Why is a crime fiction author writing a futuristic thriller? Because I’ve always wanted to, and I finally found the time, the story, and the courage. As a reader, my love of futuristic thrillers started long ago with a terrific novel by Lawrence Sanders called The Tomorrow File. For the record, he’s my all-time favorite author, and The Tomorrow File may be one of the best books I’ve ever read, or at least that’s how I remember it.
The story was written in 1975 and takes place in the year 1998. I read it in college and was captivated by Sanders’ vision of the future, in which genetic classifications are based on whether one is natural, produced by artificial insemination, artificial in-ovulation, cloned, or otherwise created without the necessity for sexual intercourse. The objects (people) of tomorrow eat food synthesized from petroleum and soybeans, and use an addictive soft drink called Smack.
The new language took some getting used to, but the story was so engaging with so many twists that it was hard to put down. My husband isn’t much of a reader, but I suggested it to him (back then) and he read it in a weekend and loved it. Most important, the book triggered my fascination with well-told futuristic thrillers, which I distinguish from dystopian fiction, in which society has broken down.
Another of my favorite novels is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, published ten years after The Tomorrow File and typically labeled dystopian. The book won numerous awards, was made into a film, and is so well know I won’t bother with the details, except to say it’s a feminist portrayal of the dangers of a conservative society. I admire Atwood immensely for tackling the subject. Reading The Handmaid’s Tale further inspired me to someday write a thriller set in the future.
I don’t mean to imply that The Arranger compares to either of those brilliant and creative works, both of which imagine a shockingly different future. My story is set only 13 years in the future, and I don’t consider it dystopian. It presents a bleak vision of the United States, in that the economy is stagnant, government has shrunk, and people without health insurance are left to fend for themselves. But all that seems quite realistic to me and didn’t require much imagination.
The Arranger is predominately a crime story and a character study. Its protagonist is struggling to overcome a troubled past and there is a complex plot that moves at a rapid pace. The Gauntlet is an intense physical and mental competition that provides a backdrop for my novel and required me to create entirely fictitious scenarios. I had a blast writing those scenes, and my editor said they left her breathless.
What are your favorite futuristic novels? What themes do like to see in futurism?
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L.J. is giving away one print copy of The Arranger. This giveaway is open to all residents of US and Canada.
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The year is 2023 and ex-detective Lara Evans is working as a freelance paramedic in a bleak new world. She responds to an emergency call and is nearly killed when a shooter flees the home. Inside she finds the federal employment commissioner wounded, but she’s able to save his life. The next day Lara leaves for the Gauntlet—a national competition of intense physical and mental challenges with high stakes for her home state. She spots the assailant lurking at the arena and soon after, she lands in deep trouble. Who is the mysterious killer and what is motivating him? Can Lara stop him, stay alive, and win the Gauntlet?