I write post-collapse fiction.
Never in a million years would I have expected to get such an up-close, horrifying, and fascinating look into the backstory of one of my novels.
That was one of many possible opening lines for my first post-collapse story, written in 2009 as part of a NaNoWriMo-inspired challenge. At the time, the world felt very unsettled to me (OH, my sweet summer child…) and writing about what comes next was both therapeutic and reassuring. Writing about a possible salvaged future worked so well for me, it became the thing that I write.
Since then, I’ve written nine other novels, though I’ve only published one, Ashes Swept. All of them take place in societies that rose up from the metaphorical ashes of our current world. Since my stories are about those societies, and more importantly the people who live in them, I don’t dwell on what led the world as we know it to end. It’s usually climate change, political upheaval, a virus, or sometimes a combination, but I always figure it out before I start writing, even if it doesn’t play a role in the actual story.
As a result, I’ve spent an absurd amount of time researching virus events and global pandemics, so it’s pretty strange to actually be experiencing one. And even though I have every faith our society will survive Covid-19, it’s remarkable to feel like I’m living through an event that could well be the backstory in some of my novels. It’s completely surreal, to be honest, and I think that’s probably my biggest takeaway…
Writers of speculative fiction are supposed to look at the “what if” scenarios. We’re supposed to take the implausible and make it seem plausible, but if you’d come to me a year ago with our present situation, I would have thought it was pretty far out there. It would have been easy to poke holes in the idea that entire nations could be shut down, that movie theaters would go dark the world over, Disney parks would be closed for any number of weeks, and everyone in the world would be under “stay at home orders” while memes about running out of toilet paper became a global in-joke. “Interesting, but pretty unlikely…” I probably would have said. It’s funny how drastically things can change, and how quickly the implausible can become our reality. At the moment, I’m not sure anything would surprise me.
In a time when everything feels uncertain, one thing I know for sure: I’ve sure got a new appreciation for the backstories that lead to the worlds in my stories.