The book takes place 120 years in the future in the United States.
Many important liberal benchmarks for society have been met in metropolitan areas: teachers are valued like doctors, primary schools are hands-on (Montessori, drumming, engineering) while high school is trade-based, and culture is the basis of education (the cultures which are represented in America are treated with reverence.) Some cities have been redesigned for walking and creating a lot of waste carries huge stigma; energy efficiency is supported by daily conscientious actions. Wealthy and middle-class Americans have appropriated Confucian values from their military ally, the Chinese state, as they have found that (their version of appropriated) Confucianism is a stabilizing set of principles which they can agree upon. Contrary to progress, citizens are under surveillance until they complete a rigorous certification.
Some rural areas are like another world. Many counties have legislated against surveillance, and are penalized by losing funding for roads, waste disposal, adequate funding for schools. A permissive spirit reigns, and the highest values is freedom (defined as the freedom to do what one wills). Rural areas are anti-military and carry an awareness of abuses perpetrated by the State. Authenticity and lack of pretense characterize rural America.
On the 50th floor of a high rise in St. Louis, MO in 2140, a highly sensitive girl is born into a cavernous apartment. While her mother hates life and her father twiddles with relics from the Internet Age, Bee lives in her own world, which is only broken by the love of her genius brother and humiliations at school caused by continual hiccuping, blushing, nosebleeds, vomiting, and uncontrollable shivering. As a child she is acutely aware of her own future death.
Fast forward to adulthood: Bee, now a dissatisfied primary teacher, is prescribed betoniq, the anti-anxiety medication which keeps 2/3 of city-dwelling Americans stable. Her stagnating, now-bum brother takes a minute away from his supposed video-game programming to fill her in on common knowledge.
“At Ft. Wane they grow acres of the source for that shi under lockdown. Not that anyone besides the guns gets to use real betony.”
And then this: “Well of course it’s the only place where thousands of seed-bearing species are preserved.”
And this: “I’d bet the only non-copyrighted plants you’ve ever seen in your life were the weeds on crazy uncle dan’s honeybee place.”
And: “You know that plants used to grow nondead seeds.”
Bee’s journey takes her out of the city into the rural US, to the military base/corporate headquarters/geodesic dome/Edenic paradise where the real medicinal and life-giving plants are hoarded. The spirits of people who had been killed by military and police violence guide her to subvert the corporate and State claims to own life itself. Through the journey is a profound encounter with her body (as volatile as she has experienced it in the past) through her encounter with the earth.
Genre: Science fiction/hero’s journey
Atmosphere/inspiration: Brave New World
Before a few nights ago, I was imagining the book as an expansive life-journey with multiple stages. The focus on the horror that plants are now being OWNED (GMO, Monsanto, ect) was an early stage in the book’s life, but it had fallen away. Now it’s back!
Interestingly, I think that the priesthood has fallen out of Bee’s story now that I’m in this tighter narrative. (That’ll spin off into another story.) This one is more about a woman coming into her prophetic calling/voice/authority.
I’d envisioned the book in 1st person, and I think it still is.
Major theme: death. I want to contrast the fruitless death of destruction from war and police brutality with the death that is part of growth (the grain of wheat that falls and dies). The dead seeds vs. the living seeds are the carrier of this theme.
Still needing to grow in how race and racism play into the book. I think that Bee’s father is a white supremacist (hopefully they will not exist that far into the future), which will give me an opportunity to lay open that ugliness. I want to read more visions, especially from Black authors, of what the future SHOULD be. I want to portray a hopeful future in that light: this is what we are going towards.