Writing dystopian fiction…with a twist of hope

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Kate A. Hardy, author of new dystopian novel Londonia, explains why she writes dystopian and speculative fiction

I actually refer to my novel Londonia, as dyst-hopian in genre because it contains hopeful messages for making the best of the post apocalyptic societal collapse in the story, and signposts for how we might live more lightly on the planet.

I find it difficult not to write dystopian and speculative fiction. There’s so much to imagine, without needing to over-fantastical.

We are, and have been for decades, heading towards one of various dystopias, but as I choose to write with hope, I like to imagine how people might survive communally after an apocalyptic event. How they might learn from mistakes made in the past and choose a path more attuned to the natural world surrounding them.

I have written in other genres before but in being true to myself and creating my best work, I inevitably look towards the future, to the many scenarios that could be waiting for us and future generations.

How I write dystopian fiction

I think a lot, pretty much all the time in fact, about different scenarios – supposing our financial systems were to collapse; what would happen if tap water was suddenly unavailable? Could we dig a huge hole, divert all the roof water into it and create a trout pond? Could we feed ourselves entirely from our garden? Should I take up archery?

It’s not panic in my mind; it never has been, but the questions have always been there, ever since my childhood. I recall walking to school one day aged about eight and thinking, ‘what would happen if the trees decided not to produce leaves this year?’

I usually have an idea while walking or swimming, get back to base, or dried off, and start writing with no plan. The characters come first, often running away, with me attempting to round them up.

The idea for Londonia, was born during a swim – ‘Ah! woman in later part of the 21st century, living in a church with a horse.’ I got out and started writing, the settings already in my mind.

I write a whole draft of a book in one go, (planning is an elusive thing) then go back many times to alter plots, enhance characters and dialogue, dispense with the over pedestrian stuff and finally print the book up for re-examination by me, friends, and when it’s advanced as much as possible, my agent.

 

Suggestions for writing dystopian fiction (which largely apply to writing generally)

Read ravenously in the genre, as well as watching films, listening to radio plays, YouTubes...anything that enriches your ideas, writing and practice of dialogue.

Make a daily routine. Personally, I feel this is vital if you are to succeed as a writer, especially in these peculiar times where structure has temporarily (or not) disappeared.

My most productive time is early morning, so I will endeavor to write at least 350 words first thing with tea and an empty mind, before all the other stuff encroaches. If the day allows, I will return to writing and editing at other points in the day but at least I will have kept the main project rolling with that early start.

If stuck with an idea, walk. Again, not so easy at the moment, but when the allotted time comes around let the ideas flow with your pacing. For me, movement releases ideas whereas staring at a blank screen/sheet of A4 doesn’t. While you are out try the ‘what if’ thing. Imagine familiar buildings in a state of decay and being taken over by vegetation, tarmac split by poplar trees; Sainsbury’s a community dwelling with a makeshift chimney punched through its roof. Imagine who might be living in there and what their life story might be.

 
Kate A. Hardy’s newly published, dyst-hopian novel Londonia (Tartarus Press), set in post-apocalyptic London in 2072, shows the more enlightened inhabitants of this broken, post internet and climate-ravaged society endeavouring to live more frugally, resourcefully and closer to nature. Website: www.kateahardy.com