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.

Clothing from The PostPlague Trilogy

 

Neri's ceremonial robe
Neri’s ceremonial robe

When building a dystopian world, one of the ways to set scenes, and bring the new world to readers, is through clothing. When I decided on what that clothing would look out, the first thing I took into account was the protagonist’s, Neri’s, position in society. She is High Priestess, married to the most powerful man in the nation. Her clothing, therefore, has to be pretty and elegant.

Secondly I needed to create clothing that made sense for the dystopian society I created. After the plagues took down the world, the survivors, headed by religious icon, Brayden Rey, decided they needed to control the survivors progeny (I’m trying not to put too many spoilers in here–sorry if I’m being cryptic!). Therefore they decided clothing needed to assist in the prevention of “temptation”, both for men and women. I wanted women to wear long gowns and men to wear suits.

The third thing was to consider that we’re in the future. I wanted something a little different to take readers out of this world. I searched the internet and decided that Indian wedding clothing (with some alterations for the men) did that.

In The Temple each sect (governmental departments) has its own color and the priestess and priests ceremonial silk robe is that color. Their regular clothing reflect that color as well.  Prints are allowed, as long as their sect color is the dominant color.

When Neri attends parties or other events for a certain sect, she honors that sect by dressing in its colors. When she is representing only herself or the Prophet, however, her colors are off white and gold, as is her ceremonial robe.

The following are representations of what Neri would wear for each sect (or what female sect members might wear for formal events)

 

royal blue and gold gown

 

 

 

 

First sect–Temple Guard and security. Royal Blue

 

 

 

even better pink - Copy

Second sect–Arts and Education (Neri’s “home” sect)

 

 

 

 

 

orange ankara

 

 

 

Third sect–agriculture and commerce (the sect Neri’s shrimper family would fit into, although they were laborers, not members of The Temple)

 

 

 

 

sea green embroidered gown

 

 

Fourth sect–Building and Parks light green

 

 


 

better purple dress

Fifth sect–National Security and Reparation (The Inquisitor and Auditors are from this sect) Because this sect has, over the decades, gone from purple, to deep purple, to black, Neri may choose to wear either purple, black, or a combination of both. Neri would prefer to avoid the 5th altogether.

 

blue - Copy

 

 

6th sect–Medicine and Science (the biological geniuses of The Temple)

 

 

 

maroon embroidered gown

 

 

Seventh sect–Law enforcement and order (the Enforcers, but also attorneys, although they are overruled in cases of “national security” which is pretty much anything Grayson Starling, The Prophet, says is national security.

 

 

alternate yellow

 

 

Eighth sect–transportation and communication. This is an example of how a combination of two colors, but the overwhelming color is yellow, which makes it suitable for the eighth sect

 

 

 

emerald green two

 

 

 

Ninth sect–energy and technology emerald green

 

 

 

 

silver gown

 

 

Tenth sect–Treasury–The High Council. (on the nation’s symbol the color is light purple but the council wears silver)

 

 

 

I’ve added some of the original links to the pictures. However, the links I copied for some of these pictures are no longer available. Most of the gowns came from Cbazaar