Alternate title: When the stuff you made up is actually real.
The strangest thing about writing fiction is the odd suspicion that I’m not the one coming up with the ideas. When they drop into my head and thousands of synapses light up the creative portions of my brain, it feels more like magic than science. Logically, I know that every bit of information I see, read, and watch filters through and gets stored away to create the building blocks of my stories but sometimes things feel a little too coincidental.
The premise for NO MAN’S LAND was based on a long-ago middle-school science lesson about cloning. It struck me at the time that perhaps it wouldn’t be impossible to create a human child with two biological mothers, rendering men unnecessary to the process. Sorry, men. Nothing personal. Remember, I was in middle school and boys were terrifying and often cruel at that point in my life so this idea seemed rather amazing. The idea simmered for years and years before it began to shape itself into a story. In the meantime, science plodded along.
A recent google search confirmed my pre-teen suspicions:
So that was a fascinating discovery that lent some plausibility to my story. Bonus.
As for the rest of my premise, I certainly hope we won’t ever have a man-killing global pandemic, but hey, I needed a good reason to put this reproductive technology into use, story wise, so there you have it.
So, NO MAN’S LAND stands on fairly solid ground, science-wise. Excellent. What about the rest of it? Keep in mind that I am not a plotter or a researcher. When I write, I start with a premise, then create characters and chase them around to see what they do. Only later do I massage and shape and revise and edit the word scramble into a coherent story with plot points and arcs and all that.
News about climate change and sea level rise only seems to escalate year after year, so for my near-future setting I went ahead and melted the polar ice caps .
I googled, “Catastrophic sea level rise maps” and got this:
I decided that future government leaders would anticipate the eroding coastlines and build massive cities to accommodate displaced coastal residents. Cheery, huh? Those coastal cities provided the setting for the beginning of NO MAN’S LAND.
For plot reasons, I needed part of the story to take place in the interior of the continent, and I decided that the area around the cinched waist looked ideal. The skinny bit-is it narrow enough to be an isthmus? I don’t know. Geography is not my strength.
Confession: I haven’t traveled much in the middle of the continent, certainly not to Missouri or southern Illinois, which google maps informed me were in the general region. I decided to take creative license anyway- after all, my story takes place over a century from now after dramatic climate change. I could put whatever I wanted in the setting, yes?
To make it easier on myself, I never specify in the text exactly where events take place. But we all figured out that the Hunger Game’s District 12 is in Appalachia, right? So even as I wrote and dreamed up whatever struck me, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I would need to research eventually to make sure I wasn’t being completely ridiculous.
After I’d written a few drafts I decided to travel-via-google and check out what exactly was present in the region of land between the left blob and the right blobs in the map above. (See? That’s much worse than “cinched waist.”) I specifically wanted to know if there were any tall mountains/plateaus because I had written a scene on top of one, and if there were pine forests because if there were no forests there currently, I’d have to make the trees younger (Don’t ask. Writers are strange.)
This is where it got fun. Because yes, it turns out there are plateaus and pine forests. There’s the entire Ozark Plateau, which I was woefully ignorant about. Again- GEOGRAPHY IS NOT MY STRENGTH.
I was excited. I’d planned on saying, “It’s speculative, okay?” if a future reader pointed out inaccuracies in the types of trees present in my story (and no, I don’t know why I was convinced this would ever happen) but it looked like I’d nailed it, so I was pleased.
Peaks for climbing? Check!
I kept googling to see what else in my story might actually exist in that region.
What about…. abandoned quarries turned into swimming holes?
Hmmm… there’s no way they also have half submerged caves, right? That would be too much to ask…
At this point I was overcome with glee, but I persevered.
Doomsday prepper mansions?… Do…. DO THEY HAVE DOOMSDAY PREPPER MANSIONS!?
You bet they do!! There are multiple real estate companies in Missouri that specialize in doomsday prepper properties. I’m not kidding. Mansions, secluded cabins, underground bunkers. It turns out that the Ozark region is known for it’s preponderance of doomsday prepper communities. I couldn’t have planned it better myself if I had actually researched.
There was so much more, too, but this post is getting long so I will stop. For now. I hope you’ve enjoyed getting a sneak peak into some of the fantastical (but real!) settings in NO MAN’S LAND.
Disclaimer-I recognize that all of the topographical features I found are not within 20-30 miles of each other and that the Ozarks are an extensive stretch of land. Creative license. 🙂
If you need me, I’ll be on google planning my next vacation…. to Missouri.