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Last Words on "Love and Family"

September 29, 2012
Posted at 1:32 pm
Updated: September 30, 2012 - 12:31 pm

Warning: If you haven't read "Love and Family During the Great Death", the following may contain spoilers!

OK, on a more positive note: I've been answering many letters, trying to describe why I wrote such a depressing tale as well as describing how I was approaching the sequel, usually explaining it slightly differently each time. However, in response to a new response, I wrote the following description, which I think sums up my thinking more effectively than my previous attempts, so I'm now including it here for the rest of you who may not have gotten a personal reply yet.

Many thanks for that response. A heartfelt letter of appreciation makes up for a lot of disappointed readers unable to stomach finishing the story.

Was, it was clearly dark, and I can't imagine many other writers even attempting something as stupid as killing off all their main characters (even if I relied on the 'classic' recovery aka. Gandolf's reappearance in "Lord of the Rings"). It was a foolish move if I was looking for loyal fans, I could never have pulled it off in a traditional publishing world. By the way, I saw the scene between David and Alice, recovering together, reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, except here it wasn't Romeo that died, but the rest of their families.

I wrote the story, realizing I'd alienate not just the new readers that I picked up, but also a fair number of my regular readers, because I saw a story that needed to be told. Just as I've been carrying that idea of pathogen filled comets in my mind since my first viewing of the Star Wars Episode IV: "A New Hope" many years ago, the blithe dismissal of the deaths of billions of people in most PA stories has simply never left me, and I felt I needed to speak for the many people who die unmourned in those stories, as well as exploring what experiencing something like that must have been like.

Having said all of that, I realize that this was probably the wrong medium to try this with. PA stories, despite their premise of massive death and destruction, are really a commentary on the underlying state of man, and generally attempt to speak to how man would function without the role of overreaching governments to control them. As such, no one reads them worrying about what happened to anyone. It's the recovery effort that's important, not how people died. Writing about a Zombie Apocalypse probably would have been better, since people expect those to be dark. (Though, someone just altered me to a similar PA story, the 2009 book/2010 move "The Road". I haven't seen it yet, but plan to shortly.) But I found that having written such a dark tale, it naturally leads to some different perspectives as a result.

I'd originally planned, even after finishing this tale, to simply end it here, letting the readers fill in the responses, hopefully keeping it in the back of their minds when they read other PA stories. I'd figured I could address a sequel some time in the indefinite future, when I'd run out of other story ideas. But after writing this one, I couldn't imagine a scene with a bunch of survivors joining competing armies to fight over the abundant resources of a devastated society. Instead I saw a world full of isolated survivors attempting to hide out, avoiding anyone else, wanting to grief on their own and being ever fearful of exposure to more death and disease.

Enter into this David, trying to warn people that they have to come together in order to weather and survive the coming 'nuclear winter', set in motion by the original meteor storm. That seemed to me a more understandable source of conflict than simple greed and wanton selfishness.

Now I just have to trust that I'll still have enough readers left who'll want to read it.

By the way, the sequel "Grappling with Survival", is currently at chapter seventeen (as of 09/29/2012) in what I'm imagining will be 25 chapters (though the story always grows over time and reedits). Like "Catalyst", I'll make "Love and Family" part of a new "Great Death" series, though that will take a bit of juggling with my website! By the way, in case you've read the Catalyst series, "Building a Legacy", Catalyst book 4, is also progressing well, though in that case, I'm trying to change how I write to adapt to the many glaring failures of "Racing the Clock". I'm eliminating the many extraneous characters, the overly detailed 'scientific' discussions, and no longer allowing the story to write itself, as I have been, but forcing it to follow a specific thread, thus eliminating a lot of the pointless bits. I hope the story will be much more concise and a better read overall, but it also makes it more difficult to write, and thus it's progressing slower as well (it's currently only at chapter 8).

Brief follow-up:

It's funny, while one side argues that the story was too dark, and that I should have more emphatically warned them about what was going to happen, another group felt the ending would have been better if everyone had died, the sequel consisting of a new group of survivors discovering the house and taking it over.

Although the ending was planned from the beginning, I'd actually considered that, and that was clearly what I was trying to imply, even having David suggest it as they closed up the house.

I didn't for many of the reasons already explained. Basically, the fact that both David and Alice survived, not just a single plague but ALL of them, has more far reaching implications. It suggests that they have some shared genetic link which may eventually lead to either a cure, or at least an effective treatment to the Great Death, which will be a major focus of the sequel. Thus Book 2 will be split between their trying to survive, trying to recruit others hesitant to trust them, and a search for a potential cure.