Post-apocalyptic stories continue to be all the rage, and even though I certainly don’t want to live in a future in which indoor plumbing and hot coffee are questionable commodities, I do enjoy reading about them.
As part of MacTeen’s Visions of the Future Blog Tour, author Carrie Ryan stopped by our lockers to tell us about her particular vision of the future.
The Post-Apocalyptic World of The Forest of Hands and Teeth
by Carrie Ryan
Zombies should be such an easy monster to kill. They’re slow, uncoordinated, and have no mental capabilities—they can’t use weapons or formulate plans. We can outrun them and we can out-think them and yet even so, we can’t escape them. Where we need to stop and rest, they will keep coming. Where we find refuge behind walls, they will press onward, their force as unceasing and destructive as a river current.
That’s the true horror of zombies: finding temporary safety is easy. Finding long term safety is nearly impossible. And yet so many of the stories I’d read and watched only dealt with the short term survival of the zombie apocalypse—the heart pounding race to the local mall or skyscraper or farmhouse, and perhaps even the daring, dangerous escape to the country or an island.
But what about after that? What happens when the Walmart is out of canned goods and bullets? What happens when the mass of zombies presses so long against the walls of a building that they crumble and collapse under the strain? What happens when it becomes clear that there is no rescue? No military to beat back the zombie hordes, no chance of ever returning to the way life was before?
I remember walking out of the theater after watching my first zombie movie (the Dawn of the Dead remake) with that euphoric sense of “Yay! Humanity survives!” Only to then realize how wrong I was. These characters still lived in a world full of zombies. Any safety they may have found was temporary—the “happy ending” (such as it was) was false.
It made me wonder what it would be like to grow up in a world full of zombies—where the existence of zombies wasn’t only your own reality, but the reality of your parents and grandparents. To me, this distinction was the difference between the apocalyptic stories of “let me just survive this moment, then I can get on with my regular life,” and the post-post apocalyptic stories of “this is my new life, how do I survive it?”
I’ve always been fascinated by the ability of people to survive even the most horrendous of circumstances. If you think about the history of humanity, we’ve faced challenges of enormous proportions—plagues, wars, natural disasters, genocides, famines—and we’ve not just survived, we’ve found ways to love, have families, dream, and hope. This is what amazes me: that even in the darkest, most horrendous situations, the strength of the human spirit endures. The strength of love endures. Surviving a zombie apocalypse isn’t about putting your life on hold until you can resume life the way it was before, it’s about finding a way to live your life in the new, changed, circumstances.
In The Forest of Hands and Teeth, my main character, Mary, grows up 150 years after the zombie apocalypse and is told that her village contains the last survivors on earth. Her job is to grow up and have children so they can grow up and have children thus keeping humanity alive. In short, Mary’s job is to continue existing. But one day she looks past the fences and into the forest full of zombies and realizes that they are nothing but existence themselves: they have no thoughts, no dreams, no love, no feelings—they simply occupy space.
It makes her question the very purpose of life. If it is merely to exist, what differentiates her from a zombie? Why fight so hard to survive if there is no meaning in that survival?
Ultimately, I wrote The Forest of Hands and Teeth because I think this is a question we all ask ourselves at various points in our lives: why do we exist? What is our purpose in life? Why do we struggle through the heartache and disappointment unless it is in celebration of love and friendship and family and joy and dreams and hope?
Our goal should not be to merely exist, to go through life as a zombie, but to actually live. The world may crumble around us, but that doesn’t change what really matters: love, friendship, family, hope, and most of all, dreams.
Carrie Ryan is the New York Times bestselling author of the Forest of Hands and Teeth series and Infinity Ring: Divide and Conquer as well as the editor of Foretold: 14 Tales of Prophecy and Prediction. Currently she’s working on The Map to Everywhere, a four-book middle grade series co-written with her husband, JP Davis, the first book of which will be out from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in November 2014, and a romantic thriller which will be released by Penguin Random House in 2015. Her books have sold in over 22 territories, and her first book is in development as a major motion picture. A former litigator, Carrie now lives in Charlotte, NC with her husband, two cats, and dog. You can find her online at www.CarrieRyan.com or on Twitter at @CarrieRyan.
Thanks for stopping by, Carrie!
Check out the rest of the stops on the tour:
Monday, Sept. 8 | Andrew Smith at Cuddlebuggery
Tuesday, Sept. 9 | Caragh O’Brien at Finding Wonderland
Wednesday, Sept. 10 | Farel Dalrymple at The Book Wars
Thursday, Sept. 11 | Emmy Laybourne at Green Bean Teen Queen
Friday, Sept. 12 | Carrie Ryan at Forever Young Adult (You are here!)