Hmm, I Feel Like I Read About That In the Newspaper
My new novel 48 States contemplates the United States forcibly relocating people to turn states into fracking territories to allow the US to produce enough oil and gas to avoid further conflict with terrorists in the Middle East. This process creates thousands of domestic refugees across the West. When the CEO running the Territories loses his request to add more states to the list for conversion, he hatches a plan to overthrow the government. The drama plays out through the eyes of a single mother and military veteran who leaves her daughter to work in one of the Territories.
I started writing the novel before 2016 and was finished long before January 6, 2021, and well before the war in Ukraine, which has highlighted what happens when countries are dependent on despots for their energy. Somehow though, my imagination and reality caught up with one another. When people hear about the book’s premise, they ask me, “How did you know these things would happen?”
I didn’t know.
But I wondered what would happen if a series of things took place, and then I built a story around that idea and let it play out in my imagination.
I’m probably dating myself, but there is a funny scene in the movie Working Girl where the young assistant has to prove she didn’t steal a business plan and is asked how she came up with the idea. In response, she pulls out a collection of seemingly random news clippings that validate her plan when strung together. 48 States is similar. I’d interviewed a panel of women veterans for a literary festival around the same time I read about the explosion of fracking in North Dakota. I’d also read a National Geographic feature about people who left their homes to work in North Dakota. I’d also been reading about Japanese Internment camps and was surprised to know that the entire effort to relocate Japanese Americans was made by Executive Order. Put all of that in the blender of my imagination, and you have 48 States.
Read the Book, Eat The Meal
Science fiction is a great genre. It needs no tether to the real world to be written, which is how Jules Verne got us to travel to the center of the earth and go 20,000 leagues beneath the sea; he envisioned technologies that hadn’t even been invented yet. His stories endure, though, because they celebrate conquering the elements and a thirst for knowledge and adventure. Just how popular are his stories? You can head off to Sin City and enjoy a $300 16-course tasting menu built around 20,000 Leagues if you are so inclined.
What Stephen King Taught Me
Science Fiction is more than adventure, however. It’s a timeless tool for examining worst-case scenarios and unintended consequences attached to human behavior. There was a time when many of these stories felt speculative in the extreme. How could something so odd and terrible as a plague happen? I remember being a child and sitting crossed-legged on the Woodland Hills Public Library floor with a copy of Stephen King’s The Stand on my lap. I would come home and watch Star Trek with my father and sister in our basement, enjoying the adventures of interplanetary space travel.
A few years later, we moved from Los Angeles to the Lancaster/Palmdale area, where the Space Shuttle was built and tested, sending astronauts into space. Fast forward decades when I read the first of the three books connected to The Passage by Justin Cronin and then Station Eleven. Two more dystopian books that focus on viruses that wipe out humanity – in the case of The Passage, bats play a significant role just as they do for COVID.
How did the writers know these things would happen?
They didn’t. But they knew enough about human nature to imagine it could be true, and that’s how all great stories begin.
Evette Davis is the novelist who created the “Dark Horse” trilogy, including the novels Woman King and Dark Horse. The final installment will be published in 2023. Davis also co-owns BergDavis Public Affairs, a San Francisco-based public affairs firm. Before establishing her firm, Davis worked in Washington as a press secretary for a member of Congress and as a reporter for daily newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In 2014, she founded Flesh & Bone, an independent publishing imprint. In 2015, Dark Horse received honors at the San Francisco Book Festival. In 2017, Friends of the San Francisco Public Library named Davis a Library Laureate. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and Book Country. In 2021, 48 States were honored in the San Francisco Writers Conference Writers Contest. Davis splits her time between San Francisco and Sun Valley, Idaho, with her husband, daughter, and their American Labrador retriever. For more information, visit evettedavis.com, or follow her on Pinterest (@evettedavis399), Instagram (@evette1364), Twitter (@SFEvette), Facebook (@evette1364), and Goodreads (@evettesf).
See the interview here.