Who is up for some dystopia? Here’s Stan Morris telling us all about his YA Dystopic sequel Surviving the Fog – Kathy’s Recollections.
Surviving the Fog was the first book in your series, can you tell us about the plot of this book?
Forty eight teenagers attend a quasi-religious camp in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. The camp has an unusual purpose; to preach sexual abstinence and to teach and demonstrate various methods of birth control. After a week, the cell phones stop working and the mail is not delivered. The Camp Administrator leaves one counselor in charge of the teenagers and takes the rest on a short trip to find out what’s wrong. They never return.
Mike, one of the youngest teens, is convinced something terrible has happened. He asks disturbing questions and gradually convinces others to help him prepare to survive without help. Then Jacob discovers that the Earth below is covered by a mysterious and dangerous brown fog.
You then have gone on to write about Kathy, one of the teenagers on the mountain. What was it about Kathy that made you want to give her her own story?
The most common complaint about the book came from female readers. They liked the story, but they were annoyed that the girls did not play a larger role in the development of the story. An exchange of messages with a woman at Goodreads caused me to consider the girls’ role in the story. I had never been satisfied with the role of one character, Kathy, age fourteen. I began to imagine the story from her viewpoint.
It was a turning point in my writing and in the story. I learned new techniques of story telling, how to show jumps in time between scenes, and how to do better segues. The story became much fuller, and unanswered questions were answered. New characters were introduced, and unnamed characters from the first book became major characters in the second book.
This is a dystopian story but can you expand upon the atmosphere you are trying to create?
What I was trying to show in this book was the evolution of these teenagers, and how they went from being children of an advanced civilization to becoming young adults capable of doing things they had never dreamed of. It’s a story of community, and how the society of these teens evolved from a gang to a tribe and eventually to a village. It’s a story about grim reality, but it’s mostly about hope.
By the time we got to the bridge, Leah and I were separated by the mass of people trying to get across the small wooden span. I started running, not knowing where I was going, and I ran and I ran. The numbness of witnessing Pete’s death was wearing off, and I was having a panicked reaction. For some reason tears began to drip down my face as I ran, and I could hardly see. I ran past the mess hall, past Chief’s Headquarters, and continued up the grassy slope. When I came to the hollowed cave, I climbed onto its rocky floor, and then I spied a small cavern to one side. I ran into the cavern and came to a halt at the face of a rock wall. I slumped to the ground with my back against the rock wall and my knees bent. I folded my arms across my knees, and I laid my head against my arms, and then I sat there and bawled. I wanted everything to go way. I wanted to be home. I wanted my mom to hug me, and to lecture me, and to tell me that it was all just a bad dream.
I’m not sure how long I stayed in that small cavern at the side of the open cave, but it could not have been too long, for the sun was just at the zenith when I rose, left the cave, and went down to the mess hall. I was all cried out. And a strange thing happened to me while in that cave. As my crying died down, I got angry. Like Douglas’, it was partly an irrational anger, for I was angry at my parents, angry at the missing Admin, even angry at the government, and especially angry at the men who had killed Pete. And I was angry at myself for crying, and for feeling so helpless and so sorry for myself.
I stood up and walked out to the rocky ledge in front of the cave. The sun was still shining and high above, the sky had cleared, although a few low puffy clouds had drifted in from the west. I wondered where the Chief was. I could see that he had been right, all along. Whatever had happened meant that no one was coming to save us. We would have to take care of ourselves. If we were going to survive, we had better learn how, and we had better start looking ahead. I looked over the bowl shaped valley, and I knew that if I continued to live, this would be my home for a long time.
The book is about teenagers, but is that your target audience or is this a story more suited to older readers?
Surviving the Fog is aimed at teenagers 15 and up, but I have received email from younger readers, and I have received many reviews from much older readers. Some people don’t like the idea of a camp that is about abstinence and birth control, but I’ve received email from parents who gave the book to their teens. I find that satisfying.
There are sexual situations between teenagers and young adults, and some people object to that. It’s hard for me to imagine a post apocalypse world in which that does not happen. There is a scene of violence in both books, and in Kathy’s Recollections a girl recounts her rape to a minister.
Without giving too much away can you tell us how the kids cope without their parents and what do they have to go through to survive?
The two necessities are food and shelter. Both are provided by adults the teenagers meet, but the adults must have the help of the teenagers, and without help from the teenagers, it’s doubtful the adults would have survived.
The teenagers are subjected to an attack on their camp. They fight back. They have to deal with emotional loss, with digging graves, and with punishing those of the tribe who commit serious infractions. They have to make and follow rules.
The fog is the known danger in your book – what else threatens these children and their survival?
They are threatened by outsiders and sometimes by wild animals. They have to deal with freezing weather and low food stocks. They must learn how to make simple things like soap. They learn the real meaning of recycling.
Is there any scene or character that you would like to share with us?
Here is a scene. Mike makes some rules. The scene appears in Surviving the Fog, but this version is from Kathy’s Recollections.
. “As of tonight, I’m making a new rule about sex. From now on, no one can have sex unless they’re at least sixteen.”
That statement startled us, but some of the kids started laughing, and some people said some foul things. Not me. I was glad to hear the Chief say that. None of the boys in our camp acted like they wanted to have sex with me, but you never know. I wasn’t interested, that’s for sure. Now if anyone asked, I could just tell them I was fourteen, and I couldn’t have sex, even if I wanted to. I looked around and saw that a lot of younger girls were nodding their heads, just like me.
Maybe some people thought that the Chief was just being foolish, because one of the older boys stood up and said with a smirk, “How are you going to enforce that?” Some other boys laughed when he asked that.
The Chief stared at him, and then he said in a very menacing voice, “I’ll enforce any rule I make. Don’t test me.”
And just like that, the laughter ended. Suddenly people remembered that this was the Chief speaking. A couple of the Spears, who were always standing at the sides of the crowd during Meeting, happened to choose that moment to bounce the shaft end of their spears off the concrete floor, causing a couple of boys to look over at them apprehensively.
“I have another new rule,” the Chief said. He waited until the buzz in the crowd died. “This is it. If any guy forces a girl to have sex, I’ll hang him. Do you understand?”
The Chief looked directly toward a certain group of boys when he said this, and almost involuntarily he received some small nods. No one in our camp thought for a moment that he would not do what he said he would do. He had already proven that at the Hanging Tree.
Finally what is next for Stan Morris?
I always have a lot of projects going. That is a good way to avoid writer’s block, because if, on a particular day, one project does not interest me, I can always switch to a different project. I’ve published two books in the Surviving the Fog series, and I’m working on three more. A short story from the Surviving the Fog series has just been published in an anthology titled, Wyrd Worlds II. I have books in progress from my other series including some in Tales of the Ragoon, an alien colonization of Earth series, and in Mackenzie’s World, a science fiction series set in a far away solar system.
Meanwhile, I love to garden, read, listen to music (old rock and roll), and watch hours and hours of sports.
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