Jason M. Hough is the author of the new Dire Earth Cycle series of novels, published by Del Rey. The first, The Darwin Elevator, is out this month and Jason was kind enough to stop by the blog with a little guest post about one of the facets of his novel. Enjoy! Oh, and after that, you can even have a peak at the first chapter by clicking here.
Pandemic: The Ultimate Dire Situation
By Jason M. Hough
“Worldwide outbreak causes death of billions.” Such a headline appeals to fiction writers, I think, because it instantly accomplishes the main thing any good story starts with: it upsets the applecart. It’s change on an epic level. It’s something we can all understand, and something we all fear.
And at least for me an outbreak situation is more interesting than, say, nuclear war, because it leaves the world mostly intact. The survivors at least have a chance to claw their way back from the brink, and they also get to explore the vacated world. I used to wile away hours looking at “urban exploring” websites, where people enter abandoned places and chronicle the often harrowing experience of what they find. The idea that our entire planet could be waiting for such adventurers really intrigued me, and especially so if the parties involved have to bet their own survival on the bounties they find.
It was in this mindset that I started worldbuilding for THE DARWIN ELEVATOR. In the book, only a small patch of land around an alien-build space elevator is truly habitable, and everything beyond is ravaged by an (equally) alien virus that crushes higher brain function. The story follows a handful of people who are immune to the disease and therefore can leave the safe-zone provided by the Elevator. They band together and become, essentially, urban explorers with entire cities, nations, even continents sitting untouched for years just waiting to be visited. The group searches for whatever they’re asked to find: spare parts, manuals, ammunition, food preservation equipment… you name it. In some ways this presented a problem for me: too many choices. There’s a near infinite set of possibilities for missions this crew could embark on, both in what they’re seeking and what they find along the way.
In my short story “Wave of Infection”, which takes place before the book in the early days of the disease, there’s a scene where an automated tram is relentlessly following a pre-programmed route in the city of Amsterdam, pushing aside bodies like a boat powering through rough seas. The idea of this alone is unsettling, but to imagine that this tram might continue on this grim course for years is at once terrifying and profoundly sad. It’s only when you imagine it happening across the world that the enormity of the situation starts to really settle in.
Which, of course, leads to my concluding thought as a fiction writer: pandemics are awesome.
Thanks, Jason. And thanks to TLC Book Tours for organizing the blog tour.
If any of you would like to get your hands on a copy of The Darwin Elevator, it's available at Amazon.com, The Book Depository, and even IndieBound.org.
And be sure to keep up with Jason's other blog tour stops by clicking here.