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. And because I’m gay, of course the main character is a lesbian and there’s lesbian romance.
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.