I’ve written about it before, but I want to tell you a little more about the Liliverse. That’s my make-believe America where Hurricane Lili destroyed Houston and helped make the world vegan. It’s a simple idea really and a plausible one, too. What will motivate people to change? Personal experience. For President Thompson, my fictional president, it’s having a city he loves be torn apart by a super storm. It’s possibly a sad commentary that a politician would need a personal event to help him or her make a change for the greater good, but it’s just the plain truth. We’re all just people trying to make our way and what affects us personally affects us deeply.
In the same year that Lili strikes — 2006 — the movie An Inconvenient Truth came out. That was total serendipity; I chose 2006 because Katrina happened in 2005 and I didn’t want the American public or the government to have much breathing room between devastations. But it is one more layer of experience that would have helped people make the connection between climate change, super storms, and factory farming.
The first story in the Liliverse takes place just days after Hurricane Lili hits the Houston area. Melissa is a White House staffer who is sent to Texas to review the damage. She sees the horror of chicken factories but also the hope of alternative food, particularly in vitro meat.
Chronologically the next story takes place about 8 years later. As a byproduct of the cultural changes wrought by Lili, cetaceans have been granted limited citizenship and aquariums are closing. The story of one cetacean is seen through the eyes of a pregnant woman who volunteers at a suicide hotline.
The next story takes place in 2020 on a cattle ranch that’s been converted into a cattle sanctuary. The men and women who used to raise cattle for beef are encouraged to care for the animals until their natural lifespan ends. Not everyone at the sanctuary agrees on the best ways to do that.
The last story in the chronology takes place in 2058. The story is about two people who spend a few years of their lives as re-enactors. Their job is to show people what it was like to live in America, circa 1985 when carnism was still the dominant ideology.
I’m at work on another story in the Liliverse. I realized that I hadn’t told the story of how an average person, in this case a mother, copes with the pressure to switch to a vegan diet. When the government and the morning news and celebrities are all telling you that you have to switch to a plant-based diet and all you want is to have your Monday night meatloaf, damn it.
I was inspired to tell this story by something a coworker told me. He knows I’m vegan and he said “My wife watched some show about cows and she vowed that she wasn’t going to eat red meat anymore.” I said, “That’s great! How’s it going?” He told me that it lasted about three days and then she wanted to make one of his favorite meals, a recipe that calls for chunks of beef, and she bought the meat and made the recipe. What must have gone through her mind and heart? That’s the joy and struggle of writing — to approximate what I imagine she might have thought and felt about making that meal.
I truly believe that the world is changing and that one day eating meat and animal products — using animals as objects instead of seeing them as individuals — will cease. My journeys in the Liliverse are my solace and a thought experiment about the pieces that have to fall into place to reach the tipping point of change. Most importantly, I hope they are stories that will entertain and inspire.
I’m working on a new short story. I haven’t had the inspiration in weeks which I took as a good sign. I finished editing Soul Thief (again) and was back to Book 2 — Stalking Horse. And then I heard a little news story on recent episode of my favorite podcast about a wolf who had been killed and that got me to thinking about wolves and ranchers and the environment.
I guess that makes sense — you are demonstrating your prowess and the rifle’s ability to get the job down. But oh my, the carnage. Thankfully (or not?) most of the pictures are bloodless. You could think that the deer is just laying with its head in the nice man’s lap, taking a little nap.
I didn’t grow up in a hunting family. Most of us didn’t. Recent statistics say that currently there are about equal numbers of hunters and vegans. That’s interesting, isn’t it? Hunting is declining (as is gun ownership) and veganism is rising. I am sure that people hunt for the same complexity of reasons that others choose a vegan lifestyle, and I’m not about to try to analyse the reasons.
Since I didn’t grow up around hunters and guns, I had to turn to the internet for guidance on what guns people use to hunt, the differences between various rifles and ammunition, and important stuff like what the hell is a “three point safety”? And all that research came with the dubious bonus of having to see dead animals on pretty much every page.
Like my favorite writer, Kurt Vonnegut, I don’t believe in villains. Everyone is the hero of his story. Those hunters, posing next to the animals they’ve killed, are proud. They are the heroes of the story they tell themselves about hunting. I can’t take that away from them; I wouldn’t be able to take that away from them. The mythos that allows perfectly nice, normal people to take a gun and shoot sentient creatures is too deeply ingrained. The only person who is going to convince a hunter to quit hunting is himself, and the declining numbers suggest that is exactly what’s happening.
For PETA — and of course, for me — this is akin to adding slave-owning as a goal in a pre-Civil War game. Can you imagine the uproar if Ubisoft had included slave-owning in Assassin’s Creed 3, which is set in Colonial times? Or, also apropos, slave-owning in this latest iteration, which is set in the early 18th Century in the Caribbean. Can you imagine unlocking an achievement for owning over a hundred slaves?
Most of the press gets it wrong, of course. They paint PETA as those kooky activists who don’t understand gaming. Forbes has an interesting Op-Ed piece that manages in one article to throw snark at PETA and shake its head at Ubisoft for making hunting a part of the gameplay. Don’t misunderstand: hunting is just lame game design in their eyes. And um, yes I agree. Running out of quest ideas? Let’s make the gamer collect dozens of turkey feathers! That’s not boring, right?
As usual, PETA is getting the message out there, and people are paying attention, even if most of the comments (I could only skim them — there was too much vitriol) are about PETA being “anti-human”.
There are just too many games to play, so I have not played Assassin’s Creed beyond #2 (this is the 5th or 6th entry for the franchise, even though it’s #4). But I can certainly attest that the point of the game is killing people, which is something every article points out. For them, killing is killing, so shut up about the whales already! But killing is not killing. Whales are endangered and adding whaling — even historically accurate whaling — to the game normalizes the atrocity that continues today.
- Debbie on Where the Sidewalk Ends