Automatic weapons, zombies and YA fiction

You gotta love WikiPedia because there’s a definition for everything. Today I’m blogging about dystopian books and if you go with the WikiPedia definition, I have to wonder if my next project is going to fit in there accordingly.

A dystopia (from Greek: δυσ-, “bad, ill”, and Greek: τόπος, “place, landscape”; alternatively cacotopia,[1] or anti-utopia) is the idea of a society in a repressive and controlled state, often under the guise of being utopian, as characterized in books like Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four. Dystopian societies feature different kinds of repressive social control systems, various forms of active and passive coercion. Ideas and works about dystopian societies often explore the concept of humans abusing technology and humans individually and collectively coping, or not being able to properly cope with technology that has progressed far more rapidly than humanity’s spiritual evolution. Dystopian societies are often imagined as police states, with unlimited power over the citizens.

I’m writing THE NORTH  – my take on a post-apocalyptic nightmare world where a group of teens in the army reserves are heading north to the southwest shore of Hudson Bay. Oh … and there are zombies. Lots of them, actually. It’s why they’re leaving the city and going hatches down in two armored personnel carriers appropriately dubbed “Ark One” and “Ark Two”.

I’ve already written one YA novel that my literary agent has sent off to various publishers, but I’m still a relative newby when it comes to writing for young people in middle or high school. I’m struggling with the fact that we have three elements in this book, namely:

  1. A dozen teen army reservists
  2. Zombies
  3. Guns

There’s probably going to be sex in there somewhere too, I’m just trying to get my head around how to write it in a way that doesn’t cause a prospective editor to cringe or worse, impart their own values on my attempt to write something tasteful and, well, accurate. But back to the guns.

Because it’s a teen militia that is armed to the teeth and they have to travel thousands of miles across zombie infested western and northern Canada, it stands to reason there’s going to be some shooting going on. And really, when it comes to zombies and guns, you just know it’s going to be violent and bloody and not everyone is going to make it. Euthanasia comes to mind as well, because my characters are going to have to make some very difficult choices if they are to survive.

Okay, so the book is going to be controversial. Whatever.

I know there’s a ton of dystopian stuff in bookstores right now on the heels of The Hunger Games. I don’t think my project is dystopian when you get right down to it – more post apocalyptic. The binding force for my characters is summed up in one word: survival. But how does one survive or how can one conceive of survival when the world as you knew it has burned to a cinder and there’s a plague of walking dead that will literally consume your flesh? Moreover, I’m not writing something to cash in on the dystopian trend – what I aim to write is, if I can be so bold, The Great Canadian Zombie Novel. I don’t think there has been one yet – I could be wrong.

Maybe it’s horror, I don’t know. It’s hard to classify something in a publishing world that loves a good label.  To that end, I’ve decided I’m going to just let loose and write the best, most accurate sounding book I can write. I’m a former soldier, I know a few things or two about automatic weapons and small unit tactics. I know a hell of a lot about winter warfare as well, having spent a good portion of my younger years trudging through the back forty in northern Alberta amid snow, bitter cold and seemingly eternal darkness.

So … off I go on this journey into Canada’s north. I’m about 40,000 words into the project right now, having written in drips and drabs for the better part of the last year. (I was devoting most of my spare time to TIM REAPER which should be in my agent’s hands by the end of the month.) What will the end product look like? I’m not sure … can you have a happy ending at the end of the world? I guess we’re about to see.

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Posted September 12, 2011 by Sean Cummings in category "Blog

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