Easier to Find Big Ideas

After months of intense laziness, I’ve finally placed all the “Big Idea” posts on Whatever into their own category, and created a link for you to use to find them all. It’s over there in the sidebar, but if you can’t bear to drag your eyeballs in that direction, here’s a link to the category archive. Enjoy.

The Big Idea: Jordan Summers

Fairy tales and post-apocalyptic futures: Are they two great tastes that go great together? This is the question Jordan Summers tries to answer in Red, in which elements of some of the most primeval of fantasy tales get a whole new science fiction-y spin, with action and romance thrown in to spice it all up. What possessed Summers to create this hot combination of literary ingredients? She’s glad you asked.


Like so many other ‘big ideas’, Red started with a single question: What if Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf turned out to be the same person?

There are a lot of places you can go with Red Riding Hood as a starting point. Even the most subtext-averse, literal reader of tales would admit there’s more to these rich images than don’t wander off the path. You have the girl, alone in the deep woods. You have awakening, deception and death.

So the idea continued to poke at my subconscious, darting in and out of my mind until the first character, Gina ‘Red’ Santiago, raised her head (or gun, in her case) and began to speak. It was only then I realized this story was not set in a contemporary world.  It would take place in the near-future after an apocalyptic war. The setting and time-period presented more than a few problems, since I was writing a twist on the old tale. I had to ask myself: if a series of murders were following a medieval fairytale on post-apocalyptic Earth, how would anyone know? Were the people in this world still reading fairytales now that countries no longer existed and paper books were rare? If not, who would know about such stories? This led to the creation of the Others.

The Others were men and women in the original armed forces who volunteered for genetic alteration to become super soldiers.  Some of these soldiers mirror present day monsters.  There are two-legged werewolves, who can change in a flash –their skins growing thicker, teeth sharper, nails deadlier.  All the better to kill you with… There are vampires, who might drain you or telekinetically stop your heart. Even if you managed to kill one, they are still considered a deadly weapon. In Red, some vampires, who are exposed to the sun, will expand and harden until they explode. Their bodies become human shrapnel in order to kill the enemy or whoever is unfortunate enough to be standing nearby. There are chimeras and psychics. Each holds various abilities, depending on their natural talents.

These medical procedures were a last ditch effort to win an unwinnable war. After they failed, no one in the remnants of the old governments wanted to admit to participating in such atrocities.  Their answer to this problem was to destroy the evidence. The soldiers went from being heroes to being hunted. The Others who survived went underground, which was where they remained until an inquisitive tactical team lieutenant named Gina Santiago stumbled across them. Unfortunately, she’s not the only one looking for them. One man, Roark Montgomery, wants to reorganize the world and there’s no room for the Others.

In the end, the book isn’t merely a twist on a fairytale. The story addresses a lot of issues currently making life interesting here in the states and around the world—environmental problems, illegal immigration, crime, and borders—whether these are your own walls, or the barriers meant to separate the states from Mexico, man-made boundaries are rarely successful in keeping the ‘monsters’ out.

Red is the first book in a trilogy. The story details one woman’s quest to find the truth behind several murders, where each death reveals more about her own life.  The search for the killer turns her orderly life into a chaotic nightmare where—like the fairytale—deception is the norm, and the truth may mean her entire life is a lie.


Red: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s

Read an excerpt of Red here. Visit Jordan Summer’s blog here.

Another County Heard From

In 2004, Darke County, in which I live, went 70% for George Bush. While I was under no illusion that Obama was going to win in my county, I was curious as to whether 2008 vote totals would be substantially different — that is to say, whether another four years of misadventure on the presidential level would have peeled away a substantial number of votes away from the GOP. The answer, as you can see above: No, not really. McCain did very nearly as well as Bush did in 2004, and since Obama got exactly the percentage of the vote that went to Kerry in 2004, that means when people did abandon the GOP, they went to a third party candidate rather than him. The moral of this story: Darke County is a Republican county and likely to remain that way for a long time.

This isn’t in the least bit surprising, of course. Darke County is Republican because demographically speaking Darke County should be Republican. It’s a rural, blue-collar county (its main industries are farming and manufacturing) whose population is overwhelmingly white (98.1%), and of whom only 6.5% hold a college degree, and whose largest town has a shade over 13,000 souls in it. This very nearly the definition of a Republican stronghold county. As Bill Bishop wrote in Slate today, looking at the data from the election and discussing counties where one candidate saw a vote margin of 10% or more, “Republican and Democratic counties were entirely different kinds of places. The average population of an Obama landslide county was 278,601. The average McCain landslide county had 37,475 people.” At 53,000 people, Darke is slightly larger than the average McCain county, but that’s the only substantial difference.

Darke County is a typical GOP county — it’s “real America,” to use that quaint phrase — but I’m not sure that’s something the GOP should be happy about. Darke County, like lots of other small, rural counties, is spinning its wheels: it’s slowly losing population and what population is here is slowly growing older, and it’s the sort of place where the loss of a single manufacturer will take down a bunch of jobs and the economic health of the county with it. It’s a lovely place to live — just ask me — but it’s not a place where a political party wants to see as its future, especially in a country that is increasingly multicultural and whose economy is moving away from agriculture and manufacturing.

After election night, some analysts have started to wonder if the GOP isn’t turning into a specialized, regional party rather than a true national party. I don’t think the GOP needs to worry about not being national — there are small, white, rural counties in every state — but if it pins its hopes on counties like mine, it’s not going to get back into power any time soon. The country is changing, and its future does not look like Darke County.

Veteran’s Day Today

Remember their service, and if you happen to see a vet today, say “hey, thanks.”