(We’re in for another round of Variant Bonus Features! I’m blogging about three chapters every Monday, Wednesday and Friday until Feedback is released, October 2nd. These blogs will be FULL OF SPOILERS, but they’ll only spoil Variant—they won’t ruin any of your fun in reading Feedback.) THESE BONUS FEATURES ARE WRITTEN ASSUMING YOU’VE READ THE ENTIRE BOOK, NOT JUST THE CHAPTERS MENTIONED. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.
–While Havoc has a fairly predictable origin (they’re mostly interested in enjoying themselves, and are a combination of a gang and a frat), The Society has a deeper side to it. It was based on two organizations, the first being the Straight Edge gang, which was prominent back when I was in high school. Straight Edgers, to quote Wikipedia, “is a subculture of hardcore punk whose adherents refrain from using alcohol, tobacco, and other recreational drugs. It was a direct reaction to the sexual revolution, hedonism, and excess associated with punk rock. For some, this extends to not engaging in promiscuous sex, following a vegetarian or vegan diet, and not using caffeine or prescription drugs… Militant straight edge punks…displayed outward pride, outspokenness, and showed a willingness to resort to violence in order to promote their sub-culture.”
When I was a junior in high school, some Straight Edge kids in my hometown beat a kid to death because he was smoking marijuana. Since I was in high school, this had a big personal impact on me, and it really made me wonder what would cause a group to commit acts of violence to enforce morality.
The Society was also heavily influenced by the book (and film and experiment) The Third Wave. As crazy as this sounds, this is a true story. (I’ve put it in bullet points to keep it short:)
- 1. In 1967, a high school history teacher in Palo Alto, California, wanted to show his students how normal, everyday German people got wrapped up in Nazism and the Holocaust. Rather than explain, he decided to try an experiment.
- 2. On the first day of the experiment, he required that students in his classroom do things like practice moving to their seats without making a sound. He instituted a few new rules, like making students sit at attention, making them stand up to speak, etc. The second day he taught them some mythology about The Third Wave (stating that every third wave was the biggest), and he taught them to salute each other in and out of class.
- 3. Things took off from there, with people joining this class organization (on the third day 43 students showed up to class, when only 30 were enrolled.) Jones taught the students how new kids should be initiated, and by the end of the day 200 were part of The Third Wave.
- 4. Things went crazy. Students began to report the misconduct of others to Jones, and there were reports of violence against students who weren’t members. He decided to put a stop to it, and told the students that a rally would be held announcing a national leader of The Third Wave. When everyone showed up, he showed them a staticky screen, and then lectured them about fascism.
- 5. He got fired.
Anyway, I remember watching the documentary about this back in high school, and was once again amazed at how quickly a social group can form into a violent, militant organization. Both of these–The Third Wave and the Straight Edgers–played a huge part in the development of The Society.
–Mouse was originally named Granny. I still kinda like it.
–Originally, Iceman was called The Crying Man, and instead of laying out stern punishments to students he would plead with them to follow the rules, trying to play on their morality rather than their fear. That disappeared pretty early in the process when I was trying to give the school more teeth.
–Although the school is described as being old and like a museum, the floorplan was that of my high school (with the minor adjustment of adding dorms to the fourth floor). So think of the layout of West High School (above), combined with the look and feel of Canada’s Royal Roads Academy. (below). That’s how I picture Maxfield.
–I love Jane. She has a mix of playful, fun-loving sass and a deep loneliness and vulnerability that lies just beneath the surface. It’s no coincidence that she and Lily are such close friends (Lily also has that loneliness and vulnerability–she just turns it into anger).
–The decadence of the school–the gorgeous building, the cutting-edge TVs, the great food in the cafeteria, earning points for video games and clothes, parties, dances–are all part of Maxfield’s plan to control students. While I certainly don’t mean to trivialize Battered Woman Syndrome, it was on my mind while I was developing the school’s punishment/reward system. Read this description from Wikipedia:
“First, tension builds in the relationship. Second, the abusive partner releases tension via violence while blaming the victim for having caused the violence. Third, the violent partner makes gestures of contrition. The repetition of the violence despite the abuser’s attempts to “make nice” results in the abused partner feeling at fault for not preventing a repeat cycle of violence.”
At Maxfield, the students are constantly under an extremely strict list of rules, and punishment can be as harsh as starving students while they perform hard labor (as in Carrie and Curtis’s case). But then the school provides an abundance of “gestures of contrition”, as they give the students what would be a very healthy and fulfilling lifestyle (if not for lack of freedom).
–Lily uses the phrase “as fake as Mouse’s boobs”. As we come out to find later: yes, they are.
–The idea to knock down a tree by standing at the top and rocking it came from, of course, Boy Scout camp. While scouts are suppposedly all about wilderness conservation and being kind to Mother Earth, my troop went through a phase where we were all about knocking down trees. It was against the unwritten rules to knock them down with an axe or a saw: the trees were almost always forced to break through rocking. One spectacular tree–a hundred feet tall and dry as a bone–was brought down by a single guy, rocking it with his feet.
When I write action scenes, I don’t plan a lot of it out–I just put the characters in the situation and figure out what they’d do. That was the case here: I got Benson to the wall, needed a route over it, and fell back on my destructive Scouting days.
(It should go without saying: I no longer condone knocking down trees for the fun of it.)
The Full List of Bonus Features: