A Dialogue with Death

death

The following is a reprint from Volume 4, Issue 16 of Christ and Pop Culture Magazine: “Dystopian Disillusionment.” You can subscribe to Christ and Pop Culture Magazine by becoming a member and you’ll receive a host of other benefits as well.

“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’ ”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”1

As an author, I am often asked, “Why dystopian fiction?” My first book series was a fantasy fiction romp through magical lands. Adventurous, liminal, and endearing, it is the sort of story that begs for a followup of the same sort. So when I turned a sharp corner into the gritty alleyways of dystopia, some of my readers were taken aback. “Why dystopian fiction?” I cannot help but answer this question with more earnestness than the questioners probably seek.

“Because dystopian stories must be told.”

Dystopian stories must be told because when humanity tries to create Eden, Death follows.As much as it relies on me—as a fallible, frail human with a limited understanding of God’s creation and my place in it—I must utilize whatever faculties of imagination and creative craft God has given me to call out warning about the dangers of particular practices and worldviews. Everywhere I see mankind striving for perfection, and sometimes, as I warn in my books, it’s a perfection that comes at a terrible price. Dystopian stories must be told because when humanity tries to create Eden, Death follows.

Because we are image bearers of God, this longing to reclaim Edenic perfection is stamped on all our hearts, and we will never stop reaching for it, clawing for it, attempting to achieve it by any and all means, and, ultimately—outside of Christ—failing. This is why dystopian literature exists. Many dystopian authors understand that all human attempts to re-create Eden on earth will spectacularly fail. Man cannot create Eden; Utopia cannot be crafted according to man’s designs. History is peppered with examples of men who tried to create their own Edens. History is also peppered with the carcasses of the collateral damage from their failures. The subject matter of dystopian fiction is, therefore, not without historical precedence. When I sat down to research before writing my books about the future, I looked to the past for inspiration. It was not difficult to find. The worst examples are obvious: societies like Sparta and Nazi Germany with their promises of pure races of humanity—perfection that was illusion, bathed in blood.

But the first Eden was not an illusion. In the beginning, it was all good. Very good. Adam and Eve lived in perfect communion with God. What greater state of being could there be? And they knew no death—until Death himself came to dialogue with them. “Did God really say…?” I have always found it fascinating and ominous that the beginning of the Fall began with a simple challenge to God’s authority. It was a backdoor entrance—a flank attack. Plant a seed of doubt and let it germinate before dropping the temptation that things could be even better than what they were already.

Satan’s plans for the earth and for humanity remain the same as they were that day long ago—seek, kill, and destroy—and he dialogues with us still. He tries to tell us that we can achieve our own versions of Eden; that we can build our own Utopias on earth, and he delights whenever we believe that lie, because it is a lie that leads to death. But through dystopian fiction we have the power to warn of what lies hidden behind utopian lies. When properly written, we can disenchant a world running headlong toward the edge of a cliff. People don’t need to be waving a Nazi flag to be heading for disaster, and sometimes humanity, like the characters in a dystopian tale, must first be disenchanted before truth can be received.

This is the sort of work I am undertaking as a writer of dystopian fiction. In Breeder, the first book of my dystopian trilogy, I take my main character, Pria, through a progression of disillusionment, hoping that, along the way, the reader journeying with her will not only enjoy the story, but also think deeply about the nature of humanity and where we are headed on this earth. But as a Christian, I can offer more to my readers in the end than a hopeless nihilism. The dialogue with Death began in the first utopia, but there will be a second utopia, not made by human hands, and Death will have nothing left to say when that times comes.

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”2

In the end, there is hope, not despair, and as a writer of fiction, I recognize that a well-told story holds the ability to plant ideas. And as the old saying goes, ideas have power.

There’s nothing more satisfying than readers engaging the stories I’ve crafted and hearing how the ideas work powerfully within them. And so I’m pleased to share this excerpt from chapter 8 of Breeder with readers of the Christ and Pop Culture Magazine. Enjoy!


 Excerpt from Breeder by K. B. Hoyle

I careen around the corner of the first branching, Pax’s words echoing in my brain. Why would they kill me? They wouldn’t kill me. I’m a Breeder!

Pax is running behind me, his slapping footsteps urging me forward. I can’t think like this. I have to stop.

I plant my feet and skid to a halt. Pax lets out an exhalation of surprise as he slams into me. I stumble forward, but years of dance and exercise pay off as I nimbly stay on my feet and swing around to face him. “Tell me what’s going on,” I say. “Why did you say they were going to kill me?”

“Because they were. I’ve been tailing them all day, and I heard their orders come through clear as day. ‘Terminate B-Seventeen. She’s asking too many questions.’ I followed them when they came back with you. I just saved your life.”

I ask too many questions? I know curiosity is frowned upon, but would they really kill me for it? This doesn’t make sense. “Who gave the order?” I ask in a whisper, narrowing my eyes.

“Who do you think?”

Mother. I close my eyes. “No. She wouldn’t. I don’t believe you.”

“She did.”

I think of the conversation I just had with her. Of her cool assessment of the death of the girl. Of her assurances of our place in the animal kingdom. But Mother loves me! Doesn’t she? I clench my jaw and hold back tears, giving Pax a blazing look. Why must he plant these doubts?

“If she wants me dead,” I say, “why hasn’t she given the order before now?”

“Because they hoped they could get you under control. Breeders are valuable commodities, after all—difficult to replace. But now . . .” He shakes his head, and I could almost scream with the frustration of not being able to read his expression.

“Now?”

“Now you know what they are capable of.” He lowers his head and his voice. “Your response was exactly what they were looking for, exactly what they can’t allow.”

“What . . . with the girl?” I swallow hard, trying to push the images away. I close my eyes. “They didn’t have anything to do with that. As Mother said, it was already too late.”

Pax steps closer, his visor hovering just in front of my face. “But would she have done anything about it, even if she could have?” he whispers.

I study his visor, my stomach sinking because I know the answer. “No,” I say.

He steps back and holds out his hand to me. “Then why are you still here? You know in your heart it’s wrong, and that’s what separates you from the others.”

“But I don’t get it. This is a place of life.”

“It is a place of death, and you’ll never know the truth if you don’t come with me now.”

I ball my fists and look away, becoming slowly aware of a muffled pounding that can be coming only from the Protectors locked in the meditation chamber down the hall.

Pax gives an exasperated sigh and asks, “Do you need proof?” He reaches toward my head and I flinch, thinking he’s going to strike me, but instead he grabs a tablet from a slot beside the door I’m leaning against. He keys it on and taps in something that makes it come to life. I don’t have time to wonder how he knows the access codes before he turns the screen toward me and points to a line of glowing green script. “There. Read it for yourself.”

I look at it for only a moment. “I can’t read,” I say.

For the first time, Pax falters. He tilts his head in a jerky motion, clearly surprised, and says, “What?”

The pounding at the end of the hall grows louder, and I can now hear muffled voices. Pax looks over his shoulder. “Fine, here . . .” He taps rapidly, and then says, “Computer, play back last transmission, volume low.”

As clear as day, Mother’s automated voice comes through the tablet. “Terminate B-Seventeen. She’s asking too many questions.”

My breath leaves me in a rush, and I slump against the door at my back. “It . . . can’t . . .” I press my hands to my mouth and take deep, bracing breaths. I will not cry. I will not cry.

Pax replaces the tablet in its holder and says in a low voice, “Do you believe me now?”

I nod. How could I not? “But I don’t want to leave Sanctuary,” I whisper, my voice hitching. “It’s my home.”

“You must leave,” he says.

I shake my head, terror like I’ve never known coursing through me, seizing me and making me clench my chattering teeth.

Pax’s tone drops another notch as he asks, “Don’t you want to be free? Let me save you. Please, Pria.”

My eyes fly wide and I look at him, my heart slamming in my chest. “How do you know that name? Did I tell it to you?”

“I know a lot more than that, but you’ll never know how if you don’t come with me.” He holds out his hand again. “The Program got one thing right—you are very special. Too special to die. Please.”

Slowly, as though my arm weighs fifty pounds, I reach for his outstretched hand. When our fingers touch, he envelops my hand and squeezes it. This touch, this single touch, even though he’s wearing a glove and I cannot feel his skin, is treason to the Unified World Order because I did it on purpose. I am a Breeder, physically set apart for the propagation of a more perfect human race. Touching a man is forbidden to me by law. But until now, I’d never had the opportunity.

Holding his hand marks the end of my life, but somehow, it feels like the beginning.3


Illustration courtesy of Cameron Morgan. Check out his portfolio at Krop Portfolio.

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  1. Genesis 3:1b–5. New International Version. 1984 edition.
  2. 1 Corinthians 15:54–55. New International Version. 1984 edition.
  3. Hoyle, K. B. (2014). Breeder. Waxahachie, Texas: The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House.

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