Monday, November 18, 2013

The Government Boondoggle

Behind the Story of Critical Contingencies (Part 2)

Warning: this post contains spoilers for Critical Contingencies (formerly Certain Hypothetical) though hopefully not for future books in the series, and I recommend reading the book first.

Also be warned that this shows the ‘sausage-making’ aspect of writing the novel, which some of you may not want to know about.

I started with the idea of a ‘slowpocalypse’ and people who would work at building a new society while that was happening. I needed to get a lot more specific with the premise for my story.

To do that I first asked these questions – who is trying to plan ahead for after civilization crumbles and how are they going about it? And how do they intend to preserve their efforts as everything around them falls apart?

I didn’t want to set this story in the kind of survivalist compound we’re probably all familiar with (from popular fiction) because those barely seem adequate for surviving an apocalypse, much less as a launching pad for a new society.

That would require a small city, state-of-the-art facilities and a lot of money. That’s where the notion of conning the federal government came in.

Government is always looking for big projects to throw lots of money at, even more so when times are bad, to try and turn things around. So the ‘slowpocalypse’ would certainly provide the opportunity. Of course, even Congress wouldn’t fund a big, state-of-the-art survival compound that they weren’t going to be a part of. So the true nature of what the money was being spent on would have to be hidden.

My next question was – what kind of government project would be a good cover for the true nature of what was being built? The answer I came up with was a Federal University system. Big, sprawling campuses designed to attract the best of the best. And to get the best instructors, they would be integrated with facilities for well-funded, cutting-edge research. And since much of that would be classified, they would need to be heavily secured. The idea that part of that research would be about testing self-sustaining communities would give the project the last major element it would need to succeed while camouflaging the real intent. Which gave me the FURCs.

I still needed a character who could not only conceive of the idea of tricking the federal government into spending billions of dollars to build the FURC system, but could pull it off. Enter Jonathan Miles.

Miles wasn’t just the director of the first FURC to be completed, but he was deeply involved in the hidden project within, its architect. A powerful and well-connected lawyer, he…

Wait. There are things about how this project developed, who was involved and for what purposes exactly that need to remain a mystery for now. I don’t want to spoil future books, but hopefully you get the idea of how I was developing the premise.

Director Miles was preparing for that worst-case scenario of civilization crumbling and what would be needed after. But of course, things didn’t go according to plan. Why not?
Next week:  Part 3 – Precipitate Action

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