Apr 10, 2014

Division Zero Guest Post

What inspires your stories, and how did you come up with the world for Division Zero?

A short answer for the first part would be the characters. I come up with a character concept first, one that I find interesting – and then start thinking about situations in which they might find themselves. In the case of Division Zero, I had just finished an early draft of Virtual Immortality (an earlier book), which came out quite long―at least according to the standards of what is expected from a debut novel. (Curiosity Quills is releasing Virtual Immortality on 5/19/14.)

Not wanting to swim upstream against some rather surprising vehemence in the insistence that an author’s first novel must be a certain length, story be damned, I decided to set VI aside and write something shorter. Since VI was focused on the tech aspects of the world, my first thought was to venture toward the psionic aspect. How better to do that than a character that was part of the psionic police, I thought.

At that point, I knew I wanted to write something using a Division 0 operative as a protagonist, and I also wanted to do something (for length’s sake) with only one primary character. Kirsten evolved over a couple of days of pondering. I settled on Astral Sense as the primary skill as it offered a lot of depth in what can happen in terms of story.

Her background filled out in my mind as I thought about the character, what she was like, what kind of life she’s had, and why was she in Division 0. The crux of the book’s plot, dolls going nuts and killing people due to external influence, was one that I had come up with some years before as a story for my tabletop gaming group. Although, in that incarnation, the why of it was quite different.

The world in which Division Zero (and Virtual Immortality) take place is one that I started working on sometime in the late 90s. For quite some time, I’ve been an amateur game designer (tabletop roleplaying games) and one of my more well-received projects (among my friends) was a futuristic setting I called Divergent Fates. The idea behind the name was that humanity had colonized Mars for three centuries, and the people there resented Earth governance. The overarching theme was conflict between Earth and Mars with a backdrop of corporate warfare.

Little by little, since about 1998, I’ve added to the world in bits and spurts as ideas manifested. As the economy destabilized and corporations grew in power, they formed private security forces which developed into formidable armies. Society began to lose faith in their government as economic conditions worsened, and the corporations decided to stop paying taxes to governments they saw as failures.
This, of course, started a war. The government was slow to react, not taking the threat seriously, and it led to a conflict that saw gene-modded combatants, cyborgs, and small-scale bio weapons employed. Central North America became a contaminated swath of land, forcing civilization to flee to the coasts. During this chaos, Canada and the US merged into an entity now referred to as the United Coalition Front, and the hostile corporations were forced out. They formed the Allied Corporate Council, and bribed or strong-armed their way into other areas receptive to their influence.

In the current time of the story, actual shooting has stopped on Earth―though it continues on Mars where there are far fewer news bots.

Kirsten resides in West City (one of the two cities that are officially part of the UCF). It is a contiguous patch of urbanization somewhat less than the width of California that runs from the southern reaches of the former state all the way north into what used to be Canada. The entire city was built over hundreds of years on elevated plates, which provided an even surface to maximize the use of land and space.

Within this cramped, often corrupt, city, Kirsten is just trying to keep her head down and do the right thing. Since Division 0 saved her from the streets and gave her a new life, she has a rose-colored view of the police state as more benevolent than it can be. Granted, life in the ACC is far worse.

Many of the subplots during the course of Division Zero (and the two sequels) are explorations of Kirsten’s changing opinion on what lies beyond death. I wanted to take a character starting at one extreme (hates all religion) and explore her evolution out of that state as she later on becomes aware that her blind loathing is no better than the zealotry she detests.