Why Post-Apocalyptic for Kids?

DarkCrows2

I can’t tell you exactly when I first started writing, nor why I continue to this day. Authors tend to repeat the oft-used phrase, “we write because we must” to cover such questions. I tend to agree with this. It isn’t a satisfying answer, but there it is — I write because it is who I am.

As far back as I can remember I’ve seen the world… differently. My dollhouse was never enough; I always created an entire world around it with everything in my bedroom. Where most people saw a leaf on a tree, I saw an air-boat for a tiny elf. Where most people saw an office building, I saw a sideways world where people could fall off the walls into space.

I still see these things on a daily basis.

Long ago, I came to the conclusion that there are two ways to go about life when one sees the world in such a way: either you pretend to be “normal”, never tell anyone about it, and secretly go crazy while everyone thinks you’re sane, or you let it shine through your art, allow the world to think you’re crazy, and stay sane.

Of course, “sane” is relative.

Artists are funny like that. Whether we are musicians, visual artists, writers or poets, we keep the world sane through our insanity. We are the balance of light in a heavy world. We are the splash of color on the khaki canvass of modern life. We are the stories, music, beauty and freedom that weekday–working humanity craves every weekend.

We are freedom.

Our voices reach many different ears. Our beauty pierces may different eyes. My own audience happens to be of the smaller type. I write for the next generation of dreamers, thinkers, visionaries and leaders.

I am a children’s writer. This, to me, is the ultimate honor.

My genre, or style, is generally termed speculative fiction, though perhaps a more literal term would be “obviously fiction”. These are the stories that take the world and twist it up like taffy until the colors, swirls and tastes of reality are transformed into something entirely new. Fantasy. Science Fiction. Horror. Steampunk. Post-Apocalyptic. Dystopia. These are all speculative fiction. To read spec-fic is to escape reality in a runaway boat. To write it is to add a rudder and try to steer.

My current series, “Guts and Glory”, is best described as post-apocalyptic dystopia, or Apocalypse-Punk. And yes, it is for kids.

Lately, apocalyptic visions have become extremely popular. The other day I saw some graffiti that perfectly sums up why I believe this is so. It read, “In a society that has destroyed all adventure, the only adventure left is to destroy that society”.

We are all looking for who we are in this world, and the vast majority of us are no longer finding a satisfying answer. The drone mentality of work-and-sleep-and-work-again is slowly killing our spirits. And so we fight back with our imaginations. “What if this stifling cubicle was torn to shreds? What if this highway was bombed to bits so that it could never again carry its mouse-maze of deadlocked traffic? What if this whitewashed world was suddenly painted in the colors of explosive rebellion? What if society was so ruined that I could finally do something that mattered?”

We all want to be the hero.

Two of the best-known pillars of dystopian literature are George Orwell’s “1984”, and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”. Though their totalitarian societies are very different in many ways, they have one major theme in common: nobody is allowed to be an individual. The stifling of individuality is the number-one most powerful weapon any supervillain could possibly wield, for it turns a society of free dreamers into a single lifeless machine which supports the power of the few. Take away someone’s very identity, and they have nothing left to fight for. A nobody has no hopes, dreams, or even family to care about. A nobody only does one thing – work for the one who controls him.

More and more, we as a society are feeling like nobodies. And we don’t like that.

In “Guts and Glory”, the only free citizens are the Kids. Though they are born nameless, without family or homes, they have created a society that honors the individual. They adopt each-other. They take care of each-other. But most importantly, they have names. Every Nil Kid carries her name with pride, because that name was not given, but earned. Nil Kids have names unique to them, like Papercut, Books, Roach and Turtle. These names define who they are and what they contribute to their society.

And every one of them contributes something that matters.

My stories are for kids — my heroes are kids — because this world won’t be fixed overnight. Who knows, perhaps it will take an apocalyptic calamity to set things back to zero. But when the sun finally rises over a new tomorrow, the ones to see it will be the children of today. And those children still believe they aren’t nobodies.

My job as a writer is to make sure that belief never goes away.

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4 Responses to “Why Post-Apocalyptic for Kids?”

  1. […] Why Post-Apocalyptic for Kids? (gutsandglorybooks.com) […]

  2. Reblogged this on Jessica Rising and commented:
    Why do books matter for the next generation? #kidlit #amwriting #revolution

  3. Reblogged this on JM Hauser's Blog and commented:
    Reblogging here….Jessica has some good points, and she covers some similar territory to my own stories: weird fiction for kids.

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