Politics Stole the Plot of My Dystopian Sci-Fi Novel
My novel opens in East America, at the evil yet bumbling President X’s Last Lady Pageant- yes, the President runs beauty pageants. He’s looking for his sixth and final (underaged) wife. It’s about 2040- America’s in the middle of a Civil War that centers around gender and race. I’d like to think I was quick enough to churn out my first novel in 2016, or that I’m some sort of pre-cog. But I’m not. It was five years ago, I was writing Science Fiction, and much more of my time was spent deciding how to describe hovercrafts and teenaged love than predict the future. That’s why this is all so weird. But let’s back up a bit.
In 2011, I was working as a paranormal researcher for the since-cancelled show Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files at The Syfy Network. I went in the parking lot to take a phone call about an opportunity to write a novel that’s end goal was to put more women in positions of power.
By the end of the call, I was an author. Different genres were tossed around, but I wanted to write a science fiction novel- a dystopian story about a family and a country torn apart by a Civil War in America- a Civil War about race and women. The idea seemed really far-fetched, but cool in a Handmaid’s Tale meets A Wrinkle in Time sort of way. At that time, those books were faraway relics of my childhood.
I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. I wrote draft after draft for year after year until we landed at a publisher in about 2014- Post Hill Press, distributed by Simon & Schuster. The title was XX v XY.
I thought about what it would be like if you took the fringe from both political parties and made them the main voices. Again, book opens in East America, at President X’s Last Lady Pageant- I wanted to make a point about child brides in America- there are still so many, that’s a different article, but a cause I deeply care about, and I thought this hammered a point home, and introduced my main character. I thought “what’s the worst thing they could do to us?” The answer was to take away our agency, strip away our identity. Many writers have come to the same conclusion- many of them women. I had no idea a man who ran beauty pageants would become President. I was not writing about Donald Trump.
I have a trans narrator (one of three). A major publishing house told me it would be the only focus of the book, because the rest was apolitical. I didn’t take it out. I didn’t think I was writing about politics as much as I was telling a story. Thaddeus is a part of the military and government in West America. I had no idea the trans ban would make this plot point one of contention.
These evils- people who hate women, people who want everyone to be white, people who marry children, people who are hurt and afraid and lash out at anything they don’t understand- were all apparent to me. I was naive though, and thought my novel was so extreme it would be silly. The editors’ notes came back with notes on current events- Trump as President X, Hillary as Francesca Baron, Luminary in the East- “I love this pointed jab! Make his hands smaller!” I laughed to myself. It was 2015. It was the primaries. But I wasn’t writing about Donald Trump. Why would I? He would become quickly irrelevant as Jeb! took the primaries, I thought. I was writing a world I made up, in a vacuum in my head? Right? Right? I’m not a prophet, just a writer. I didn’t expect the yarns I spun to wrap so closely to the truth.
I’ve had an incredible experience and worked with some amazing people on this project- and if you read this book you will laugh/cry at how much the Dystopian future a young woman from Texas imagined in a came true in a few short years. I hope that it entertains and comforts.
You can buy the book here.