In 2006, John Nelson began his writing journey to pen a modern dystopia. His inspiration came from the news headlines that reported on secret prisons, torture, extraordinary rendition, domestic spying and wars based on falsified intelligence. It was all the material he needed to begin to imagine an Orwellian-style dystopia. No one had written about the post-9/11 American political landscape as a dystopia and John set out to fill that literary void.
He chose a global pandemic as the catalyst for his storyline. Now a global pandemic certainly isn’t a new vehicle for a storyline. There are plenty of works of fiction on the bookshelves about pandemics, but they all seem to end with the good guys coming up with a cure and the world is saved. At this point, John took some inspiration from Ray Bradbury and Michael Crichton and made the disease-causing organism an extraterrestrial dust mite introduced to earth in the wound of a returning astronaut.
John wondered what pandemic America would look like if the disease was not a known bacteria or virus that could be easily defeated or how scientists would react if the microbe’s properties went against our understanding of nature. How long would our society remain cohesive if the disease was highly contagious and one-hundred percent fatal? How would the government and society react if the bodies were stacking up and the economy was in free-fall? Would the misdeeds seen in the headlines following 9/11 wash up on our shores? Would a government paid for and controlled by corporations and a handful of elite billionaires be responsive to the masses? How would we distribute an experimental vaccine? Would we really distribute it in an egalitarian manner? Would the venture capitalist get vaccine before the bricklayer and the banker before the inner-city pre-school teacher if the amount of vaccine was limited?
John wanted the reader to see themselves in the landscape of the pandemic. Like a parable of the Titanic, his novel Against Nature allows the reader to see where they fit in. If our society was listing and taking on water, would you end up in a lifeboat or would you be left to perish in the icy waters?
It was John’s background in healthcare that motivated him to make the catalyst for a modern dystopia a pandemic. John is a retired Air Force Master Sergeant and former Special Ops Medic—Air Commando who now lives a quieter life as a quality and risk management director and infection control practitioner for a hospital in the Rocky Mountain West. He was also inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement of young progressives trying to raise the alarm of inequity in our society and wake the electorate up from our political slumber.
The end result of his writing journey is Against Nature, an e-novel published by Wild Child Publishing. The reviews, thus far, have validated what he set out to do. He wanted to write a smart, fast-paced modern dystopia that took the reader on a wild ride across pandemic America. He hopes his readers are thoroughly entertained with Against Nature, but also begin to see our society through a slightly different lens.
And now from the author himself:
George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World are among some of my favorite novels. So, it’s no accident that my first published novel would be in the classic dystopia genre. I’m also pleased to see the rebirth of dystopia albeit in YA fiction. I hope the success of YA fiction will motivate publishers to consider adult-centered modern political dystopia as a viable commercial offering. I think our society is fractured enough to stimulate some really compelling modern dystopian fiction
As a fiction writer in the dystopia genre you really should ask some tough questions about your own contemporary society and look for road signs in our everyday lives that may one day take us to a dystopian landscape. For writers a generation or two ago, it was totalitarianism and the threat of nuclear annihilation. I think that offered us a post-apocalyptic landscape as a backdrop, but does such a fear ring as true today as it did a few decades ago? Today, I think we have to look at new social warning signs for inspiration.
I think in order to write a truly unique dystopia, you have to move beyond the well-travelled path of the post-apocalyptic landscape. In order to do that I think you have to be more than just a good storyteller; you also have to be a social critic. You have to look at your own society from outside the fishbowl and be willing to move away from your own comfort zone. You have to examine faith, gender, race and class from many perspectives and peel back the layers to expose the roots of our social structures. When you do that, you create a blended narrative that is quite complex. Fiction, like life, should be many shades of gray.
With Against Nature, I tried to avoid a predictable ending where everything is wrapped up in a tidy package and we feel hopeful that good has trumped evil and the poor all end up wealthy and self-actualized. A good narrative in any fiction genre should be more complicated than that. In the dystopia genre, it’s imperative that we see the reflection of our own society (warts and all) in the pages of the fantasy society. I think that’s the most important ingredient and that’s what I look for in dystopian literature. Sometimes we need that social self-reflection to shake us from our moorings. We need to be transported out of our fishbowl and look back in from a different perspective. It’s what makes the journey to the dystopian fantasy world worth the trip.
John loves feedback from his readers. A 300-page novel should spur comments, questions and conversation, he says. You can find him at: http://johngnelson.blogspot.com
Against Nature is available at:
Read some reviews:
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