Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Phoenix Rising Blog Tour: Guest Post by Bryony Pearce

Phoenix Rising
Publication Date: June 1st 2015
Publisher: Stripes Publishing
In a future world where fossil fuels have run out and democracy has collapsed, an outlawed pirate crew fight for survival on their ship, the Phoenix, kept afloat by whatever they can salvage or scavenge on the debris-filled seas. Toby has never known anything other than life onboard the Phoenix and he's desperate for adventure. But when trouble comes hunting the Phoenix down, Toby realizes that what you wish for isn't always what you want. He meets beautiful Ayla from the Banshee, a rival pirate ship and sworn enemy of the Phoenix, and his world is thrown into disorder. How can he know who to trust and what to believe? The future rests on him making an impossible choice...A gripping novel, perfect for fans of Anthony Horowitz, Eoin Colfer and Suzanne Collins

 Ending the World

For me, one of the most fun things about being a writer is building the world and the characters that live in it.
In the case of Phoenix Rising, it wasn't so much building a world, as ending and then rebuilding it.
So I set out to think about how the world might end.
By the ‘end of the world’ of course I mean the ‘end of civilisation as we know it’. A literal earth shattering event like a meteor strike or the explosion of the sun (which is a favourite suggestion in school visits) would not leave me much scope for developing characters and a world in which to write a story afterwards. So I needed an event that would kill off most of the people and change the world itself, but not so serious that my main characters could not survive and have adventures.
This is something that, as an imaginative individual with a propensity towards the macabre, I have considered many times over the course of my lifetime.
I lived on RAF bases when I was a child. I have clear memories of the cold war (which ended in 1991) and was semi-regularly evacuated from my home or school because of IRA threats. In those days I was certain that it would be nuclear warfare that wiped out human civilisation. 
When Ebola first really hit global awareness it was the mid-nineties (there were outbreaks in Gabon and Zaire) and AIDS was still very much at the forefront of PSHE teaching. I was a teenager and so then I was absolutely convinced that the human race would be wiped out by a pandemic. I was sure that by the time I was thirty, Ebola would have mutated into an airborne agent and that 90% of the population would be dead. The outbreaks have worsened (In Zaire in 1995 there were 315 human cases – serious enough to make the world news in those days - but since 2013 there have been over 26,000 cases) but I’m (ahem) over thirty and still around.  
Now a world war seems a possibility once more and yet, I feel that in terms of end of the world scenarios, it is likely to be a straight race. Will humanity fight itself to an end or will an environmental catastrophe get us first?
What I decided on was a combination of factors, a deadly blend of the greed and hubris of mankind, mixed with the vengeance of mother nature.

And so we find ourselves in today’s world; a consumerist civilisation dependent on fossil fuels to keep going, a civilisation where anything no longer useful (or which has been updated to a newer version), gets thrown away into enormous landfills, or into the sea, a world teetering on the verge of environmental catastrophe brought on by global warming.

My first step in ending this world was to remove the fossil fuels upon which we are so dependent. We all know that they will eventually run out. I had them run out sooner than we expect.
Suddenly mankind has no way to run power stations, cars, homes, offices, schools. No power, no heat, no clean water. Recessions destroy economies. Wars break out over the last of the natural resources. People toss the things they can no longer use into the massive ocean junkyards – cars, motorbikes, lorries, vans, computers, freezers - the detritus of a civilisation that runs on fossil fuel.
I made sure that all the countries put their few remaining resources into developing renewable energy sources and that almost all decided on solar power as the most cost-effective solution.
I allowed the world to slowly start rebuilding as solar power developed a positive feedback loop (the more power the more panels could be built and so on) and civilisation started to pick back up.
Just as things start to turn around, and mankind is heading for a brighter, and perhaps more environmentally friendly future, I decided to have Yellowstone erupt.

When I go into schools and tell them that there is an active super-volcano in America, that is now around 40,000 years overdue, faces go pale. The students straight away imagine an extinction event.
The eruption of Yellowstone would be catastrophic – several US states would be immediately wiped out, there would likely be tsunamis and earthquakes which would change the world’s coastlines and in my world, would break up the massive waterborne junkyards, filling the seas and oceans with rubbish and poisoning the water.
The effect on the rest of the world however, would not be quite so instant. The loss of America as a player on the global stage would cause severe political and economic implications, but the real effect on the rest of the world is likely to be a result of all of the ash and debris blown into the atmosphere.
This would hang around the earth and create a kind of perpetual twilight; the sun’s rays would be unable to penetrate this barrier. People would suffer from vitamin D deficiency, osteoporosis, depression, curvature of the bones, rickets and lethargy. It would get colder and food would struggle to grow causing starvation and, inevitably more war.
Everything combustible would be burned and, remember that the world had poured its resources into solar panels? They no longer work. So they are all smashed by a furious populace.
For the purposes of Phoenix Rising, this is how I imagined our world would end, a terrible concentration of events, the worst possible things happening one after another – and all within the realms of possibility, or even likelihood.

Toby is born decades after this catastrophe. When he is little the skies clear and the sun comes back - he is a child of the sun. But the world is a very different shape; the seas are poisoned and filled with junk, the remaining populations are once more clustered around water sources (rivers and coastlines), countries are more like principalities, fighting among themselves and with each other for every last resource. Democracy is dead, the powerful rule by strength and cruelty.
What can a boy do, but turn pirate and search for somewhere out of reach of the powerful and cruel?