I'm still fussing over the Possible Third Book (soon, I believe, to have a working title to call its own). I had succeeded in cutting thirty pages, but ten slipped back in when I wasn't looking. There's a scene I almost cut a few days ago that is starting to look vulnerable again, because I'm planning on adding a scene where Caitlin, my poor suffering drog, gets a solo number (a rewritten version of "Hard Knock Life" from Annie).
As one who is frequently wrong, I've mastered the art of rationalization. Lately, I've been expending a fair amount of energy explaining to myself how this grand country of ours (aka The United States Of America) could devolve into a country that combines some of the more heinous historical aspects of (in alphabetical order), Cambodia, China, France, Germany, India, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Uganda, and The United States Of America. Forgive me if I left out one of your favorites.
Here's the issue: I set P3B originally four years after the start of Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone. That means the U.S. had a mere four years to go from, well, life as we know it to (as my UK publisher put it) 12th century feudal Europe.
My problem was that I carry over one character each from LAWKI and d&g into P3B. The LAWKI character, Jon, was less of an issue. He just pops in as a messenger to let us know what's up with his family (and also what's up with the country), so his age isn't really a problem.
But the character I bring over from d&g is an important character in P3B, and I wanted her to still be a teenager. People don't actually talk about their ages in the P3B world, but Caitlin's perception is the troupe (with the exceptions of Derrick and Jimmy, who are in charge) are teenagers, about her age (just short of sixteen when the book begins).
(By the way, if you should play the Susan Beth Pfeffer Blog Parentheses Drinking Game, you'll be very drunk very soon. I made a vow to cut down on ()s once, but clearly it didn't take.)
So I stretched things out a little by deciding the d&g character could be seventeen, not sixteen, which gave the U.S. an extra year to become so horrific. But even so, we're on a fast track.
Fortunately for me, I am a world class rationalizer. First of all, I decided the United States is a fast track kind of joint. It doesn't take us that long to make a mess of things when we so choose. This may well be true of other countries, but I've never lived anyplace else.
Then, with the power invested in me, I determined that what's going on in Caitlin's part of what used to be the U.S.A. may well not be happening in another part of the country. Once I decided that, then P3B lost all its identifiable geography. It's better if this land of tiers and drogs isn't identified as Maine or Mississippi. I even flirted with the idea of not making it the United States at all, but the LAWKI/d&g characters forced me to keep P3B here (also, and this is one of those little jokes that make me very happy, all performances, including Caitlin's halftime exotic dances, end with the singing of "God Bless America").
But then I came up with the greatest rationalization of all. We are talking world class PhD thesis level rationalization.
I decided countries are like people, that stress affects nations just as it affects individuals. It's impossible to look at world history and not see examples of mass hysteria (the Salem witch trials) and mass paranoia (McCarthyism). I decided the post LAWKI/d&g United States suffers from mass depression. No sunlight, constant cold, drought, famine, disease, the death of millions, including a family member or two, and no Paris Hilton to distract us. Heck, I'm depressed just thinking about it and I have complete control.
If I'm in charge of keeping my country alive under such circumstances, then I push hardest when my people are weakest. That would be in the first year, when people still know what they're missing and are convinced there's nothing they can do individually to save themselves.
Give starving people a little bit of food and you'll end up with people who'll do whatever you ask with the promise of a little more food merely for obeying.
And if those in power think that the best way to guarantee their own survival is by recreating 12th century feudal Europe, then you push when your people are physically strongest (although not very strong) and emotionally weakest. The next thing you know, there are tiers and drogs and the occasional traveling troupe of performing indies.
Is any of this is P3B? Not a whit. In theory the book is written for kids (although I suspect Caitlin's sideline as a stripper will keep P3B out of the classrooms). Even adults might not find the process by which the United States goes from freedom and comfort straight to gender repression and slavery all that interesting (for all I know, none of my slowly gained readership has made it past the third () in this entry). But just as I've loved just about everything else involved in P3B, I've thoroughly enjoyed figuring out how things went from great to ghastly in a mere five years time.
One good thing about controlling the world though. I have promised myself no matter how bad things get, I will never outlaw ()s!