Sunday, October 23, 2011

Post Apocalyptic Fiction Project - Part 4

Authors are advised to be well-read in the genre in which they are writing. Having switched from writing mysteries to a post apocalyptic novel, I'm often asked which PA novels I have read and which one is my favorite. I'm a big fan of PA novels and have read many of them from old classics like Neville Shute's, On the Beach, to the latest popular offerings such as The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

I divide PA novels into two camps, those that include a supernatural element like Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling or Robert McCammon's Swan Song, and those that are purely speculative fiction such as Cormac McCarthy's, The Road, or The Gospel of Matthias Kent by Mike Silvestri.

On the supernatural side, my runaway favorite is Stephen King's master work, The Stand, which also happens to be one of my all time favorite novels. So much has been written and said about this epic novel that there is no need for me to write on about it.

My favorite speculative PA novel is the classic, Earth Abides by George Stewart, which was first published in 1949. Worldwide pandemic is the cause for the near extinction of mankind in both novels, but that's where their similarities end. While The Stand weighs in at over 1,000 pages and includes a huge cast of diverse characters, Earth Abides at a little over 300 pages revolves primarily around one central character with a tenacious will to rebuild civilization. The plot is tight, the writing superb, and the emotional impact palpable.

In her introduction to the 2006 Del Rey trade paperback edition, Connie Willis wrote, "...once you read it, you never forget it. It never goes away." I couldn't agree more. Earth Abides is that good. If you enjoy PA novels, be sure to include it on your reading list.

Both of these favorites set a high standard for me as an author, and I've enjoyed the challenge of writing a PA novel of high quality.

Earthburst, a post-apocalyptic saga by Dennis Royer - coming spring 2012.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Post Apocalyptic Fiction Project - Part 3

In part 1 of this blog series I wrote, “Although many post apocalyptic (PA) stories have already been written, mine offers a fresh perspective that I hope readers will enjoy.” This begs the question, how is this project different?

Almost all PA novels begin by dropping the reader into a dystopian future world sometime after a cataclysmic event has already occurred. We read of characters engaged in a frantic struggle to survive and rebuild civilization. Although this formula works well, I decided to explore a different aspect of human nature. To me, an intriguing facet in the study of humanity involves how normally decent people react to sudden catastrophe. As a result, I spend a fair amount of time developing characters during prosperous times. Readers get to know them well, develop feelings about them, cheer for them, and in some cases boo them.

Faced with dwindling supplies of food and basic necessities of life, do normally generous characters maintain their magnanimity? Does friendly extroversion fade to paranoia and mistrust? On the other hand, is it true that people don’t really change at their core? My mission is to not only provide readers with an entertaining story, but also by following these fictional characters through upheaval, maybe provide a better insight into what it means to be human.

Earthburst, a post-apocalyptic saga by Dennis Royer - coming spring 2012.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Post Apocalyptic Fiction Project - Part 2

In both the print and film industries the post apocalyptic (PA) genre is typically classified as science fiction, yet it seems to be taken more seriously than its other sub-genre companions of fantasy, horror, and classic sci-fi. For example, strike up a conversation with someone at work about the mechanics of warp drive on the starship Enterprise and risk being labeled a nerd or even creepy. On the other hand, mention “The Book of Eli” and those same people will gush about that film’s timely relevance.

The PA genre provokes a visceral reaction because we wake up every morning to news of mankind’s increasing insanity. We ponder, is this the day that civilization finally teeters over the edge? Warp drive and time travel are unlikely to happen any time soon. Dragons and orcs exist only in our minds. But a precipitating event with the potential to plunge the Earth into chaos seems all too possible. We get that. We understand it.

And we ask ourselves … Would I be resourceful enough to survive? Could I protect my family? Could I exist in a world with no electricity? No transportation? No modern medicine? No law and order? The PA genre examines those questions and serves up characters who reflect our own vulnerabilities should the unthinkable actually occur. We applaud heroes who emerge from this fiction, because fictional heroes promise hope that humanity might also survive whatever real world dystopia the near future may hold for us.

This book project fascinates me considering all of the possibilities, and I hope my interpretation of the subject will captivate my readers, too. I look forward to sharing it with you and will continue to provide periodic updates. Coming next year - spring 2012.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Post Apocalyptic Fiction Project - Part 1

Last year I blogged on “Series Fatigue” for The Susquehanna Writers ( where I announced a hiatus from my Perry County Mystery Series so that I could complete a post apocalyptic (PA) novel. Having established a series with familiar characters allowed me to settle into a comfort zone where I could publish a novel a year. The industry standard 80K short word count for the mystery genre also made it relatively easy to keep up with the 1 a year pace.

There are reasons other than series fatigue that caused me to set out on this new writing venture. Most of my favorite novels are PA, and I’ll list some of them in a future blog entry. Although many PA stories have already been written, mine offers a fresh perspective that I hope readers will enjoy. The PA genre also allows me to exercise my imagination in building a dystopia far removed from reality. Finally, I believe that I’ve become proficient enough to tackle the challenge of creating a sweeping epic loaded with colorful characters and a thought provoking plot so common to this genre.

A challenge is what I wanted, and as it turns out, a challenge is what I got! After a year of writing, I've reached the half way point and am on track for my spring 2012 release date. The project has tested my creative limits in ways that I never imagined, but it's also proven personally fulfilling and great fun. Isn't that why writers write?