Writers are often influenced by the literary works of others. Stephen King built his entire Dark Tower series around a single poem by Robert Browning titled “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”. (Incidentally, I did a huge paper in school about the thematic correlations and allusions between “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” and The Dark Tower.)
My own novel-in-progress, We are the Weapon, has also been inspired by a lot of different things – the PATRIOT Act, 2012 apocalypse hysteria, biblical Revelations, The Handmaid’s Tale, the War on Terror, 9/11, WWI war poetry, and (naturally) George Orwell’s 1984.
The most disturbing part about writing a dystopian novel over a period of several years during this particular time period is that I get to continually see elements which I believe should remain firmly on the page pop up in real life current events. Mass video surveillance and martial law are no problem in the fictional realm, and they’re even fun to play around with. But seeing these things in real life is not fun, and it’s not funny.
One small piece of inspirational literature that has molded my concepts behind We are the Weapon is the poem “The Second Coming” by William Yeats. It pretty much captures the essence of the world I live in when I don’t live in this one…
“The Second Coming”
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand. The Second Coming!
Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, Is moving its slow thighs,
while all about it Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
~ William Yeats, 1920