Monday, July 20, 2015

Agenda 21: The Kingdom of Squirrels

Agenda 21, pp. 30-37

And just like that, we're on to Chapter Four. This is actually cause for some excitement, though. While we are still stuck in a flashback (did you know some agents automatically reject manuscripts that make heavy use of flashbacks?), this is the chapter where - hallelujah - we go outside. After three chapters stuck in a concrete box, we're headed to...well, a different concrete box, but at least things will happen there.

Emmeline, our protagonist, is headed to the "Children's Village" for fertility testing, and that brings us to another major theme of this novel. In this evil future society, children are raised apart from their parents in closed-off compounds. Emmeline is one of the last to be "homeschooled" (Subtlety!) because she was just past the age cutoff point when this policy was enacted.

In terms of its pedigree, this plot point is the latest in a series of conspiracy theories that originated when some John Bircher skimmed The Communist Manifesto. Glenn Beck's own version concerned President Obama's Common Core policy, which Beck insisted was an attempt at mind control. What appears in Agenda 21 is definitely closer to the old-school Red Scare version than the Alex Jones-esque theory that Beck developed, but either way this is a story element that is deeply important to the authors. We're about to see how people raised in the Village differ from our protagonist.

Emmeline is taken to the Village by a "Chaperone" - yes, just like how the Handmaids in The Handmaid's Tale weren't allowed outside without a chaperone - where she meets some new people:

Waiting by the main doorway were two girls about my age, both in pink uniforms...When the girls got on the bux-box, they sat together across from me.

"Ever been on a bus-box before?" one of them asked. She had thick eyebrows, like caterpillars that grew almost across her nose.

In good fiction, it's always important to make it clear that your self-insert protaginist is the pretty one.

The bus-box passes a squirrel sanctuary, and we get this:

"Praise the squirrels," one girl said.

"Praise those who feed the squirrels," said the other one. Each formed the circle sign with the thumb and forefinger of her right hand and held it to her forehead as they gave their praises.

An ominous sight if there ever was one.

I included that mostly because I forgot to show off their ridiculous salute earlier, but also because it informs the rest of the dialogue:

"Why are there so many squirrels?" I asked.

"What are you, stupid? Don't you know anything?" said the girl with the eyebrows...

..."Never saw you in the Village. You must be one of them," the girl with the eyebrows said.

"One of what?" I didn't like the way she said "them." It was like a snarl.

Apparently, being raised in the Village makes you rude, catty and generally unpleasant. Subtlety!

*  *  *  *  *

And now, a quick and completely gratuitous plug. Much of what drives me to this sort of analysis of bad writing is my own attempts at getting published. While trash like hits the best-seller lists on the strength of celebrity, I'm forced to beg for representation. My last novel, The Fabulist, would actually be classified alongside Agenda 21 had it not been shot down nearly a hundred times. So I'm down to self-publishing, and I'm not going to lie and suggest that this was my first choice, but here we are - The Fabulist, a work representing two years of effort, is on sale for a mere 99 cents. Move swiftly, because one day I will raise the price. Thank you.

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