A note from Headbuzzer: Pierce Brown, author of Red Rising, has written guest posts for us this week! Pierce discusses Red Rising and the process of publishing books. Welcome Pierce on Twitter @Pierce_Brown and like his Facebook page for a chance to win 1 of 10 copies of Red Rising!
Today Pierce discusses the origins of his first novel, Red Rising.
Tracing the origins of an epiphany is like trying to describe why you love someone. In other words, it’s impossible. I’ll give it a shot, but no promises.
The initial spark for Red Rising came on a climb in a Washington State mountain range. I was on a glacier with two friends staring an alien landscape. Nothing but crags and snow and wind that howled like some deep-lunged wolf. It made me think of Mars and its freezing massifs. But it also filled me with this aching melancholy that gives Red Rising so much of its tone.
In the days before the climb, I’d been re-reading Antigone, one of my favorite plays. In it, Antigone disregards an edict forbidding the burial of her brother, a rebel against Thebes. Despite the entreaties of her friends and of the lawmaker himself, Antigone buries her brother and suffers the wrath of the law.
The story shattered me when I read it in middle school and again when I read it before the climb. How powerful a thing seeing something beautiful throw itself into the flames, how hopeful to see a girl so full of life, so gentle rejecting the cold indifference of a corrupt government.
Antigone was possessed with a purpose we don’t often see in literature. Hell, she challenged Creon, the king of Thebes, more than two thousand years before women could vote in the United States. That spirit of rebellion, of the just weak against the corrupt strong found resonance on the landscape
Another great influence on Red Rising came from my deep dislike of evil. I’m not talking the hideously fun evil of a Voldemort or a Sith Lord. But the evil we all know, the evil we see every day: the small wickedness of the greedy and selfish.
In most stories, the ugly are villains and the beautiful are the good. In Red Rising, I tried to flip this notion on its head. The Golds are strong, beautiful, intelligent beyond the measure of any the other human, yet instead of using their greatness for the good of man, they use it for selfish aims. They elevate themselves by standing on the throats of the masses.
Seem familiar? It should. We see it every day from schoolyard bullies to corrupt politicians. Our quest, Antigone’s quest, and now Darrow’s quest, is to defeat that evil without letting it infect us in turn.
Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.
But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.
Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.