The Birth of the Dustlands – Moira Young on Blood Red Road and Rebel Heart
Today, the pleasure of welcoming acclaimed author of Blood Red Road and its sequel, Rebel Heart, is all ours. Moira has come with a brief post of how the Dustlands – the post-apocalyptic setting of her books – came to be.
In late 2006, climate change was high on government agendas, with heavy media coverage here in the UK. In 2007, the UN’s scientific committee, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, concluded that it’s more than 90 per cent likely that humanity’s emissions of greenhouse gases are responsible for modern-day climate change. I followed the discussions and arguments with keen interest. It led me to some key environmental thinkers and writers, including the independent British scientist James Lovelock and his Gaia theory of self-regulating earth systems.
The earth and its inhabitants are looking at challenging times ahead. I’m a writer, so this is about story. The question a writer always asks is, “What if?” and that’s just what I did. “What if the earth heated by three degrees? Four degrees? Five? What would happen? What would our world be like?”
My first version of what would become Blood Red Road, started in 2006 and called Dark Eden, was set in a new ice age in the UK’s Peak District. I was working with the idea that the Gulf Stream that keeps the UK’s climate temperate had been interrupted by the melting ice caps.
In JG Ballard’s brilliant The Drowned World, his premise is that an overheated planet and rising sea levels have turned the world into a heated swamp. The remaining inhabitants are doing an evolutionary about-turn and returning to the promordial ooze from whence they came.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Saba’s Dust Lands world took shape as I settled into a new life in Bath in the West Country. It’s famous for its association with Jane Austen, but long before the Georgians made it fashionable, the Romans were here, worshipping the goddess Sulis in their magnificent temple complex. And before them, the Celts were here, and before them… One of the views from my house is of Solsbury Hill, the site of an Iron Age fort, also rumoured to be where the historic Arthur squared up against the Romans one last time.
Now, I can hear you going, “Jane Austen? The Romans? The Celts? Arthur? My giddy aunt, what does that have to do with climate change and Blood Red Road?” Stick with me on this.
What I’m talking about is the inevitable rise and decline of societies and civilizations. The long vciew. I’m reminded of it every day as I go about my life here in Bath. If you take nothing else from history, take this: things change. It may be slow, it may be sudden and catastrophic, but it’s the way we’ve rolled since our ancestors stood upright and our times are no different.
From that Peak District ice age first draft, I regrouped, rethought, began to rewrite and finally found my way back home to North America with its epic landscapes and the Western movies that I love. Then there she was, Saba, roaming the ravaged Dust Lands among the remnants of a lost civilization.
Moira Young’s blog tour continues tomorrow at
*the image of James Lovelock is used by CC-BY-SA from http://www.ecolo.org/lovelock/
What did you think about The Birth of the Dustlands – Moira Young on Blood Red Road and Rebel Heart?