In this second installment, creator and writer Clayton Faits continues his discussion of the Big Idea that launched Our Fair City.
Friends and Policies,
Awesome is a big word – just ask Eddie Izzard – and Awesome can be a guiding principle in the writing process: when it doubt, make it awesome. But Awesome doesn’t write stories, and Awesome doesn’t build a world. For that you need A Big Idea.
Our Big Idea, that first big idea that got all of this started, was sparked by a comment made by an engineering professor at Tulane University during one of my freshman orientation sessions. I wish I remembered this professor’s name so I could credit him, but it was the comment that stuck with me – one of my classmates asked whether there was any scientific evidence to support the theory that the Earth’s climate is changing. The professor answered with incredible solemnity, and said simply, ‘The evidence is clear. Climate change is happening, and it is a clear and present danger.’ Our Big Idea was that the end of the world seems more likely to come not in the form of the form of that classic Apocalyptic staple, the atom bomb, but rather in the form of billions of molecules of carbon dioxide.
This is not a new idea, I can’t lay claim to it. But it laid claim to me, and soon creative contributor Dave Swank and I began to ponder what would happen if growing season were to shift, and food were to become scarce. The answer, we decided, was that government would step in to regulate prices and control supply – but this is not a sustainable course of action if the food continues to dwindle as the ecosystem as we know it breaks down. We envisioned food riots, and protests against the corporations held responsible for the crisis. And we envisioned corporations with assets to protect hiring more and better armed security forces. Whoever has a monopoly on violence is ultimately in charge, and with the government’s resources and authority weakened, a large corporation might gently take control of an isolated geographic area (say, a single city) with relative ease. And we thought, what if that city was Hartford? It’s cold – the end result of unchecked climate change may be an ice age – that would drive people inside, maybe even underground. It’s a major center for insurance and finance companies, and while we wouldn’t suggest that those corporations are in any way evil or dehumanizing (cough, cough), the way they boil down an individual into numbers and statistics and actuarial tables offers some pretty meaty fodder for a science fiction writer interested in just how bad things could get. And thus HartLife was concieved: a giant corporation turned totalitarian city-state in the middle of a frozen tundra desperately trying to cling to the culture and social norms of society before its collapse.
So this is our Big Idea. Every decision about the world of Our Fair City has been based on this backstory. We have tried to imagine how HartLife would be structured, how the corporation would think, and how it would try to influence its people based on its origins. We have thought about life from the perspective of an individual living in these conditions, and how they might try to adapt. And we have above all tried to think about what would be fun to write, and fun to listen to.
There may be climate scientists and sociologists and finance analysts who could point out gaping flaws in our hypothetical apocalyptic scenario. We admit it. But this is science fiction, and if you have a nit to pick you can take it up with my genetically modified moleperson, who assists me in addressing such concerns. In the meantime, strap on your waders, put on your fighting trousers, and get ready for season 2. I promise, folks, it’s gonna be a good one.
Clayton E. Faits