Jan. 14th, 2011

zeborah: Vuvuzela concert: This is serious art. (art)
I've got a couple of short stories I need to finish, but when they are done it feels time to get back to writing novels. I've got a few ideas, but nothing's really grabbed me. Until I was reading a New Zealand post-apocalyptic fantasy (by the way, all the books I'm reading now I'm reviewing on GoodReads - these ones are Kokopu Dreams and Shadow Waters - and feeding the entries through to twitter) and was one of those ones that does just enough right to inflame the imagination, but just enough wrong to inspire me to feel that I can do better.

Now the thing is, I'm not actually all that in to post-apocalyptic novels. I read a few as a young adult: The Burning Times, Children of the Dust, things like that. But they were always so depressing, pessimistic, fatalistic. And now here's me wanting to write one myself. An optimistic one. Which kind of starts with the premise.

In prehistoric times, post-apocalyptic stories were about floods (Noah, Gilgamesh, Atlantis). In the mid to late 20th century, it was the nuclear holocaust (we even did Z For Zachariah in class). Then there's plagues (The Handmaid's Tale, Kokopu Dreams et seq.): you can destroy 99.9% of humanity, but leave the rest of the biosphere intact, which is handy if you want to argue that we ought to go back to nature, as so many of these stories seem to do. Oh, and there's the space age version: colonists crash on Terra Nullius and colonise away, unfettered by either pesky natives or supplies from home to prevent you reverting to feudalism.

In all versions, survivors are likely to acquire handy supernatural powers. But aside from that, the stories aren't terribly optimistic: all these premises take for granted the idea that we're a hair's breadth away from extinction. And even more pessimistically, they frequently take for granted the idea that this is a good thing. So I want to write a story that completely subverts all of this: I want to say that population is good, and technology is good, and our current society isn't all that bad either; without ever granting the supposition that the mega disaster I posit is actually to be feared.

When I was in high school, I started a story called something like “The Day the Sky Broke". It was meant to be a slightly absurdist premise played seriously. My teacher didn't understand it. But then, I didn't have much idea where it was going either. Now I'm pondering it again: writing a post-apocalyptic novel about the sky literally falling. But no matter how I work it, I have trouble killing the requisite 99.9% of humanity without also killing every other living thing on earth, including rainforests and the mysterious things that live in the ocean. While this would lend an urgency To the survivors' realisation that retaining technology is perhaps more useful than going back to nature, I think it might be going a little overboard after all.

I've got one other idea, but it involves magic, and I'd rather write this one as science-fiction.

So. Still pondering.

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