In light of the upcoming release of Helena, I thought I would dedicate a few posts on the story for those who aren’t familiar with it, and maybe include a few new tidbits for those who know the first book, Wolfen by heart. (By the way, you have no idea how amazing it feels to say with total sincerity and no exaggeration that there are actually people out there who have not only read this book, but re-read it multiple times!)
So here’s something you never knew: A couple of years ago, I had lunch with a fascinating man who worked in the film industry. He’d read samples of some of my books and we got to talking about Wolfen. He asked me something no one had ever asked before:
Did you ever intend for humanity to survive in the end?
My answer seemed to surprise and disappoint him. I don’t think he expected me to answer the way I did. At the time, I didn’t feel there was any other way to answer but, as I have revisited the question since then, my answer has stayed the same.
Before I tell you what it is, I want to say this book broke so many rules it’s ridiculous. That was kind of the point. I wanted to burn the rule book, let the story flow however it wanted, and whatever it turned out to be, that was what it would end up being. I gave myself no limits or guidelines, except one: be different. I didn’t want to retell the same stories that have already been told so many times, so right off the bat, I knew two things:
#1 My monsters would not be the result of a disease. That was too simple, too familiar, and too easy to fix. A disease is usually curable, or treatable. You can see a disease coming and take preventative measures. Moreover, disease outbreaks eventually burn out. They may claim a thousand victims, or a million but, historically, humanity as a species is resilient and bounces back, often with new immunities and vaccines to prevent another outbreak.
What makes my monsters so scary is that they are unstoppable. They don’t discriminate, they can’t be outrun or overpowered; very little can take them down and keep them down for long, and they multiply too quickly to be controlled in any way. Think of the destructive power of invasive species with no natural predators. Think of mice in Australia, for example. They can destroy an entire ecosystem at an incredible rate and are nearly impossible to eradicate. Now imagine if this invasive species preyed on the most readily available food source: humans.
#2 My monsters would not be inherently evil. We all know good is supposed to triumph over evil. Evil has a goal (whatever it may be) and everything it does is to bring it one step closer to that goal. If you know what the goal is, you can form strategies and battle plans to stop the spread of evil. Like a disease, evil is something that can be addressed and/or prevented.
My monsters have no evil master plan or ultimate end game. In fact, they aren’t even intelligent enough to know what those things are. They are pure instinct, and everything they do is merely the result of their nature. Not agents of evil, but agents of chaos. I always thought chaos was much more frightening than evil. Because, once it gets loose, there’s no stopping it.
Given these two parameters…
Did I ever intend for humanity to survive in the end?
No. Logically, there is no way they could have overcome the monsters they’d created. The threat was, by design, far better at survival than humans. In seeking to elevate their own species by forcing evolution, humans had not only created the means of their own destruction, but also crippled their only effective weapon against it.
By the way, in case you were worried, this isn’t a spoiler… it’s still only the prologue.
When I gave my lunch partner this answer, I could see he wasn’t happy with it. He told me most screenwriters would have at least provided a hope for survival. I already knew that. Which was why I’d made the decision to go a different way. Wolfen is not a story where humanity triumphs again–in fact, it’s not really about humanity at all, hence the title.
I think of the creation of converts (the monsters in question) as similar to the meteor strike that wiped out dinosaurs. They’re a giant reset button on the history of life on planet Earth. They wipe the slate clean, and clear the path for the emergence of a new dominant species–if it can survive. That’s the true question of survival in this book:
Once the dust has settled, which species will be left standing: Wolfen or converts?
Indy Author Event
September 14, 2019 12:15-5pm
Indianapolis Marriot East
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Sweet as a Peach Author Event
October 5, 2019 1-5pm
Forsyth Conference Center
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