully and walking away, knowing that the lives of the poor saps featured inside that fiction don’t resemble yours very much (or at least, I would hope not).
But I feel like there’s another reason, outside of inspiring some meta-happily-ever-after, why dystopian tales end up so grim.
I don’t know that there is something more personal about a person than knowing what they are truly scared of. Dystopian literature has always been a model for writers to express their own fears in a way that also tries to inspire change in a society. In that way, dystopian literature is some of the most personal literature that exists, perhaps even more personal than memoirs, because in a dystopian story you are given the complete unloading of an author’s fears for the future (and so, for him or herself).
I think dystopian literature is important in a societal sense because it puts a face to the fears we have. You know, the things I make up are just a response to what I interpret from the world around me—some of this includes other pieces of art and dystopian literature, but a lot of it is just what I see happening politically, economically, and societally. And if there’s one thing that I’ve learned from my time in this world, it’s that my experience is much more ubiquitous than the self-centered part of me would like to think. What I see, others see. What I am afraid of, others are afraid of. The unique portion of being an author is just creating a conceivable canvas for those fears and thoughts and stringing them all together in a linear package for an audience.
And so, because these dystopian stories are so honest about fears, I think that’s why they often tend to subvert or just do away with the happy ending altogether. Happily-ever-after endings are great, and stories that incorporate them are probably dealing with the other side of the lizard brain—the part that focuses on desire. We really want everything to have a happy ending, but we really are afraid that no happy endings exist. And I think it’s sort of easy for us to fling headfirst into one side of the spectrum or the other and to insist that one kind of ending is more “true” than the other. But they are both true, simultaneously.
So, for myself, I don’t know that I believe very much in “happily ever after” for most stories that I write, but I do believe in “happy as can be, given the circumstances.” I think probably my novel Dust Bowl follows that mold. I didn’t write it consciously thinking about a happy ending or not—I knew the right ending very early into writing the piece, and I just stuck with it. I think it has a sort of uplifting ending, but maybe that’s only because so much of the novel skates around at the bottom of human moral capability—it’s a dystopia, after all, so there’s a lot of suffering and events going horribly wrong.
I find myself drawn to morally complicated and often self-destructive characters, and so happy endings just aren’t very likely given their emotional skillsets. It would be dishonest, for example, for me to take someone like the alcoholic Clay in my Red Country Trilogy who never learns how to apologize or forgive and create circumstances that allow great things to happen to him. He wouldn’t appreciate them anyway, and I doubt the audience would either. The only time that really works is in works of satire, like Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans.
So in Dust Bowl, the protagonist Ward, a really troubled young man who is drawn into this really violent and inhumane society, has some good things and some bad things happen to him, but they are all second to his association with his problems and his inability to accept life on the terms that it’s presenting. So, by the end of the story, I feel like he’s much closer to being able to do that—which is a happy ending in my mind.
About the Novel:
With the world ending around him, Ward flounders for purpose and survival. Resources are gone, disease is rampant, and governments have all but dissolved. The only way off the broken planet is with the Order. Obsessed with technology, the Order is a cult that has developed the means for faster-than-light travel. They claim they can populate the galaxy and save humanity.
Ward joins the Order, inspired by sudden and irrational love for a mysterious beauty named Kansas who saves his life. But quickly, he finds out Kansas and the Order want him to kill adults and kidnap children from across the country. With impressionable youth filling their starships, the Order hopes for their tenets to be spread to all future generations of humanity.
The Order is Ward’s only chance for survival in the wreck the earth has become. Worse than that, those in the Order come to accept him and value his skills for their nightmarish quest across the dystopian landscape of America. But, somewhere inside of him, still, is the strength to strike out on his own and protect whatever good he can find left in the world.
“Would you be willing to kill a thousand parents so that there might be a thousand million more in the future? Would you orphan a thousand children just so they could foster thousands of their own? That is not a name put to courage. That is not something you don’t understand. That is something very simple to understand, you just don’t have the will to do it yourself. That is a name put to strength. To resolve. That’s what a set is.”
There was a light in the office behind the booth, flickering every so often and casting strange, tentacled shadows into the room. Joe looked at Ward and his face was sagging with fear. Maybe understanding had not quite dawned in the liquored canals of his mind but it showed in his eyes, and Ward felt satisfied for the first time all day.
Joe shook his head. “Why you telling me this?”
“I thought you should know what’s going to happen here.”
“Just what exactly is that gonna be,” asked Joe. “Or have you told me already?
Ward looked at him for a moment and took his gun out of its holster. He laid it on to the table with his hand resting on it, just in case he needed it. In his imaginings, usually people tried to run.
“Every adult here is going to die. One by one, mostly. Some of this will be done by me.”
The eyes of Joe stayed fixated on the gun on the table.
About the Author:
J.P. Lantern lives in the Midwestern US, though his heart and probably some essential parts of his liver and pancreas and whatnot live metaphorically in Texas. He writes speculative science fiction short stories, novellas, and novels which he has deemed "rugged," though he would also be fine with "roughhewn" because that is a terrific and wonderfully apt word.
Full of adventure and discovery, these stories examine complex people in situations fraught with conflict as they search for truth in increasingly violent and complicated worlds.
To learn more about J. P. Lantern and his writing, visit his website, stop by his Facebook page, or check out his Amazon author page. Dust Bowl is available in both paperback and Kindle.
Remember, he's giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to one commenter at the end of this tour, as well as a digital copy from his backlist to one commenter at each stop. For more chances to win, go to Goddess Fish Promotions for links to the other stops in this tour.
I guess you could say I’ve been in sort of a writing slump. Even though I did finish another novel earlier this year (The Private Sector, a loose prequel to World-Mart) the thought of starting another felt so daunting. This past year has provided many hurdles, some of which I never imagined I’d personally face. I focused on writing short stories, keeping my commitments small, and I had no plans for another novel anytime in the immediate future.
I’d noticed in a handful of reviews that there were World-Mart readers who wanted to read more about the crumbled society I’d left them with. While I’d purposely slammed them into a brick wall at the end as a social and political statement, some felt it wasn’t right that I’d left them in the dark where I had. I hadn’t considered what might happen in the aftermath, and I felt I’d shared what I felt most important.
Recently, one of my sisters read World-Mart and offered similar criticism, adding, “I wish I knew what happened to George.” That got me thinking. Was it right of me to leave readers to assume he too would soon die? What if George’s story didn’t end there?
I’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) before, and with sound reason. Some years ago, I’d written 50,000 words in one month, and it was an exhausting experience I hoped never to repeat. However, the closer it got to November 1, the more World-Mart began to eat at me. It did need a sequel, I decided, and NaNoWriMo was going to help me along with that.
Logging 50,000 words by November 30 isn’t my priority. I’m neither exceptionally young nor exceptionally healthy, and I don’t plan on ignoring those factors. Still, I’m writing, even if it’s 500-1000 words per day. I’m holding to my own personal goal: write this book, and in a timely manner that fits my limitations. I’m currently at 19,100, and the month is half over. Still, NanoWriMo has given me the kick in the pants I needed to tackle this new project.
The author "stats" dashboard is a great resource. It keeps up not only on your word count but also estimates the average word could you'll need in order to reach 50,000 words by November 30. Even more, if you've been straggling (like I have) it will estimate the date on which you'll reach that goal at your given pace. That alone is a surprisingly effective incentive to add at least a little progress each day, even if 50,000 words by the 30th s a bit beyond your current reach. It's definitely helped me.
So, World-Mart fans, the aftermath is coming, and I’m writing it with you in mind. It’s not going to be finished in a month, but hopefully it will be worth the wait.
Today, guest author Robert S. Wilson is here to discuss some topics close to my heart. I'm a big fan of his work, so it's an honor to have him here. Thanks so much for stopping by! Take it away, Robert!
First of all, I’d like to thank my host for having me on her brilliant fantastic blog. Now, with that said, you must all now listen to me… or maybe you’ve already clicked the X and went on to a different site in another tab. No, if you had, you wouldn’t still be able to read this—so…
For the purpose of making sure you know just what the hell it is I’m talking about, let me give you some background. In September of 2011 I published a novel called SHINING IN CRIMSON: EMPIRE OF BLOOD BOOK ONE. Yes, a vampire novel, but not just a vampire novel, a dystopian vampire novel… To be more accurate, a religiously dystopian vampire novel. Now for those of you who are still with me and haven’t rolled your eyes out of your head, I’d like to talk about SHINING IN CRIMSON and separation of church and state.
I think many would agree that separation of church and state is a necessity. However, often in this country some people only think about separation of church and state in regard to their own religion, giving them a distorted idea of what it is and what it should ultimately be.
I think it’s also safe to say that a large population of Christians in this country would prefer that the United States would be—and some believe that it has always been—a Christian nation. Now for those of you who believe in diversity and are considerate of others’ beliefs and so on, so forth, please do not think that I am labeling all Christians as such. I know many Christians who enjoy our nation’s diversity of religions, philosophies, culture, and lifestyles. I also know quite a few who do not. Every group of people has them, don’t they? Bitter, self-righteous, narrow-minded folks who won’t stop the “good fight” until every last person is converted to their way of thinking.
As an agnostic and a skeptic, I’ve also seen this exact sort of behavior among the free-thinking. Though I respect and understand their views on logic and reason, people like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are behind a very recent movement of what I call militant atheism and skepticism that I personally find deplorable for the same reason I find it deplorable when people of religion try to push their religion on me. So even when religion is not in the picture, idealism can become a sort of religion on its own. But as an agnostic, I chose to convey my thoughts and feelings about separation of church and state through a Christian-like religion in my novel.
And yet at the same time, I also chose to reveal some of the things I enjoy about this particular religion—the imagery, parables, and so on. But most importantly, I want you, the reader, to understand that what I set out to truly illustrate with this dystopian novel—regardless of what religion or lack of religion was chosen to be at its center—was a mirror image of our own society with one of its basic foundations—the proper separation of church and state—not just taken away, but more accurately, ultimately discarded by choice.
Some of the following back story is very clear in the book and some is only hinted at. Early on, a charismatic megalomaniac by the name of Joseph Caesar secretly started a campaign to overthrow the United States by starting a single Christian militia. He convinced his followers he was a prophet of God, that America was corrupt with sin, and the only way to fix this would be to cleanse the nation of that sin by any means necessary. The militia quickly grew to a formidable size, branching out into different factions in each of the fifty states and within a short period of time, it was large enough to be a formidable threat. And so, Joseph used his new army to wage war against the “evil” secular United States government and anyone who would stand in the way of his promised true Christian America under God.
But in the heat of the bloodshed, Joseph’s power becomes so complete over so many of his people that when he reveals himself to be God incarnate and twists Christianity into a new kind of religion that sets him at its center, his allegiance and charisma not only continue to endear him to them, but this new revelation thrusts him into the ultimate form of power. And when the United States falls to Joseph’s knees, those who oppose him—secular, followers of other faiths—especially Christians who refuse to convert—become targets hunted down and murdered in public display.
Oh and did I mention there are vampires? Haha. Yeah, in the midst of all this war, the vampires, sick of hiding and ravenous from so much bloodshed, begin attacking soldiers from both sides of the war. So, when the smoke clears the people have two rival fears: the newly self-appointed Emperor, Joseph Caesar and his army as well as a now openly public society of terrifying supernatural bloodthirsty vampires. In a quick attempt to funnel both streams of fear together, Emperor Caesar makes a deal with the vampires—a blood pact—of mutually beneficial peace. In exchange for a city of their own and a regular supply of blood—the blood of criminals and sinners—the vampires must stay within their own city limits and leave the public alone. Not only does this protect the people, it instills even more power onto Joseph Caesar, the new ultimate judge of what is right and wrong.
So, when the novel begins, the people of the former United States of America are ruled by The American Empire of Almighty God, an imperial empire ruled solely by its religious leader and self-professed living deity, Joseph Caesar. To be clear, within the confines of this story, THERE IS NO SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. Imperial church attendance is mandatory on Sundays. A morality law is instilled and upheld in that those who are caught in violation are sent to the newly formed city of Necropolis: City of the Dead—formerly known as Las Vegas—where the vampires wait to be fed.
Now, ultimately vampires aren’t real and we Americans, for the most part, live comfortably in a nation protected by a foundation of separation of church and state. And many other countries also enjoy this freedom. But what if it were to suddenly disappear? What if the majority of any democratic nation were to suddenly decide it wasn’t needed? Or what if, in real life, a single religion or idealism decided to wage war in order to relinquish it? For some separation of church and state is a necessary evil that allows them to believe what they want, without fear of intrusion from the government. But separation of church and state is and does much more than that. It protects us all from a much larger evil than vampires. An evil constantly lurking and waiting for a single momentary opening to slip in and dissolve our freedom to believe and practice our beliefs as we so choose. Do we maybe take that for granted… sometimes?
Robert S. Wilson is a Bram Stoker Award-nominated editor and the author of SHINING IN CRIMSON and FADING IN DARKNESS, books one and two of his dystopian vampire series, Empire of Blood. His short fiction has appeared or will be appearing in the following anthologies, magazines, and publications: A QUICK BITE OF FLESH, [NAMELESS] Magazine, HORROR D’OEUVRES (a website from DarkFuse), BLEED (a charity anthology for kids with cancer), FEAR THE REAPER, THE BEST OF THE HORROR SOCIETY 2013, EVIL JESTER PRESENTS COMICS and more. His cyberpunk/horror novella EXIT REALITY was published in February of 2013 by Blood Bound Books.
SHINING IN CRIMSON: EMPIRE OF BLOOD BOOK ONE is now completely free to download and read from the following websites: Smashwords.com in all eBook formats, BN.com for Nook devices, the iBooks store for iPad users, and Wattpad.com. Coming soon to Kobo.com, Sony, and more.
Robert is currently holding an Indiegogo fundraiser to raise funds to finish the third novel in the Empire of Blood series: RISING FROM ASHES. There are plenty of great perks in exchange for donating for new readers as well as long-time fans of the series including eBook, signed personalized paperbacks and limited hardcover editions of books one, two, and three, as well as an omnibus edition of all three novels together, signed Empire of Blood bookmarks, the chance to name a vampire or other important characters in the upcoming novel, a few one of a kind signed personalized manuscripts, and more. Donations of any size are welcome. Even the smallest donation will be a huge help toward writing and publishing expenses to get RISING FROM ASHES out by January 2014!
Today, guest author Kevin Bufton is here to promote his new release, Cake, a short dystopian horror. Thanks so much for stopping by today, Kevin. Take it away!
Kevin Bufton: Hello, and welcome to the sixth stop on my Piece of Cake Blog Tour. I’d like to thank Leigh, for giving me this opportunity to promote my debut novella, Cake, which was released earlier this week.
Over the course of this tour, I have talked about my writing career to date, obstacles that I have had to overcome in the penning of the novella, what happiness means to me, and how I can correlate that with the dark and odious things I write about, and how I manage to stay focussed on my writing. It has been hard going – indeed, the promotion of the book has been much harder than the actual writing of it, if only because I’m not happy talking about myself. However, this very reticence segues neatly into the topic Leigh has suggested for me – isolation, which happens to be one of the themes of the book.
Isolation can be a terrible thing, whether it is self-imposed, or enforced upon us by other people. Human beings are social creatures by our very nature and, whether we choose to admit or not, we are hard-wired to crave interaction with one another. Prolonged periods of separation from the rest of the human race have been shown to lead to all manner of mental aberrations, since we use other people as a mirror, a way to take stock of ourselves.
However, as much as interaction with other people is an important – nay, an essential – part of life, isolation has its perks too.
I’m a writer. More specifically, I’m a writer of horror, and other dark fiction, which means that isolation is of great importance to me.
As a writer, I cannot work when there are other people in the room with me. It find it a physical impossibility, rather like someone in a public toilet, suffering from a case of shy bladder. It doesn’t matter how quiet they are, or how still they are being, they are intruding on my writing space. If I had money to fritter away on such an enterprise, I would rent my own office, and, having kissed my wife and kids a fond farewell in the morning, spend all day, every day in there, with both phone and internet disconnected, just so I can write without anything approaching an interruption.
As it is, I spend my day surrounded by people – strangers, colleagues, friends, family – which, is all well and good, but what I really desire is for that zen place, where I can empty my mind of the need to be conversational, or emotionally supportive, or in any way a functioning human being. The cliché of the hipster, sat in his local Starbucks, diligently typing his stream-of-consciousness in full few of that coffee shop’s patrons is so alien to me. I am currently writing a collaborative novel with American horror author, Roger Perry and, if I’m being honest, the only reason I agreed to it, aside from the fact that he makes for a very gifted writing partner, is that we have the entirety of the Atlantic Ocean separating us whilst we do the actual writing. If we were attempting this in the traditional manner – the pair of us sat in a room together – I’m pretty sure one or the other of us would have been on the run from the authorities by this point.
That’s my own little psychosis, fairly well documented there, and I don’t think I need take up any more of you time with this sort of armchair analysis. The only reason I brought it up, is because of the sort of stuff that I write – horror. You see, at its heart, the horror genre is all about isolation.
When we consider horror, what truly scares us is not the zombie, or the vampire or the werewolf, but the idea of facing whatever creature it might be alone. Not only are we alone in the physical sense (deaths in horror novels and movies are rarely group affairs – the unhappy band of protagonists are normally picked off one-by-one, having been singled out from the group), but also emotionally. Almost every horror book will have that scene where the main character must face the very real fact that not only are they being stalking by some sort of maniacal root vegetable (it could happen!) but that nobody will believe them when they tell them – not family, not friends, and especially not the authorities.
Even if the hero does have a group of fellow believers, you can bet that someone in their group will suggest splitting up at one point or another. It’s a simple plot device, designed to produce two or more groups, separated from one another, thereby making that sense of isolation even more profound. Not only are these six (let’s say) protagonists facing a horde of the undead with no hope of rescue, now they are split up, either by mutual agreement, or some caprice of fate, which means that they are isolated from both civilisation, and the only people who might understand their plight. If the author is a real bastard, he will have one member of that group break an ankle, so that the group has to split up…again! It is storytelling at it’s most simple, and, within the confines of the horror genre, it is one of the writer’s most powerful tools. After all, nobody is afraid of the dark when they’re amongst a group of friends, but when you find yourself on your own…
…that’s a different matter.
About the novella:
In May of 2053, forty years following the Separation of Wirral from the mainland, there is but a handful of people who remember what life was like before.
Geraldine Waters is one of the few.
In a land ruled by gang law, and horrors beyond mortal imagination, Geraldine lives in a perpetual nightmare, from which she knows she will never wake.
Her story is one of hatred and desperation, of living shadows and dying hopes.
It is a story about family...
It is a story about cake.
About the author:
Kevin G. Bufton is a thirty-something father, husband and horror writer, in that approximate order. He lives in Birkenhead, on the Wirral, with his wife and two kids.
He has been writing horror fiction since January 2009, and has been published in magazines, anthologies and on websites, the world over.
Cake marks his debut release as a solo author. Kevin hopes, one day, to be able to scare people for a living. You can find Cake at Amazon and Amazon.uk.
I’ve touched upon this before, and with mixed response, but I must have another word on the subject. It never ceases to surprise me when a reader somehow feels cheated when finishing a dystopian novel that ends on a less-than-happy note. I understand that genres evolve to a certain extent, but to base one’s dystopian rubric on what one experiences in reading, say, The Hunger Games, is faulty to say the very least. Let’s take a look at a few of the most influential classics, the dystopias that truly define the genre:
My point: There is a reason many of my works end in tragedy, and sometimes it takes a little brainpower to figure out why. I know some people read to escape and some people read to think, but those in need of escapism have no place picking up the good majority of dystopian works. When I read reviews that show contempt for the dark ending in my dystopia, all I can think of is, You obviously have not read enough to know what you’re talking about. Go back to your YA dystopia, the sugar-coated kind, and leave the real literature to the big kids. And, should you decide to pick up a novel that follows the classic dystopian trope, don’t complain if you leave without that warm and fuzzy feeling. It’s meant to stimulate your brain, not fulfill your escapist needs.
It's blunt and it's not nice, but it's also true.
Many times over, science fiction has predicted future issues, innovations, and inventions. The microwave, the satellite dish, robots, hand-held computers, and weapons of mass destruction all existed in science fiction before they became pieces of modern reality. Many of these predictions have been lucky guesses, while others have emerged from precise meshes of inspiration, scientific backgrounds, and creativity.
Recently, healthcare officials have begun to give increasing attention to the growing issue of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Up until this last year, MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) was the big threat. MRSA causes painful boils and can causes sepsis and disease in vital organs, and it’s very difficult to treat. Now, a bacterium named Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) has created a threat that makes MRSA look rather innocuous. CRE is not only highly contagious and resistant to every antibiotic on the market—but it has the ability to trade DNA with other bacteria to make them equally antibiotic resistant. Hypothetically, they could be responsible for future drug resistance in every known species of bacteria, and the implications are terrifying.
Eli Perencevich, an infectious-disease doctor and professor working at the University of Iowa's Carver College of Medicine told USA Today, "We're entering the post-antibiotic era; that's a very big problem."
In my dystopia, World-Mart, antibiotic resistant disease has ravaged the population to the point where antibiotics have become outlawed and those found to carry previously treatable diseases such as Staph and Strep are euthanized to prevent further pandemics. While this is only a part of the story’s B-plot, I found myself dumbstruck at the possibility of currently treatable diseases becoming the scourge they had become in World-Mart. I must also question whether researchers will turn to germ-line therapy in an attempt to create future generations that are more disease resistant. Could the genetically engineered “deviants” of World-Mart also become a reality of the near future?
I’ll admit without any reservations that I wrote World-Mart as a warning of the possible future in store should we allow corporations to expand and render small, privately owned businesses obsolete. It is a future I hope will not come to pass, as fearful as I am that the potential is there. I also saw and wrote about the growing threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria and the possible worldwide threats various diseases, if rendered untreatable, might pose. I pray neither occurs to the extent I envisioned in my fiction, although the chances are looking increasingly likely.
What do you think about these latest bacterial outbreaks? What do you think we can do to reduce their threat? In light of current events, do you personally view World-Mart an even more terrifying look into the future, or do you think most of the novel will remain strictly science fiction?
I spent my New Year’s Day watching SyFy’s annual marathon of The Twilight Zone, enjoying the revisit of my favorite episodes and taking great joy in remembering forgotten details. As I watched, I tried to think of other television shows that have compared, and although there have been some exceptional series over the past fifty-some-odd years, none have quite captured that same level of innovation and brilliance. Even now, watching my favorite of the show’s intros gives me a delightful shiver.
The following are the main three reasons why I believe The Twilight Zone is the best television show of all time:
All of my regular readers know what a strong influence I feel Rod Serling has been on my own writing. He is, without a doubt, one of the most innovative writers of his time. One of the main reasons The Twilight Zone was so exceptional was that Serling had such a strong influence on the series. He wrote many of the episodes, his careful use of language and imagery often resulting in a breathtaking effect. His use of symbolism might not always have been subtle, but it was always provocative. His dialog was realistic and profound, and his commentary so poignant that it might be considered timely in nearly every generation. His themes often revolved around the value of human life, and how different individuals or groups might lose sight of that value in the name of money, power, changing social mores, and/or technological advancement.
The Twilight Zone took chances on social and political issues that even now some might consider daring. The series represented speculative fiction in its purest form, using elements of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, to make statements about the world and the people living in it. In effect, the show used its suspension of reality to say something important about the realest of issues. Other shows have done this as well, most recently the Fox sci-fi drama Fringe and AMC’s The Walking Dead, but none have done it quite as skillfully.
While there are a great number of episodes in which the outcome might be somewhat predictable, one who has never seen the series would never be able to predict what might happen from one episode to the next. The series spanned from lighthearted to downright horrifying, each episode unique and with its own individual offering of commentary and social analysis. Moreover, while some of the twists used throughout the show might seem clichéd in terms of modern television or literature, most were groundbreaking during their time.
I wonder what the generations beyond mine think about the original black and white series—and if they are even willing to give a chance to a show they might consider too outdated to be enjoyable. The thought that The Twilight Zone might ever be considered outdated, regardless of its basic special effects and forgotten actors, sends chills up my spine. Although many have attempted to emulate—even revise and recreate—this brilliant classic television series, there will never be another show quite like it.
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