History and Technology Inspire Jay Allan's Latest Series, Flames of Rebellion

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Jay Allan begins an exciting new Science Fiction series with Flames of Rebellion (Harper Voyager, Mar.), a new novel that takes readers across the galaxy for unimaginable adventure. Borrowing from history, this novel shows a group of rebels fighting for independence from their parent planet — Earth. Having been separated for so long, the rebels are not going to bow down easily. At least, not without a fight. Below, Jay tells us more about how technology and history inspired his series. 
 
I love my technology.  I’m old enough to remember when you had to be home when a television show was broadcast if you wanted to watch it, when an answering machine the size of a cinder block next to your home phone was a nifty device.  I even seem to recall a desktop calculator my father bought in the mid-70s for $300.  So, I can absolutely appreciate what modern devices have added to our lives.  But there is more to technology than entertainment, convenience and productivity enhancement.  There is danger as well, a threat to liberty that can be insidious, one that many people don’t even recognize as it grows all around them.
 
Buy an EZ Pass for your car?  Somebody knows everywhere you’re going in a way they never could have when you just tossed a few quarters in the basket.  Buy things with your credit/debit card, or with anything other than a stack of cash?  Your purchases are being tracked, most likely so someone can try to sell you similar items in the future, though certainly this data can be used for other, more disturbing purposes.
 
For the population at large, technology is often a great thing.  Usually, even.  But there’s a grimmer side too, especially for those of us whose imaginations tend toward the dark, like science fiction authors … or at least those like myself, who often deal in oppressive and foreboding futures.
 
For those who want to craft tales of despotic regimes and abused, downtrodden would-be heroes, the death of privacy is a godsend.  Orwell’s diabolical telescreens have been surpassed by a hundred new ways to keep track of oppressed populations.  Dystopian futures practically write themselves, and the ease with which technology can be used to watch and control subject populations is enough to send someone like me running to my keyboard … or to wake up in the middle of the night screaming.
 
It doesn’t take much imagination to see technology being implemented in more and more ways that threaten freedom.  Indeed, this can happen with the knowledge, and even the approval, of a majority of the population.  One can easily imagine the promotion of initiatives for such things as the implantation of trackable microchips in every citizen.  It will monitor your health status 24/7.  It will facilitate getting you emergency services when you need them.  It will save lives!  It shouldn’t be a concern to anyone unless, of course, they are committing crimes.  I can hear all of that now, as if the talking heads on my TV were launching into it this very moment.
 
Still, for the many possibilities all of this offers to create believable scenarios of totalitarianism and the death of freedom, a story is not crafted by the problem alone.  We need a solution, or at the very least a reasonable attempt at one.  We must have our heroes, and with varying degrees of hope and success, depending on the grimness of the narrative in question, these heroes must strive against the oppression.  They must fight the forces that would enslave them and, usually at least, they must prevail.  The problem with this is a simple one, and yet difficult to address.  In a future where every move is tracked, where communications are spied upon, where the enforcers have high tech weapons and our potential rebels are tracked and disarmed, how can revolutionaries hope to succeed?
 
This is something I considered when I was planning my new Flames of Rebellion series.  I wanted to tell the story of a future revolution, one set on the edge of the new frontier in space.  My first thoughts were simply to create a parallel to historical rebellions, borrowing, for example, from the remote location of the American colonies prior to their revolution, and the ways in which that made successful resistance possible.  I planned to explore such factors as the expense and difficulty of supporting military forces across lightyears of space, for example. That is still part of the essence behind the story.  But as I delved deeper into the project, I also began to realize there was more to the story.  In a dark future ruled by an oppressive state, it is most likely in such isolated places that freedom’s last gasps would occur, where a small and remote society might have a final chance to preserve liberty’s dying embers.
 
Technologically-driven totalitarianism requires infrastructure, the kind that wouldn’t exist on a newly-colonized world, one where such things as energy production and the cultivation of food would be initial priorities.  Such worlds would probably attract a cross-section of the population most likely to resist statist control, either because these people are more likely to embrace the chance to build a new society … or simply because the malcontents are the ones the government would ship offworld.
 
How would these colonists react when they were removed from an environment of total surveillance?  How would they transition to a frontier-style existence?  Imagine an individual, accustomed to his or her every move, every conversation, being tracked and monitored, now alone, in a farmhouse on a remote planet, devoid of cameras and scanning devices.  What thoughts would pass through their minds?  What kind of culture would they begin to develop?
 
This is where I ended up with Flames of Rebellion, exploring the kind of society that would grow in such a place, even as a second generation comes of age, men and women who, unlike their parents, had never endured the oppressive nature of life on Earth.  How would these colonists react when, as the new planet develops, the home government seeks to impose more and more restrictions, to take greater control over the growing, and now valuable, colony?
 
Ultimately, I ended up with a narrative about real people, rediscovering liberty and deciding it was something worth fighting to preserve.  I like to think that’s a relevant story in any time and place.
 
— Jay Allan
 
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