SF & Fantasy

A Future Worth Building: M.D. Waters on PROTOTYPE


When recently asked about my process for world-building, the answer was easy. It’s a feeling. I know that sounds like the pantsers version of writing a novel, but there’s a lot behind where this feeling actually comes from. It’s living in the back of my mind, fully formed, giving me a sense of foreboding.
We can all put the blame on my father, who every Friday night like clockwork would get comfy cozy in the corner of the sectional in his cotton shorts, Star Wars tee (of which there are many), sipping bubbling Moet from Waterford crystal. He spoon-fed me these feelings with a few chuckles, excited grins, and exclamations including…and these idiots…or if it was really serious, A-holes.
Friday nights were when he’d talk to me about life. Past, present day, but more importantly, how our past actions will reflect in our futures. He’d tell me everything he believed possible, and a lot of this had to do with how the ideas of men will affect the outcome for women. Though I didn’t realize it until years later, my dad is a huge feminist.
From Archetype’s conception, I didn’t have far to go to figure out the world Emma lived in. I already felt it living in my mind. Waiting. I never even gave these feelings words until, well, now. I felt three historical facts for Emma’s future world to begin with, and built from there as I went.
1. The technological age that allows us the power to control the sex of our children (among other things) has come and gone. Think Gattaca.
2. The world population continued to grow at such a rate that world leaders had to enforce a restriction: one child per family. Not unlike some areas in modern-day China.
3. Mother Nature has also stepped in. Dad was a huge believer in human beings adapting to their environment, which could in some ways include population control. He says Mother Nature or the Universe or the Powers that Be will always find a way to make things right. I don’t necessarily believe this; anything made “right” has a human hand on the trigger, which I intend to get into in future books set in this world.
With these three things in mind, and taking a glimpse at our past actions, I came to the conclusion that we’d end up with a shortage of women. That the world as a whole would come up with several answers to solve the problem, both desperate and moderate. That the U.S. in particular would end up in a civil war over certain states enacting laws that other states might find wrong. The weapons involved would be devastating to the environment on top of the loss of life.
Fast forward a few hundred years, and we’re two territories under a single non-political government. And we’re seemingly at peace. Both territories have their ideas of freedom, both desperate and moderate. Both extreme. With the east’s control comes a form of slavery. The west’s lack of control expands into the allowance of guns on our streets, and the sale of drugs from street vendors.
Since then, I’ve picked a few things up along the way through documentaries on Netflix or the History Channel. Things that filled me with dread or excitement. Gave me that feeling. Added fuel to the fire. For example, I may as well go all out and have that scary California-changing earthquake while we’re at it. A quake so massive that it spawned what I lovingly call the Neo-Luddist era that set us back a few centuries, technologically speaking. Why not? Could happen.
What I’ve done is taken as extreme a look at the possibilities as my world has on their answers. While the world’s issues aren’t the focus of my books, they play a horrifying backdrop, and one I wanted my readers to feel. To look into the future and share my sense of foreboding. For me, these are the only futures worth building.

Untitled-1When recently asked about my process for world-building, the answer was easy. It’s a feeling. I know that sounds like the pantser’s version of writing a novel, but there’s a lot behind where this feeling actually comes from. It’s living in the back of my mind, fully formed, giving me a sense of foreboding.

We can put the blame on my father, who every Friday night like clockwork would get comfy-cozy in the corner of the sectional in his cotton shorts and Star Wars tee (of which there are many), sipping bubbling Moet from Waterford crystal. He spoon-fed me these feelings with a few chuckles, excited grins, and exclamations including “and these idiots!” or, if it was really serious, “a-holes.”

Friday nights were when he’d talk to me about life. Past and present day, but more importantly, how our past actions will reflect in our futures. He’d tell me everything he believed possible, and a lot of this had to do with how the ideas of men will affect the outcome for women. Though I didn’t realize it until years later, my dad is a huge feminist.

From Archetype’s conception, I didn’t have far to go to figure out the world Emma lived in. I already felt it living in my mind. Waiting. I never even gave these feelings words until, well, now. I felt three historical facts for Emma’s future world to begin with, and built from there as I went.

1. The technological age that allows us the power to control the sex of our children (among other things) has come and gone. Think Gattaca.

2. The world population continued to grow at such a rate that world leaders had to enforce a restriction: one child per family, not unlike some areas in modern-day China.

3. Mother Nature has also stepped in. Dad was a huge believer in human beings adapting to their environment, which could in some ways include population control. He says Mother Nature or the Universe or the Powers that Be will always find a way to make things right. I don’t necessarily believe this; anything made “right” has a human hand on the trigger, which I intend to get into in future books set in this world.

With these three things in mind, and keeping in mind our past actions, I came to the conclusion that we’d end up with a shortage of women. That the world as a whole would come up with several solutions to the problem, both desperate and moderate. That the U.S. in particular would end up in a civil war over certain states enacting laws that other states might find wrong. The weapons involved would be devastating to the environment on top of the loss of life.

Fast forward a few hundred years, and we’re two territories under a single non-political government. And we’re seemingly at peace. Both territories have their ideas of freedom, both desperate and moderate. Both extreme. With the east’s control comes a form of slavery. The west’s lack of control expands into the allowance of guns on our streets, and the sale of drugs from street vendors.

Since then, I’ve picked a few things up along the way through documentaries on Netflix or the History Channel. Things that filled me with dread or excitement. Gave me that feeling. Added fuel to the fire. For example, I may as well go all out and have that scary California-changing earthquake while we’re at it. A quake so massive that it spawned what I lovingly call the Neo-Luddist era that set us back a few centuries, technologically speaking. Why not? Could happen.

What I’ve done is taken as extreme a look at the possibilities my world has as their answers. While the world’s issues aren’t the focus of my books, they play a horrifying backdrop, and one I wanted my readers to feel. To look into the future and share my sense of foreboding. For me, these are the only futures worth building.

M.D. Waters lives with her family in Maryland. Archetype is her first novel. Its sequel, Prototype, will be published in July 2014.


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