With hits like The Walking Dead on the rise and the worldwide attention and growing fan base they’re receiving, I often find myself wondering, do I have what it takes to survive a zombie apocalypse? Or what about one of these dystopian novels dominating the charts? Could I survive The Hunger Games? Would I even make it through training?
Let’s be clear, I’ve thought about this long and hard, even discussed it with a good friend or two, and the results are in…no. No, I am not cut out for a dystopian future, an apocalypse of any kind, and I wouldn’t last a day of training with Tris in Divergent. But reading and writing in the genre is another story.
Often times, people at book festivals approach my table, their eyes dart to my banner, and then back to me. “What is dystopian fiction?” they ask. Don’t get me wrong, lots of people are familiar with the genre. It’s been around for a long time. Once I paint them a brief picture of what dystopian fiction is, some even ask, why I would want to write in that genre. A sixth grade girl asked me at a conference I attended recently, “Why can’t there be any stories in the future that are just normal and happy?” Her question threw me off guard for a moment. I mean, she had a point. But a dystopian can’t be a dystopian if there isn’t an upside down world for the story to be set in. I pointed out that some fiction portrays the future to be quite ordinary and happy, but to find these stories, you obviously have to look outside of dystopian literature. (I know, for example, that Nora Roberts has written romances that take place in a seemingly happy future...) But dystopian worlds need something majorly undesirable about them.
Later on her question lingered in my mind. Furthermore, it got me thinking about all of the people who’ve asked me about why I’m writing in this genre over the past few years. My first published novel, after all, was a chick lit novel. It took place in modern day Atlanta during the planning of a wedding. You can’t get much lighter than that, can you? My young adult series takes place in a futuristic dystopian world, where people are segregated into walled cities based on the color of their skin. It’s about as undesirable a place to live as you can imagine.
So why am I into dystopian fiction? Is something wrong with me? Maybe my parents dropped me on my head when I was a baby. Suddenly, it hit me. My parents! That’s it. They aren’t your typical parents. And I think they helped mold me into the abnormal, dystopian apocalyptic loving reader that I am today. If it’s sci-fi, fantasy, dystopian, or apocalyptic, sign me up. I love movies, books, and now writing in the genre myself. And my theory is that it all goes back to Mom and Dad…
Many times, I’ve affectionately referred to them as Rambo and G.I. Jacque. They earned the nicknames, believe me. From forcing me to jump in the choppy, current filled brown water of the river when I was five and learning how to ski, to taking me white water rafting at age ten, making me learn how to buddy breathe underwater in a lake, to taking us on an boat with no power or running water in the middle of a lake every summer for weeks on end, they have a keen sense of adventure. Growing up, they liked to talk about conspiracy theories and ‘what if’ scenarios. We’d be gathered around the dinner table, and Mom and Dad wouldn’t enquire about our day at school like I imagined other families did. They’d jump into discussions about which one of the kids, me, my brother, or sister, they would take if they could only pick one kid to be stranded with on a deserted island. Hello, Mom and Dad? Really? Yes, really.
My brother, Sam, always got picked because he has a certain MacGyver quality, and they were sure he’d be useful on an island. He’d probably figure out how to build a shelter out of sand and find food and build a water purification system out of tree branches with his bare hands. And my sister, Coleen? Well, she denies that they ever chose her, but trust me, they did. She has a built in GPS system, one of the original models, and can navigate her way anywhere. Mom always used to say, you could drop Coleen off anywhere on the globe, where she didn’t speak a word of the language, or have a clue where she was, and within minutes, she’d have the situation handled, be headed back to civilization, and on her way home, unscathed by the experience. And then there was me…
Why did they pick me for Survival Island? Who wanted to get stranded with Sarah on an island? Oh, that’s right. Neither one of them. Mom and Dad always picked Sam or Coleen. Never sweet, little Sarah. Oh, how injured I’ve been all these years.
When our family would gather around for movie night, every Sunday night, we’d watch movies like Night of the Living Dead, The Blob, The Terminator, Dune, Star Wars, and Rambo. Mom may have said Dad picked out the movies, but she’s not altogether innocent either. Years ago, I found out Mom read Stephen King the entire time she was pregnant with me. Now, I’m not a scientist or doctor or anything, and I’m not saying she’s personally responsible for the explicit nightmares I still experience today, wink, wink, but while majority says you should listen to classical music while your little one is baking in the womb, my mom was reading The Stand. Uh huh. But forget the majority. At least that’s what GI Jacque and Rambo would say…
What’s the quickest exit out of this room, Sarah? What could you turn into a weapon in here if the bad guys were coming for you? How are you going to survive the apocalypse, Sarah? Are you ready for the revolution? These are the questions that have haunted me my entire life. These are the questions that have molded me into the paranoid, but dystopian loving woman that I am today. Yes, I love Game of Thrones, and I look outside my window to check for dragons on occasion. Yes, I love The Walking Dead, and I periodically check for zombies in my driveway and hall closets…
My husband thinks I have a problem. I won’t disagree. To be honest, I probably couldn’t survive the dystopian world I’ve created in Prismatic and the Harmony Run Series, but please don’t tell Rambo and GI Jacque that. Since, I’m not sure when the apocalypse is coming, and I’m still not sure how I’m going to handle it, in the meantime I’ll humbly thank Mom and Dad for messing with my head.
I’ll keep on writing dystopian fiction, I’ll continue to check my driveway for zombies, and I’ll leave you with these thoughts… What about you? Are you ready for the zombie apocalypse?
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
First, I would like to thank the author Sarah Elle Emm for giving me this book for an honest review. I enjoyed this story. The characters are well developed and written. The world building is good. I like reading distopian books and like when an author has a new concept and writes it well. I look forward to reading the next book.
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