Mundie Moms

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Guest Post by The Lens & the Looker author Lory Kaufman

I’ve been asked to write about where the idea for the History Camps in my new novel, The Lens and the Looker, came from. It’s been extremely gratifying to have people tell me that they really like the concept. Here’s what’s called the story’s elevator pitch. That’s a really short description of the whole book, like if you met a big book publisher on an elevator and you only had the length of the ride to get his interest.

“It’s the 24th century and humans, with the help of artificial intelligences, or A.I.s, have finally invented the perfect society. To make equally perfect citizens for this world, the elders have created History Camps, full-sized recreations of cities from Earth’s distant pasts. Here teens live the way their ancestors did, doing the same dirty jobs and experiencing the same degradations. History Camps teach youths not to repeat the mistakes that almost caused the planet to die. But not everything goes to plan.

The Lens and the Looker is about three spoiled teens from the 24th century who are kidnapped and taken back in time to 1347 Verona, Italy and abandoned. Now they only have two choices; adapt to the harsh medieval ways or die.”

As to where the ideas for these flights of imagination came from, I’ve had to give it a lot of thought. It’s like my mother always said about me, “He’s got a good memory, but sometimes he forgets.” Then again, I guess I can be forgiven, for several reasons.

One is that – I’m really old! It’s taken me to the age of 60 to have this first book published, but I wrote down the first ideas for History Camps away back in 1989. I mean, I have a hard time remembering what happened yesterday. But, seriously, an idea is usually the culmination of many experiences in a person’s life, some going back to childhood. Having to think about where this History Camp idea came from is actually a fascinating exercise in navel gazing. So, let’s take a look at all the pieces of lint stuck in my “innie” and see what we’ve got.

Let’s start by me remembering where my love of dystopian literature came from. In high school, back in the 1960s, there were certain books we all had to read. I’m sure they’re still on most school's curriculum. There was George Orwell’s 1984, John Wyndam’s The Crysalids, Aldous Huxley’s, and my favorite, the one that made me want to be a writer, William Golding, The Lord of the Flies.

That was over forty years ago. Whew!

Then I went through my Star Trek stage, where it was implied that, by the 24th century, the world would be a place of peace. There would also be no hunger, disease and every individual could improve themselves to their greatest potential, if they chose to.

I believe another important influence that fed the History Camp idea was my deep involvement, as an adult, with the Green political party all across North America. On the intellectual side, I studied deep ecology, world population, political movements and many other themes. On the practical side, with my business background, I started a company that catered to Green Party candidates and provided them with election supplies easily. In Canada, my work put Green Party election signs in every political riding across the country. This helped the Greens go from getting just over 50,000 votes, country wide in 1997, to over 1,000,000 votes in 2008. In the USA, I have the infamous distinction of having sold 3,200 Ralph Nader election signs into Florida in 2000, which probably gave Mr. Nader and extra 25,000 votes. This was enough to give the political right the opportunity, some say, to steal the election. That was a lesson to me (and it shows in my writing) that one person really can make a difference, but sometimes it turns around and kicks who’s ever around in the butt!

And then there’s one last thing, a last piece of the puzzle, a phrase that floated around in my mush melon for years. It’s a quote by Edmund Burke that goes; “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

So, just before I starting the first History Camp scribbles, I vaguely remember thinking, “What if there was a benevolent world body whose job it was to teach the next generation what our ancestors went through for thousands of years? How could they impart that knowledge? In what form would these lessons take place? I waited for my brain to answer. Nothing! Nada. There was silence from within. But I’ve always found the best way to come up with a solution to a problem is to tell my brain what I wanted it to accomplish and then get on with other things. The solution would be worked on by all the gremlins rummaging around in my subconscious.

It was a warm summer’s day in my hometown of Kingston, Ontario. I was taking some out-of-town visitors to the premier local tourist attractions, Old Fort Henry. It’s a huge, limestone fort built on the northern shore of Lake Ontario, at the confluence of the St. Lawrence and Cataraqui Rivers, built some forty years after the war of 1812, to discourage the Americans from invading British North America again. I was walking around, watching all the summer students in their 19th century costumes. They were talking to the visitors about how things were away back when.

And then it struck me. That creative bump, no a bang. It was that brain rush that all writer’s wait for, like a drug addict getting their hit. My subconscious had put it all together and it came to me with clarity. Instead of a “touristy historical theme park”, where people played at being someone from the past, how about if, in the future, society would built whole cities, identical to those from different eras, and young people would go there, not for a fun outing, but to live there to gain a true appreciation of the benefits of modernity? I liked it. But then I thought, books have to be an exciting story, with conflict. In a perfected world, can there be conflict? I smiled as that answer came to me immediately. My subconscious had done a good job. What was the inspiration that came to me, you ask? Sorry. You’ll have to read the book to find out.


If you liked the older titles I’ve mentioned, you should like The Lens and the Looker. As for recent comparables, there’s The Hunger Game series, Unwind, The Giver, Feed, Uglies and The Adoration of Jeanna Fox. You can find out more about The Lens and the Looker and the History Camp series by visiting the History Camp site. You can also “like” the History Camp Facebook page.

No comments:

Post a Comment