A new story idea popped up out of nowhere today. Of course, it wasn’t really out of nowhere. The original inspiration came many years ago when I read John Brunner’s Shockwave Rider for the first time, and it’s been brooding on the back shelf, waiting its time. In Brunner’s SF novel, a television program pits children against deadly challenges as a kind of gruesome contest. Yes, children. So books like The Hunger Games aren’t all that original. My idea isn’t that original, either, since it borrows a small element from Ender’s Game, as well as being inspired by Shockwave Rider.
What I hope will be different about it is that it’s less about the actual “games,” than it is about the foreknowledge of having to participate, and what it does to the children involved. Long before the games actually take place, every aspect of their lives is changed — their relationships with friends and family, their hopes for the future, how they carry out the routines of their daily lives when possible death is waiting for them up the road.
I haven’t worked everything out yet, and I imagine that will take at least a few months, but I’ve made a beginning.
I’m going to be fourteen in just three more months and I still can’t make up my mind. I’m pretty sure that no matter what I decide I’m going to die. And if I can’t make up my mind and they choose for me, it’s even more likely that I’ll die.
I wanted to be a poet, even when I was almost too young to really understand what that meant. I loved words — the sound and the meaning of words, the way they felt and looked when they were put together the right way. They could sing or march or yell, and I wanted to be someone who could make them do those things. Even when the grownups began to talk about the games, when I turned eleven, I still wanted to be a poet. By the time I was twelve, I understood that I might never have a chance to become a poet — or anything else.
So here I am, living in the training quarters with all the other thirteen-year-olds who shouldn’t have been born at all. Thirds. In a world that can’t afford Thirds. We were all born to parents who should have known better. It’s something I’ve never understood about the grownups. That they can make themselves believe it will all turn out okay. That they haven’t condemned one of their children to die before they’ve really had a chance to live. Or maybe they just believe that their child is different, that their child will be too strong, too skillful, too full of life to be defeated. Maybe the whole thing just isn’t real for them.