At the beginning of the 1980’s people began a twisted fascination with dystopian society, fueled by depressing yet accurate films such as The Day After and Testament about the after effects of nuclear war. We were still in the Cold War at the time and I think we needed to believe that somehow we (me, you) would be the “special” ones who survived (as if any could)–the total destruction of humanity; too enormous to contemplate. As a child of the 1960’s “duck and cover” generation where nuclear annihilation survival was taught regularly in public schools, the horror of that reality terrified me and still does.
In the 1980’s I was a young adult and TDA and Testament were the epitome of that terror. There was little way to survive something so incomprehensible so we came up with the idea of a dystopian, surviving society in a gritty dark culture. Our fascination (as adults and parents back then) with that dystopia I believe has influenced our adults now as evidenced by our films and novels World War Z etc. The difference is, now we write novels and make films about it–in abundance. We no longer fear the dark, surviving cruel society of post-nuclear destruction; we prefer it. Perhaps subconsciously we reject the easy, instant technology of today (not that we’d ever give up our SmartPhones) for the survivalist mentality; guns, knives, swords, crossbows, and the occasional machete are our methods of dispensing instant justice without media pundits arguing endlessly and pointlessly over the political correctness of it. There was only one problem: we’d survived annihilation; it would be stupid to attack and kill each other now. Again, we came up with a solution: Zombies!! They’re already dead, all we have to do is make it permanent! Best of all, there’s no guilt! Finishing off those zombies is something to be proud of; collecting their body parts as jewelry something impressive. It appears we’ve come full circle: our cultural ancestors performed similar trophy collection, headhunting and drinking wine from enemies’ skulls though with zombies those skulls probably wouldn’t hold up very well as cups. The only difference is the rotted, bombed out, skeletal frames of city buildings or the newly untamed wilderness that serve as the backdrop.
Hell I have nothing against zombies or the killing of them. I mean come on, the 1964 film The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price was the ultimate and the model for our zombiefication: a virus made all of humanity, mindless blood drinking vampire/zombies (hey was that combination ahead of its time or what?) and only Price had the immunity to reverse the process and save mankind. (SPOILER ALERT: Guess what? He didn’t. They killed him before he could transfuse his blood into theirs.) Move over Will, this was the original. My only real concern is zombie romance. These dead guys and girls stink. Come on, rotting flesh smells good? I don’t think so. But to each his or her own…
Why am I telling you all of this? Well someone on a group asked why we write in the genre’ we write. I started to post my standard, snarky response of “I write to entertain people” but then began thinking about it. Why do I mainly write sci-fi or at least futuristic novels? Why not Westerns? Well, okay I do write westerns, one WIP in progress. But mostly I stick with sci-fi. Half of it is probably because as a child I was raise on Star Trek, Lost In Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Space 1999. Some schloky, some excellent but all HOPEFUL. These were our dreams: a future in space without limitations, prejudice, greed, or warfare/violence (except as needed of course). Humanity could survive and even grow in more ways than we could ever imagine or expect. At least that’s what we hoped.
I’ve always been a writer, like it or not. It chased me down not unlike those aforementioned zombies. I’ve read pretty much all genre’ from literary to romance and anything in between so choosing a genre’ didn’t really matter. I read them all, I could write them all too. I just never took any of it seriously. Until now.
When I started writing seriously, I resumed with sci-fi/futuristic. I couldn’t bear to put those awful, nuclear annihilation fears down and make them real again. For me, I came to the point where I could still see something hopeful in our future; colonization of space, commonplace alien interaction, human problems still trying to be dealt with sanely or not. Yet a future, somehow some way. People say my work is ‘dark’ and I do too but humanity survives and expands in my work and in my settings. Now I can’t bear to see it any other way.