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:~: Thursday, April 26, 2007 :~:

original premises

I'm a huge fan of apocalyptic books. (and movies)

I'm not sure why. I'm actually a very grounded, happy, stable person. So I've no clue why I relish end of the world--or at least civilization as we know it--books and movies. But I do.

So I've read and watched a ton of them. The problem is, I've read so many the premises are all similar. The Apocalypse falls into one of three categories. Some kind of plague, the earth being hit by a comet or asteroid, or a nuclear Holocaust. I still buy them of course, and read them-- no matter how similar they all sound after awhile. But I haven't been impressed by a apocalyptic books since Stephen King's The Stand-- or Robert MacCameron's Swan Song.

Until I found DUST. A phenomenally original apocalyptic book written by Robert Pellegrino. This isn't a new book. In fact, it was published by Avon in 1998. But its new to me, since I just picked it up at a garage sale. For a apocalyptic fan like myself--this book is a gold mine. Without doubt the most interesting one I've ever read.

Because of the premise. Which is so original. In Dust, the earth itself is dying (along with all the creatures inhabiting it) because the insects have all died. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, 99% of the insects on earth just up and died. The few species of insects that survived what ever happened to the others, are running amok
Before long the grasses, trees and such begin dying because the insects, which are natures gardeners, are no longer around to keep the plants healthy. Or because the fungus, which used to be kept under control by various insects, are infecting almost every living plant on the planet. Which means that everything that lives on the plants begins to starve as well. By mid way through the book it is obvious that almost every plant and animal on earth is facing extinction. Without the insects, everything dies.

The books goes into a lot of science, and alot of explanation for what various insects do, so the entire premise is not only plausible, but scary as hell. I'm enjoying the book immensely and wondering how they are going to turn this disaster around-- or if they even can.

But something dawned on me while I was reading it. It's the whole "we want something new/original cry that we keep hearing from the editors/agents. Yet 9 times out of 10, when you do send them something new/ or that's never been done they seem hesitant to take a chance on it. I've lost count of how many times I've been told that Yesterday's Child was not a first sale book. That it was the kind of book you sold once you had a few books and an audience under your belt. Which goes back to the whole new/original premise point. Yes, they want something new and original-- but within limits. They want an overall premise that has a track record for selling, but they don't want a cookie-cutter of that premise.

Dust-- brought this home to me. The book is set solidly in the traditional apocalyptic theme. But the actual events within this theme have never been done before. So while it is within a sub genre that has had alot of success, the immediate premise is fresh and original and new.

Not only has this book been a riveting read, but its managed to really bring home to me what editors/agents mean when they come at us with their "we want something new/original" cries. They want a book like DUST.

What about the rest of you. Any book you've read that had the same effect on you?


Blogger Joan Swan said...

That's a pretty thought-provoking article, T. I mean, I know they cry new, fresh, original, but I never really pay attention to that. What, exactly, is new, fresh, and original? Seems that's a matter of opinion. And traditionally, my opinions, thus far, have differed from editors.

So...I'm no help. And I haven't read anythng new, fresh or original (at least not in the RS genre, which I tend to stick close to) in...forever.

3:23 PM  
Blogger B.E. Sanderson said...

I read this post with a great deal of interest. You see, I've written two semi-apocalyptic thrillers. The reason I say 'semi' is I found a way to save the world in both cases. I don't want to destroy the world. I want to find ways to save it. Unfortunately, neither book has been well received by agents - although my betas loved them both (and none of them are family). I wonder if it is because the ideas are original and therefore untested. *shrug* I may have to accept that they'll be relegated to storage until after I sell a more mainstream idea first. Maybe this mystery I'm working on will open the doors. =o)

6:16 PM  
Blogger Edie said...

So funny, Theresa. I'm listening to an old National tape by Suzanne Brockmann, and she said that's what she set out to do with her Navy Seals. Even though they were Seals, she assigned the books the old "secret baby" and all the other plotlines that Harlequin wanted. Only when she was wildly popular did she drop the plotlines and do what she wanted. A very interesting tape.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

I love Suzanne Brockman's writing. Interesting stuff, E.

7:26 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Great post, T. I'm going to do some serious thinking on it.

I love science stuff (ha! obviously), so I'll go look up Dust.

9:12 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...

Neither have I, Joan.

As for the new, fresh and original cry. I've come to believe they want a fresh twist on a theme that has done well in the past. So they don't seem to want something totally new and fresh, because they don't seem confident they can sell it to the public.


9:25 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...


I love apocalyptic thrillers. I do love full apocalyptic themes though. I like seeing how civilization rebuilds itself. Or doesn't. Who develops the power and why.

That's one the the things I'm finding so interesting about Jericho.

As for the agents lack of interest in your semi-apocalyptic thrillers. I suspect that if they were totally fresh and new and amazingly different, nobody will know what to do with them.

The good news (or so I keep telling myself) is that they'll be there patiently waiting for you to dust them off and resubmit them after you make a name for yourself.

9:30 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...


That makes sense, doesn't it. You mix the fresh and original with the tried and true.

I think I'm doing that with my WIP and the next book I have lined up. But its so hard to tell sometimes, since we're so close to the work.

9:32 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...


I'll warn you right now that there is alot of detail and I mean jam-packed detail in DUST. It's a heavy read. But its also absolutely riveting. I don't want to put it down.

and its given me a huge respect for ants and all the other bugs I used to automatically squash when they'd invade my house. (grin)

9:38 PM  

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