“The geopolitical landscape in Perceval must be plausible in light of the current geopolitical landscape.” How was I going to do that? Creating a future world is daunting enough, but then to add a geopolitical layer, expand it into a global tapestry? I thought I’d not manage this at all. But it’s just like any other big project, i.e. break it up into smaller pieces and it’ll be easier to do.
My first task was to familiarize myself with the present geopolitical landscape (which was actually several years ago), before our recent economic troubles and after Japan’s in the 1990’s. I read voraciously, but my favorite source turned out to be The Atlantic Monthly magazine. It reflected a growing interest in China as well as China’s growing economic power. I realized that I could not create a believable world in 2048 without making China an important player on the global stage. So, what would China look like in 2048?
Did I need to describe Chinese society? Or the physical landscape in China? I anticipated not setting any part of the series in China so I realized I could focus on policy, culture, customs and attitudes/beliefs in order to create a picture of China in 2048. Considering that China has recently made deep inroads into Africa, exchanging expertise and knowledge for raw materials, without educating the people to be able to use the raw materials themselves, I decided that China would move beyond its current stated policy of non-interference in another country’s internal business. (Technically, they are adhering to that policy in Africa by not providing education for the people.) I wondered how the world would react if China decided to interfere in the global economy.
Currently, China owns a gigantic part of the American debt in the form of Treasury bonds it has bought with its surplus dollars, as well as other investments in manufacturing, business, real estate, etc. Japan has fallen to second place as the country to whom we owe the most money. In 2048, America is embroiled in a civil war that has lasted 30 years and she finds herself in a precarious position economically, i.e. still a large economy but no longer strong. China sees an opening in this and decides to call in everything America owes it. This leads to a panic that Japan and the European Union manage to calm with the proposal of talks in Vienna. This is the backstory to Perceval.
Why does China make this decision which could be incredibly destructive to the global economy and itself Aaaaaahhhhhh…….. I have to explain it! Well, it’s not necessary to include all the details in Perceval or any of the novels in the series. However, this is information that I must command so that I can write Evan’s story. I had to restrain the impulse to explain, explain, explain and, I realized, keep the details connected to specific characters who reveal them.
In Perceval, no one really knows what’s going on in Beijing. In the second novel, Perceval’s Shadow, Evan’s life takes a dangerous detour although he learns more about himself, the choices he’s made and how they affect him as well as the people in his life. It’s actually not until Perceval in Love that it becomes crucial to reveal what the Chinese are doing and why. I don’t want to give it all away, of course. However, China has made wonderful progress in terms of quality of life for its people, but not in terms of democracy which I saw as a natural progression from where China is today. The Chinese crave raw materials (and oil) to produce everything they sell to the world and themselves. And there’s a power struggle going on at the highest level of the Chinese government, a huge disagreement about policy, that determines how China interacts with the rest of the world, and ultimately affects Evan’s life and the people he cares about.
I continue to research China, and have found the articles on China in The Atlantic Monthly interesting and educational, as well as other sources. What I learned for the Perceval series and creating a different geopolitical landscape: it’s not necessary to map out the entire landscape. The details of that landscape that influence Evan’s story are what is necessary, and they are revealed in events and people who intersect with his life.