The Challenges and Rewards of Romantic Dystopian Fiction
When Harlequin Luna invited me to contribute a novella to an anthology called 'Til The World Ends, I was thrilled with the invitation, and slightly intimidated by the genre. I write urban fantasy and the anthology has a dystopian theme. I've been reading dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction for years, but I'd never tried writing it before. Enjoyment of the genre gave me confidence I could create a good story, but what surprised me were the revelations I made in the process.
- An endless supply of scenarios – How many ways could the world end? Dozens, and all can be spun in a variety of possibilities. The subject opens a distinct avenue of creativity and an opportunity to invent something totally different. I came up with five story ideas for my editor to choose from. The one about devastating solar storms ravaging the planet was selected, but I still plan to pursue my idea about bees for a future project.
- In-depth exploration of current events – The best stories are often rooted in reality, and there's no shortage of potential problems the world is currently facing that could lead to its demise. I learned a lot while conducting my research. Education is always a welcome bonus.
- Try out your science fiction wings – Though dystopian stories are fantasy, there's often some science responsible for putting an end to the world as we know it. Geological, astronomical, meteorological, virological… Adding a fantasy twist to the science is both challenging and fun. It also affects the world-building because post-apocalyptic environments are tainted with visual, social, political and emotional devastation as a result of cataclysmic events.
- Romantic conflict – Vulnerabilities abound in an unmade world where people seek companionship, guidance, consolation and support. When survival is at stake, we turn to those we trust, and we crave the one thing even the ending of the world can't take away from us: our ability to love. Getting it and keeping it may not be easy in a dangerous world that's all but destroyed. There are so many delicious opportunities here for romance.
- Characters put to the test – Will the good guys continue to be good and the bad guys only get worse in a post-apocalyptic world? When faced with the ultimate test for survival, you can imagine how such a life-changing event might affect people. Good guys may not be so good anymore, and the bad guys could discover a more honorable side to themselves. Communities will be forced to cooperate if they want to live on the limited resources they have available. It's incredible what you can learn about people in the face of adversity.
If you're looking to expand your fiction repertoire, the dystopian genre could be the right choice for you. I know I'm hooked, with more story ideas brewing. If you were to write a dystopian tale, what would it be about?
'Til The World Ends – Sun Storm:
Sarah Daggot has been chasing storms since she was a child. But after the biggest solar flares in history nearly destroy the planet, she becomes a Kinetic, endowed by her exposure to extreme radiation with the power to sense coming storms-in the cosmos and beyond. And she’s not the only one. Sarah believes the Kinetics are destined to join forces and halt the final onslaught of the sun. She’ll vow to keep trying to convince the one missing link in their chain of defense, the enigmatic Ian Matthews, up until the world ends.
I stared out the hospital window at the heat-glazed street below, knowing I shouldn't be shocked to see brown lawns, charred rooftops and the sun-scorched branches of leafless trees in the middle of January. But I was. I'd never get used to a hot winter in Colorado.
Few people ventured outside in the daytime anymore. The risk of getting caught in a sun storm was greater now than ever before, and only a rare few survived the storm's lethal rain of radioactive sun sparks. Exposure killed you slowly with Sun Fever, or if you were lucky, it let you live with altered DNA that turned you into a freak. That's what had happened to me. The sun and I were connected now. I could predict when a storm was about to happen, and there was one coming this way.
I gripped the window blinds, my fingers like burning bands of iron as the premonition flowed through me. My entire body felt on fire from the inside out, and I wondered if exhaling hard enough would send flames dancing on my breath. But, no, I'd already tried that. The air from my lungs came out as red clouds of smoke instead.
I had a half hour to warn the town to take cover before the storm hit. It was time to sound the alarm.
Karen Duvall is one of the contributing authors in Harlequin Luna's anthology, 'Til The World Ends. Karen lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and four incredibly spoiled pets. She's an award winning author published with Harlequin Luna and is currently working on a new contemporary fantasy series. Her published urban fantasy novels include Knight's Curse and Darkest Knight.