A while back, some two months or so, I was asked by my mother, "what made you choose the dystopian style?" It's a good question. The answer required some deep thought on my part.
I grew up in a small town just outside of Madison, Wisconsin. I still look back and say I grew up in my own 'Mayberry'. My childhood was simple and full of love from all my family (extended included); my parents were normal fun people. My siblings (one older sister, an older brother and one younger brother) were equally as normal as we went about our daily life in the 60s and early 70s.
The only 'cool' thing going on in our area was the constant protesting of the Vietnam War by the students of nearby UW- Madison (The U, I suppose). This was the age of hippies, you will recall. There were just as many odd characters as normal citizens in Madison at the time. For fun, my father would load us into the car and we would cruise State Street to marvel at varied citizens going about the normal lives.
My family of six was a tight knit group. We ate most meals together, attended various functions and sporting events together, went to church each Sunday together, and lived in a nice home my parents had built. We had an A-framed cottage on the Wisconsin River some 25 miles to the north, later a 120-acre farm owned jointly with some of my mother's cousins; so we had it all.
We had mini-bikes and later motorcycles, we had guns of all calibers which we used for target and sport, later we had bows and the latest archery equipment. One year we had season tickets to all Wisconsin Badger footballs game. At least twice a year during the dismal southern Wisconsin winters, my dad would take us to Badger basketball games. We attended every sportsman's show in the area. We were outdoors, a lot, and my brothers and I loved it just as much as my father.
So you can see, dear reader, my life was just normal. We had it better than most, I suppose. But to us, we were regular mid-western folks.
My first exposure to the dark side of literature came in high school. There, I was introduced to Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. It was the best of times, and still, it was the worst of times. After that came Alexander Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago. I was hooked; between Dickens' biting words of the classes in London and Paris, and the dark Russian history, I craved more literature that spoke of the less than sunny side of life. Real people, real issues, real problems...real life.
A year or two later, a writing teacher (L. B. Rowe, yes, I can still recall his entire name) introduced me to a true classic and it most likely changed my entire outlook on literature. None other than the tale of true dystopian tales, Orwell's 1984. Grey skies, mundane meaningless lives, still set in the future (the year I first read it was 1976, so we were eight years shy of '84).
Fiction is a wicked master. You get to make things up, but you must maintain the reader's belief. Some works, such as SciFi, allow you latitude. But you still have to make it believable. I viewed Dickens and Solzhenitsyn as historians. They placed in full open view what had happened. Orwell pushed our minds to what could happen. Thought police, newspeak, The Inner and Outer Parties, Proles, Big Brother. He opened my mind to a new dimension of thought that I had never considered. He changed me, for the good I truly believe.
So, mom - we can blame George Orwell, if we must. Or we can choose to embrace dystopian literature for what it is - dreams without our normal every day boundaries. Some of what I write will be darker than other writings I create. The WWIV series gets darker with each novel. As more time passes, civilization, and life, become less attractive. In this setting, it can't be any other way.
The Smith Chronicles will be nowhere near as dark as WWIV. Yet, it is still a dystopian tale. I have others planned; little wandering story lines float through my mind constantly. Some will never see the light of day; others will take form and become manuscripts and eventually novels.
My hope, is that you will find my plots and style enjoyable. That is the plan.
Until next time, good reading.