A surprising number of teenagers in 2019 (some them, no doubt, encouraged by hit films like Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman) are fans of 70’s and 80’s rock. So, too, is Alyx, the Feisty Teenage Heroine of This Wasted Land, my latest young adult dark fantasy novel.
To go along with that, I set up the table of contents for TWL as a “playlist,” and named each chapter after a hard rock song. Each relates to their chapter in some way, whether it evokes the mood, mirrors events, reiterates themes, or simply inspired it. You can find posts about other songs on the playlist here.
Life isn’t easy from the singular side
Down in the hole some emotions are hard to hide
It’s your decision, it’s the chance that you take
It’s on your head, it’s a habit that’s hard to break
Do you need a friend, would you tell no lies
Would you take me in, are you lonely in the dark
I use the song title as a play on words, because in this chapter, Alyx is literally in the dark, exploring the interior of a freighter ship that erupted out of the ground of this wasted land she has found herself in.
By Greenmars, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36483480
For many years, I’ve had an admittedly morbid fascination with the fact that the Fitzgerald sank on my 9th birthday. While I was blowing out candles on my cake and opening presents, 29 men were dying in the icy waters of Lake Superior. It’s mere coincidence, but it plucks at me when my birthday comes around.
This Wasted Land has a lot of seemingly disparate elements–you can get a sense of that here–so I added the Fitzgerald to the mix. The ship was carrying about 26 tons of iron ore pellets when it sank, which Alyx readily discovers:
Tiny rocks, thousands—maybe actual millions of them—laying where they spilled out the ship’s split middle. I crouch, eyes up, watching for anything moving. Pluck a few from the ground. They’re round, mostly, each about as big as a blueberry. Glistening, dark, almost black because they’re wet, but as I roll them around in my hand, they start drying quick, and they fade to dull grayish-red.
I drop them, stand, brushing off my hands. Millions of worthless rocks. Why would a ship be carrying these?
Alyx makes her way into the Fitzgerald, hoping to find food and supplies. I can’t tell you what she comes across, but it’s more–much more–than she bargained for. After climbing up the deck of the tilted ship, to the bow, she makes a shattering discovery:
I must be about two hundred feet up, maybe more. From here, I should be able to see where the hell I am. At the very least, all I have to do is find the bridges, both of them, over the Chesapeake Bay. They’re big and they’re right next to each other, so it should be easy to spot them.
Nothing but gray desert and rocks and hills. No farms. No trees. No buildings. No towns. No cars. No roads. No rivers. No Bay. No bridges.
I’m not on the Eastern Shore. I’m not in Maryland. I’m not even anywhere on Earth.
I’m somewhere else. And I’m alone.
If you want to know more, you’re going to have to read the book to find out.
Kenton Kilgore writes killer SF/F for young adults and adults who are still young. In his latest novel, This Wasted Land, high-school senior Alyx Williams learns that witches are real when one attacks her and her boyfriend Sam, dragging him off to a nightmare world where Alyx must go to get him back.
Kenton is the author of Lost Dogs, the story of the end of the world as seen, heard–and smelled–by a dog. He also wrote Dragontamer’s Daughters, like Little House on the Prairie…with dragons! With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature. Kenton also published Hand-Selling Books to help authors better their sales.
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