My latest sci-fi novel CYN pushes many limits for me. It is my most bizarre story to date. My most explicit. My most ambitious. My most cynical.
And my most personal.
The inspiration for CYN came from two sources: my favorite movie, the horrific Vietnam war epic Apocalypse Now, and my own life. That's right - I inspired my own sci-fi story about a disastrous assassination mission on a distant planet.
I've always been fascinated by the idea of "going native," losing one's cultivated, Westernized social veneer and letting raw nature take over. Of course, I've read enough books and seen enough movies to know that going native never ends well, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Apocalypse Now. Still, the depths of mankind's heart of darkness is a cavern that many writers long to explore, to discover their their own limits from a safe vantage point and to warn readers about what may be possible in them.
In 2005, after graduating from college, I left the USA and journeyed to China. I expected to stay just for one year, but that one year turned into almost a decade. The first three years of that decade was a period of intense soul-searching for me. I was literally on the other side of the world, thousands of miles from anyone I knew. I could do anything, be anyone.
So I did. I became the stereotypical young white guy exploring the exotic mysteries of the Orient. Whatever I wanted, I could find. Every indulgence, every appetite. There was no one to tell me to take it easy, to make me stop and awaken my dormant conscience. I felt like I was living on another planet, and essentially I was.
I was lost, and I knew it. Eventually I had to step back and reevaluate everything my life had been built on - my morals, my beliefs, my American-influenced philosophy of life. Fortunately, I emerged on the other side with my faith and values intact, but it was mine now, not just the culture I was raised in. I was lucky that it only took a couple of years of being the prodigal son to find the path that I had strayed from; I met a lot of people there that were still wandering even after several decades. But being in another country, far from family and friends...it does something to your mind. Things you wouldn't do or say at home are suddenly permissible, even normal. And it's very easy to settle into a groove, not knowing why you're doing what you're doing but not bothering to question it either.
I know many people have been in the same position I was in and found happiness and fulfillment. But I can say with confidence that the majority of people like me were looking for something but they didn't know what it was. Another movie (and book) that captures this aimless hedonism pretty well, though with a bit of sensationalism, is The Beach. When your carnal appetites are so easily indulged, it's easy to ignore your soul withering inside you.
Getting married, having children, and moving back to the USA became the ballast that kept me upright. Real-life consequences are a powerful motivation for staying on the straight and narrow, and being surrounded by people who share the same beliefs and values as you do is very beneficial as well. Otherwise, the temptation to "go native" can be too powerful to resist.
Thus, CYN was born. The protagonist, CJ Mills, goes to a planet that has become a haven for debauchery in order to assassinate its enigmatic leader, but she finds herself strangely drawn to the possibility of a fresh start away from the trials and repression that have plagued her life for so long. Of course, there's a lot more to the story - a horrific tragedy, mutants, wild technology, and violence galore, but at its core, it's an exploration of what could happen when someone leaves everything they know and believe.
After doing extensive field research, I believe I am well-qualified to write a book about this subject.