Monday, September 14, 2015

Why is Dystopia the "IT" Genre Right Now? Chatting with Dystopian Writer Dean F. Wilson

Why is dystopian literature such a hot genre? According to author Dean F. Wilson, the author of the Great Iron War Series, part of it has to do with its appeal to a universal fear of the world ending, and society being reorganized in a new way. Who doesn't have a little bit of apprehension when it comes to the unknown? We can all identify. Hence dystopia comes into play. 

Dean is the author of Hopebreaker, Lifemaker, Skyshaker and Landquaker, story installments of his Great Iron War Series. The stories are definitely a little dark. Humanity is dying out. The struggle to survive is very real. 

Dystopia. It's really the "it" genre right now. Why do you think that is?

Its popularity probably has a lot to do with young adult series like The Hunger Games, which arguably introduced the genre to a new audience. Its overall popularity likely has to do with a certain rebellious nature in many people, where we try to draw parallels between dystopian society and our own (in terms of government, surveillance, war, culture, and so on), often to the point of conspiracy theory (which I personally cannot abide, as I think it distracts from the real problems of the world). There's also an element of the post-apocalyptic in many dystopian works, and I think this appeals to a common fear in every human generation that they are the last (just look at the endless proclamations of the end of the world over the last number of centuries, all of which turned out to be wrong). So, I suppose it plays into human fears, and the fiction is one of our ways of dealing with those complex issues.

Tell us about your Great Iron War Series. 

The Great Iron War series is about a desperate struggle to survive in a war-torn world. Humanity is dying out. Women who give birth, give birth to demons, though they look just like anyone else. The Iron Empire, called the Regime by its enemies, rules much of the land with an iron grip. Even the land itself has turned to dust, with its former green earth now replaced by red sands. The demons need a drug called Hope to survive, and this is manufactured in numerous factories throughout the world. In this setting, a contraceptive amulet smuggler called Jacob finds himself sucked into the war. He usually only thinks of his own interests, but with so much at stake, he finds it increasingly hard to remain neutral. In many ways, it's a series about finding the humanity, and the demonic, in everyday people.

I've been seeing a lot of steampunk stuff lately. What exactly does "steampunk" mean? 

You'll probably find different definitions from different people, but essentially it's a setting where steam-powered technology is in vogue. This is typically a Victorian-esque period, when steam really was at its highpoint, but it can also be a different world entirely. It often involves a mix of science fiction and fantasy, with technology merging with magic (in much the same way the Victorians saw advances in technology, but also saw a resurgence in interest in the occult). There's also a certain aesthetic, a kind of high society floral flourish meets grungy engineering, and I think many people find that appealing. Finally, the "punk" side of the equation often relates to a kind of anti-establishment mindset, and so it fits rather well with a dystopian society, where the establishment really is as a bad as it gets.

What inspires you to write dystopian tales? 

I like to show that there is hope even in the darkest situations. I also think it makes for good reading, as the world itself is as much a villain as any of the antagonists. I think that characters who face hardship are more relatable and more dynamic. I am also fascinated by the World Wars, and those who lived in countries where dictators ruled were essentially living in a dystopian society. There are many countries today who still have such repressive regimes.

How long does it take you to write one book? What's the process like from first draft to publication and release? 

It really depends on the book and how much time I have for it, and how long the intended book is. If I have a lot of distractions and other commitments, it will take significantly longer. I can get a 50k words novel done in three months, but usually it takes longer, because a certain amount of "gestation" time is needed to bring some ideas to fruition. My first book, The Call of Agon, was in the works for over a decade, but I think that was largely because I was trying to discover my style. It has become easier to write over time. Of course, none of this accounts for research time, which can take potentially much longer.

As for my process, I usually plan the big scenes, the big reveals, but leave the details and little surprises to discover along the way. In essence, I will plan points A, F, N, and Z, but let the characters roam freely between those points. Often I plan far ahead in terms of a series, so I know what happens in books 4, 5, and 6 of the Great Iron War series, and have planted hints for these even in book 1. I like the story to be congruent. I often edit as I go too, but I'll go back over it several times for subsequent edits. Sometimes changing, adding, or deleting a single line can make a world of difference. After that it gets primed for publication, and I switch to marketing mode -- and the next book!

By extension, what do you think are some of the best book-to-screen dystopian adaptations?

1984 is the quintessential dystopian novel, though the film adaptation is a bit dated now. Perhaps my favourite adaptation is Bladerunner, based on Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (a better title, but not very movie-friendly). Some books and films are just for entertainment, but I think Dick's work asks some very important and profound questions, which we may, perhaps, never have concrete answers to.

What's your advice to those wanting to write and publish a book successfully? 

Perseverance is the key to everything. Aspiring writers need to force themselves to sit down and write, not just talk about wanting to write. They need to bash out those words. Once they have a first draft, they need to go over it to improve it, and not expect others to perfect it for them. Some things may need to be axed. Others may need to be expanded. I find writing each chapter in a separate document helps. I also don't always write in order. If I'm not sure what to do with a current scene, I might write something much further on. This means there's always progress being made, even if it is not linear. For publishing, there are lots of options nowadays, from big publishers and small presses to self-publishing, but the emphasis should always be on quality. That doesn't just mean the writing itself -- it should apply to the cover art, the book layout, and even the blurb on the back cover. No matter what route is taken, marketing is mostly left to the author nowadays, so this is something that cannot be ignored, and it's an ever-changing field.

Favorite writing snack? 

Crisps (or potato chips for those in the US), though this is my favourite snack in general. I prefer savoury to sweet.

Where can readers connect with you online? 

I'm on all the usual channels, and am always happy to connect with readers :)

Thank you so much for visiting with us today! Happy writing! :)  

Thank you for having me, and happy reading!

About the Author 

Dean F. Wilson was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1987. He started writing at age 11, when he began his first (unpublished) novel, entitled The Power Source. He won a TAP Educational Award from Trinity College Dublin for an early draft of The Call of Agon (then called Protos Mythos) in 2001.

He is the author of the Children of Telm epic fantasy trilogy and the Great Iron War steampunk series.

Dean also works as a journalist, primarily in the field of technology. He has written for TechEye, Thinq, V3, VR-Zone, ITProPortal, TechRadar Pro, and The Inquirer. 

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