Racism and The PostPlague Backdrop

First, before discussing this, I encourage everybody to watch this video. It’s powerful and fully explains how racism effects black boys growing up in the U.S.

 

I have not talked at all about the racial/racism aspects about this series. As a white woman who has lived her whole life in areas that have few People of Color, I don’t really feel like I have the authority or understanding to write about racism in the United States. However, in the light of the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile I feel like I have to. Please bear with me. This may be long, but the subject is too painful and divisive to be short.

First of all, I didn’t start this trilogy “willingly.” I had not been considering it for months or years like many of the books I’ve written. It was days. One moment I was obsessing about The Hunger Games, and wishing I had more background about the Capitol, and the next minute I had a book based on the premise, “What would happen if the person who had the key to saving our post-apocalyptic world was the person married to the tyrant-dictator?” And then, within three hours, characters were talking in my head and they wouldn’t shut up.

I didn’t want to write it; I didn’t have a choice. That’s how it is sometimes with writers. We have to put the words to paper (or screen, actually) in order to function like a normal human being. Since I couldn’t not write The Liars,  I decided that it would be MY book. I wouldn’t write it for other people and follow other peoples’ rules. I didn’t expect to sell much and I didn’t really care. I would therefore hit all my button-itmes and employ various obsessions in a book that quickly became an obsession in of itself. One of those buttons was the murders of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.

At the risk of being derided as crying white tears, the death of that child and young man affected me deeply. I didn’t respond to them as a white woman; I responded as a mother of sons. I do not know how the mothers of these boys (I know Michael Brown was not a boy, but this is how mothers think of their sons) get through each day. I just don’t know. Even  now,  I shake my head and feel the sadness deep inside. The fact that these deaths were murders, and the killers are free–I just don’t know. My future brother-in-law died many years ago in police custody. I won’t go into details here, other than to say, I’m not sure how my in-laws have gotten through it either.

I understand there’s a list of men being killed (those caught on camera and reported in the media) after that which includes Eric Garner. It leaves me with profound sadness, too. But it’s as a mother that I hurt most. I hurt for Garner’s children, and the picture of Sterling’s 15 year old son breaking down is haunting.

Back to the series.

In March of 2015, when this series came to me, I had recently googled some topics on racism and came across some vitriol in the comments’ sections  that left me breathless. I go through my life every day with a knowledge that racism exists. No thinking person following U.S. news can deny that. But I had the privilege of living in a reality in which I considered racism largely subconscious, something that needed to be rooted out in order to correct it. Reading those comments though–it’s overt, ugly, disgusting. And the hatred. . .  I don’t get it, but it’s there.

And so, when I created the plagues that ended the world in The PostPlague Trilogy, I made them about racism at its worst–murderous hatred. It’s the dark, terrible way I see the world moving in my most pessimistic moments. I’m not entirely certain I got the genetics right. To be safe, I could have canned the idea, just had terrible plagues kill the world and moved on with Neri’s story. But this is my book, my series, my place to lay out my concerns, so I decided to risk anger and backlash. I have points to make, and I made them.

After I created the plagues, I then had to follow up with the reactions survivors would have had once it was over. I could have gone several ways. I chose the knee-jerk reaction of attempting to eliminate race. I already knew I wanted to explore a religion based government, and I already knew it would start with a good, benevolent man, Braedon Rey, with a good, benevolent religion. It seemed to me that this would be his reaction. So I went with integration. Again, I could have played it safe and left it alone, but I’d already crossed a line, so going the step further seemed like the difference between drowning in water two feet  over my head or ten feet over my head. You’re dead just the same.

After that, in the series, racism per se, is over. No races, no racism. Still I wrote (and am still writing) about prejudice against people who don’t have “Temple brown” coloring because no matter what we do, human beings will always have prejudices. Labeling people and then hating them purely for that label is one of the terrible parts of human nature. Racism and all the other isms that lead to hate crimes are symptoms of that nature. As a society we have to fight those isms, particularly the racism that leads to the murders of black men by police officers, but all of us are singularly responsible to look into our hearts and root out a natural inclination toward prejudice. It’s societal, but as with all societal issues it starts at a personal level.

At any rate, I don’t know how people will take those aspects of the story. Some well, some very badly, I suspect. But today, when I, along with millions of others, are reeling from these latest murders, I am not sorry I wrote the story that way. We are surrounded by this hatred, and we are paying the price. The officers that were ambushed in Dallas died as a direct result of racism, and their deaths, along with Sterling’s and Castiles,’ will lead to riots and violence. We’ll have fights between Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter and I foresee a downward spiral. It’s tragic. And from a logical standpoint, it’s stupid because it makes no sense to hate someone of color. From a human standpoint it is heartbreaking. From the standpoint of The PostPlague Series, it’s the end of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Short Thoughts on World Building

I’m discovering that creating a world is much like creating a character. You start with parameters. As the story progresses, the world takes on a life of its own and “tells” the writer other parts. A character might suddenly say something about his/her past to another character, that you didn’t know before. . .in world building, a character suddenly says something about the world that you never knew before.

Example: In book two, Neri’s struggling with grief and rage. She considers how Reyism handles these things and tada. . .a ceremony I never knew of before! There it is, and of course that’s what they do. 7 billion people died of a plague created, basically through  hate. Braedon Rey would naturally create a forgiveness ceremony to help people cope.

This is one of the best parts of writing.

What is Dystopian Fiction (and giveaway)

First–Giveaway. On goodreads. I’m very late getting this up, and the giveaway is only going on for a few more hours. And if you’re late to the party, because I’m really late on the invitation, I will be doing one more in November. I promise I will post the details on my blog and facebook pages a week in advance this time!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Liars by D.L. Eagan

The Liars

by D.L. Eagan

Giveaway ends October 23, 2015.See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/widget/158465

And now on to my post.

So, for people who don’t know, I first started The Post Plague Trilogy after reading (and watching) The Hunger Games series so many times I could quote it. I really love that series, but you can only read something so many times before you have to try something new. Next up was Divergent, and then The Giver and finally The Maze Runner series. I was well into writing The Liars, book one in The PostPlague Trilogy, when I read the last two.

Still, I wasn’t quite sure what genre I was writing. I called it post apocalyptic for a long time, but it didn’t really seem right. I mean, yeah, there was an apocalypse–the plagues that take out the world, also known to the characters as The Plague Wars–but the book starts almost 300 years after that. It didn’t fit. Especially since I’d read books and watched shows that really do feel post apocalyptic–The Postman, Waterworld, Mad Max, The Omega Man (yes, I’m dating myself there) The Day of the Triffids and a lot more. So I looked at various categories for my most recent reads and discovered that what I’d really been reading was dystopian fiction.

Cool! In that dystopian is a really cool word. Since I was writing similarly to those other books, I stuck that description on my book and started to lump all the other books that inspired me into dystopian category. After that, I started searching dystopian fiction on Amazon (because I really, really like it) for books to read.

I bought some really fantastic books, but still. . .something was wrong. Dystopia is the opposite of utopia, right? And utopia is the ideal world.  It’s the one mankind is striving for. Perfection though, really isn’t possible, and sometimes what we think is utopia has a whole lot of cracks in it, thus a dystopian government, a dystopian world. Not all of these books had any version of utopia at all, however, so are they truly dystopia?

The Maze Runner series is probably the most blatant in that regard. Sure, the world Thomas is first introduced to has a certain beauty to it, but that beauty quickly dies. Nobody tells the characters that it’s perfect, and none of the boys feels it is. You get more of a Lord of the Flies feeling, to be honest. Even that dies in the next two books of The Maze Runner series. The government, we learn, is working on creating a remedy for the mess that the world really is in (I’m trying not to give spoilers here) but nobody thinks it’s utopia. People are dying horribly, terrible stuff happened that destroyed much of the world. and there’s not a whole lot of hope. There’s no utopia, so there’s no dystopia. It’s actually post apocalyptic.

The Giver is definitely dystopia. Everybody believes their world is perfect and it is. Except for that whole no-real-emotion thing, and the lack of color thing and a hundred other problems. In The Giver people are happy all the time in that they don’t really know what happiness is.

Divergent?  It doesn’t have quite the “We are happy, oh so happy!” feeling of The Giver, but there is a perfect test that puts people in perfect situations. Everything is wonderfully controlled. The apocalypse is referred to somewhat, and we know something terrible happened because they’re all living in the ruins of Chicago, but whatever happened is long since past. Most of the citizens in Divergent are content, but you see cracks pretty quickly in the Factionless and the fact that if you choose a different path than your family, you never really see them again. It is dystopia, but the demarcation isn’t quite as strong as in The Giver.

The Hunger Games. . .well it’s not post-apocalyptic. People aren’t trying to build a new world, or recover from the end of the old one. Sure, there was a war, but that’s 75 years prior, and before an apocalypse-type situation, which is hardly referred to at all in the series. For the main characters, Katniss, Peeta, Gale and Haymitch, it sure doesn’t feel like utopia. Considered, this way, The Hunger Games is more broadly science fiction. On the other hand, the people living in the Capitol do feel like they’re living in utopia, and the government tells them that they are happy and the government is incredibly benevolent (to be fair, it tells the districts that they’re happy too, but nobody is buying it there). However, even there we see cracks in later books, especially in the final book. So I guess dystopia is the correct genre from the Capitol’s point of view.

The Twilight Series comes up under dystopia on Amazon too. I won’t even start on that. So doesn’t Stephen King’s Under the Dome. I don’t know about the book, but I’ve been watching the series, and it is definitely not utopian, dystopian, or even post apocalyptic. The Stand however, definitely post-apocalyptic. (and one of my favorite books of all time!)

As for my book, The Liars, it is absolutely dystopian. The characters are told by the government that they are living in a virtual utopia, and that religion they all adhere to has perfected society; everybody is living the life that is most suited to them. There are tons of cracks in that scenario, though, and their world really is pretty terrible.

So there, that’s a clear definition. Will Amazon or anything else ever truly reflect that? Nope. Dystopian sells these days, so that’s what people will try to fit their books into. But I feel better saying it because I’m a writer. I like words, and definitions matter to me.

Excerpt, The Liars, book one dystopian trilogy

Liars cover for ebooks 300An excerpt from The Liars: (buy link)

Evan nods, then slowly rises. He shuffles the few feet to the barred door like a man forty or fifty years his senior. When he reaches me, he lifts his uninjured arm over his head and leans his forehead against the bars for support. And smiles. His face is battered and God only knows what’s wrong with the rest of him, but for all that, his smile sets butterflies loose in my stomach. He is still Evan, a grown-up version of the boy I knew before I left for Temple City. With his brown contact lenses removed, his one open eye is that same soft green, and his smile has the same sweet warmth that caught girls’ hearts and eased my teenage angst. I expect he’ll have it until the day he dies.

 Which will be three days from now.

 His uninjured eye runs over my blue jacquard gown, accented in gold, which I chose because it’s his favorite color. It’s a slow, quiet perusal, as if he’s trying to commit me to memory. When he’s done, his gaze rests on my face again. “You shouldn’t be here, Priestess.” In spite of the harshness of his voice, the same gentle lilt of those long-ago days rides in it.

“You saved my life.”

He lets out a dry, pained chuckle. “Yeah, see the good it did me?”

It’s my turn to wince. “They’ve accused you of being a dissident.”

“Which is why you shouldn’t be here.”

“You threw yourself on top of me. . . . ‘Thank you’ doesn’t seem like enough considering. . .” Considering that it guaranteed his capture.

“The debris would have killed you instead of that woman behind you.”

“Yes . . . but I don’t understand. When you planted that bomb, you meant to kill—” My husband. The Prophet. “People. You must have known I’d be nearby.”

He just stares at me. Agreeing with me is a confession. He doesn’t argue, though, and isn’t that a confession in itself?

He’s right; I should leave. I should never have come. I’m not making this better. Jarvis’s friends are arranging for a merciful end. That’s the best anybody can do for Evan. My spending time with a criminal, a dissident, will only look bad for me and get me killed too. Still, a thank-you followed by accusations, specifically accusations that have just forced him into making a not-confession confession, is hardly enough.

I run my eyes over his injured arm, over his battered and bruised face and the thin mattress on the bunk against the wall. It’s speckled with blood. Evan saved my life and then took a beating for it. Lord only knows what else they’ve done to him.

He could be dying right now, could be dead before the scheduled execution. Could he have escaped it all if he hadn’t saved me? Had escape ever been part of his plan? Or had he planted the bomb knowing his life would be forfeit anyway?

It doesn’t matter, any more than the reason he did it. What matters is that for a few minutes I am going to be the Emoter he knew years back, the one that may still exist behind my wall of lies. “I can at least get you medical treatment, something for the pain.”

His arm across the bar starts to tremble and he takes a breath. “Don’t bother, I’ve been worse.” He pauses. “Thank you for coming, Priestess.”

“I have to bother,” I say before he can turn away. I lower my voice to a whisper and pray that no one hears me. “You know I do.”

His one good eye flickers and that long ago sadness enters it, along with an all too familiar longing. Deeper, stronger than I remember. “No, you don’t. You shouldn’t be here,” he says again. He lowers his voice to a quivering whisper. “You’re in danger, Neri.”

Damn. His warning wasn’t just about the bomb. He has something more he needs to tell me, but he can’t. And now he’s used my real name and they’ll know he knows me, too.

But don’t they already? We’re from the same parish. We were in the same Sectioning. Surely those records are in the archives. Surely as soon as they learned his name, they examined his background. Discovered his mother’s subversion, maybe even wondered if he and I have maintained a secret connection through the years.

 His eyelids start to droop. The tremble turns to shaking. As he loses his battle against unconsciousness and slides to the floor, I spastically press the call button and wonder if they think I am a dissident too.