This week, Claire Buss describes the setting of her dystopic novel The Gaia Effect and what inspired its creation.
The Gaia Effect is set on Earth, two hundred years in the future, after a High Energy Radiation (HER) War has wiped out much of the human race and devastated the surface of the planet. Shortly after the war ended a company known as Corporation was instrumental in creating fifty safe cities across the world, each one protected by forcefields from the toxicity beyond yet isolated from each other and left alone to survive. Toxic radiation had sterilised the remnants of the human race and so Corporation began to genetically engineer babies, assigned to couples at its discretion, maintaining as much genetic variation as possible. Technology rapidly advanced, finding new ways to keep people safe and firmly under Corporation control.
The Gaia Effect takes place in City 42 where Corporation is embedded within everyday life and yet there are institutions such as Force, which stands apart from Corporation and upholds the law, and Anti-Corp, who resist everything Corporation stands for. I felt it was important to have an organisation that stood apart from Corporation and could, if need be, prevent this powerful organisation from abusing its position. Of course, Corporation hides its secrets well and we learn that they have been lying to the public for quite some time. The original creators of the independent cities must have known that no one company could handle that much power and did have contingency plans in place which my characters access and implement.
City 42 has a social media vehicle known as the sweeps, a similar sort of platform to Twitter but more invasive and one that everyone uses to send their news across the city. The news sweeps system is a self contained technology, unhackable and not linked to the other cities. It is a bone of contention to Corporation and Anti-Corp that neither one of them can gain control over the system. It is a fast-paced information service which Corporation try to flood with their own propaganda but are not always successful.
As far as the main populace of the city is aware, it is still toxic outside the city however Anti-Corp have found a way to bypass the forcefield and access the nearby beach, reporting no adverse effects. In the book, Kira & Jed Jenkins go to pick up their assigned baby and try to deal with not using the various invasive technology available whilst close female friends find out they have fallen pregnant naturally – a medical impossibility. We learn that Gaia, the spirit of the Earth is trying to bridge the gap between nature and man. Now that the planet has started to recover, she needs man & his ingenuity to continue to heal.
The book was in part inspired by my own struggles as a new mum to deal with all the conflicting advice given from various professionals when all I wanted to do was to hold my new baby close to me and I tried to imagine what it would be like to be a parent when everything could be done for you by technology. That idea grew into a society that was so dependent on their tech they had stopped going outside and I wondered what would they be missing? The image of Gaia herself was in part inspired by the artwork of Josephine Wall.
I wrote The Gaia Effect almost instinctively. The first chapter and a loose synopsis were written for a writing competition – the idea came from some short pieces I had written about sterile women becoming pregnant via elemental spirits. I was fortunate enough to make it through to the finalists round and then found out I had to submit an entire novel in six months time! I stuck to writing a minimum of 700 words a day, just sitting down and letting the words flow and my assigned mentor/editor was literally editing one chapter behind me. I had no writing plan and often no idea what was going to happen next. It took me four months to write the novel giving myself two months for editing. After the competition deadline I left the book alone for about six months before picking it up again and making a third and then final draft before publication. I was incredibly proud to place second in the competition and have the opportunity to publish through New Generation Publishing, an opportunity I would never have had without the help of the competition.
The Gaia Effect by Claire Buss is available from Amazon