***NOTE TO READERS: Throughout the month of November, I have been participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Though in retrospect it would have been a great idea to at least announce my participation via this channel, I have been far too preoccupied with the actual project to think about much anything else.***
In speculative fiction, there’s always the “What if?” question. “What if an astronaut were stranded on Mars?” (The Martian) “What if a totalitarian government ruled England?” (Nineteen Eighty-four).
You get the idea. Speculative fiction is about applying those scenarios using your own ideas and, in the case of some, research and fact-checking to craft a unique story, inevitably with the purpose of conveying some sort of moral or theme.
In commemoration of reaching my 50,000-word NaNoWriMo goal well ahead of schedule, I thought I would sacrifice some time to divulge a little bit of information about this project, which thus far has been relatively hush hush.
My NaNoWriMo project, tentatively titled 99, attempts, on a stripped-down, basic level, to answer the question, “What if the wage gape in America grew so much that the middle class disappeared altogether?” As with most fiction, the goal is not to provide a rigid, one hundred percent realistic illustration of what would actually transpire, but to offer an imaginative (albeit dystopian) future in which this scenario is reality.
The project began with a nugget of an idea formed in mid-October (yes, a little over a month ago). Over the course of about half a month, new ideas swelled and gave birth to newer ideas, all circulating around the idea of immortality being discovered.
Yes, my novel did not start with a “What if?” question, at least not the one that drives the story at its core. My first question was, “What if the means to become immortal were discovered?” I almost immediately jumped to the conclusion that the wealthy would hoard the technology for themselves and sell it only to those who could afford its extravagant price. From there, the door opened to many more possibilities regarding just what kind of future would have to exist where something so repulsive could be the norm.
If it sounds political, well, it is. It’s difficult to deny these types of musings in today’s political climate, especially with the 2016 presidential election already in full campaign mode. As we see polar opposites vying for leadership of this country, I can’t help but reflect on how different things could turn out depending on which candidate is elected into office…and how much will stay the same.
In the end, I’ve crafted what I believe to be an interesting world in which businesses now run the country through lobbying. Okay, so that part’s not far-fetched, as it is essentially what’s occurring today. However, to avoid the “big business is bad” cliche that plagues so much of Hollywood, my intent with this project will be to stress how damaging extremes are, regardless of which ideology they belong to.
Without spoiling too much, this novel will present a future America where anti-corporate sentimentality paved the way for radical Socialist policies that ultimately had adverse effects on the economy and resulted in many corporations jumping ship from the US, only to return when America’s economy collapsed to take full advantage of the country’s vulnerability. In the end, as you will hopefully read, the nation was overrun by a combination of insane government regulation guided by the hand of corporate America—a truly horrifying prospect, if you really ponder it for a while.
Of course, this is all just the backdrop for the story, the world in which my characters (hopefully our characters before long) inhabit. I am overwhelmed by the interest many friends, family, and colleagues have taken in my project, which has been deeply transformative on my mental well-being. To that end, I have been asked quite a bit what this story is actually about, so allow me to provide a very concise summary.
Given the political climate described above, the middle class has collapsed thanks to corporate greed (now fueled by a dangerously intrusive government), and there are two distinct social classes: the insanely wealthy (CEOs, politicians, etc.) and the poor. The State has become so oppressive that most are too afraid to rebel in this world where nothing is free and everything has been privatized.
Among all this is the central character, an Apache two-spirit named Lozen (unabashedly named after the Apache heroine), who, like many protagonists, has a complicated but hidden past and ideals that conflict with her desire to rebel. When she becomes a symbol among the working class for liberating a group of citizens from an especially oppressive local government, she is swept up in an absurd plot to bring power back to the working class.
To avoid the typical “rebels fight against a tyrannical government” plot, there will be developments and twists that ultimately take the story in far different directions, but as this project is in the very early stages (I have neither finished the first draft nor the outline…I know, I know), much of the story is subject to change, and at this stage I don’t want to spoil too much.
Suffice it to say, writing this has had a profound impact on me for many reasons, not the least of which is the tremendous support I’ve received. I have set a goal to have my first draft done by the end of the year (one draft in two months—no small feat!), after which I will spend a month or two reworking the pieces that don’t fit together and conducting more research to keep my facts straight, followed by hopefully no more than a month or so of initial rewrites before putting this in the hands of others who can tear my manuscript to shreds and force me to go back to the drawing board.
I really cannot wait to share more of this project with all of you, and even now I am holding back from rambling on for another thousand words about some of the juicier details of this project. Thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout this, and I assure you now that despite hitting my 50,000-word goal for the month, I will not stop or slow down.
Stay tuned for updates, which are as likely to be posted to social media as they are this blog (which is typically reserved for my half-assed poetry).
I encourage anyone not already connected with me via social media to follow me on Twitter, where I have been and will continue posting regular updates on my work.