Maggie Spence released her dystopian thriller The Johnson Project to great controversy. A take on the ‘sterile society’ genre that saw such success with books like Children of Men and The Handmaid’s Tale, it seems eveyone had an opinion on The Johnson Project. Maggie was kind enough to answer a few questions about her writing.
What writers influenced your work, or you enjoy ?
Stephen King has been my role model since childhood. I don’t write horror or supernatural but I love to read it. I try to emulate his style of writing which flows so beautifully that it’s like listening to a person speak. I will never come close to his success or talent but I keep trying to learn from it.
How did you come up for the idea of your dystopian world? Why did you decide to write about this? — In The Johnson Project, I’d been thinking about it for years. We’ve all thought it. I think about it every time I read about an abused or neglected child. I consider the little victim’s parents and wonder why there’s not some kind of screening to insure responsible reproduction. In my head I’m screaming, “How in the hell were these morons allowed to procreate?” But there are no laws to prevent anyone from having a baby. Such a drastic measure would be counter to every value we hold dear but still… drug addicts are having babies. Teenagers are having babies. Abusive, unstable and horrible people are having babies every single day. We find out about it when the child is found dead, hospitalized or eventually imprisoned. We see homeless kids, hungry kids, sick kids in a foster care system that can’t begin to handle the load. Still, our freedoms are sacrosanct. None of us want to live in a world where a government agency dictates who is qualified to raise a child. But we sure do think about it.
It’s darn easy to get pregnant. Half the pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned. Half! So in my head I’m thinking maybe that’s the problem. How many pregnancies would there be if people had to make the decision in the light of day, through an IVF procedure that took all emotion out of conception? Hmmm, you would decrease the population, you’d eliminate teenagers and drug addicts. You would have both mother and father involved in the decision. Wow, every child would be wanted. What would that world look like?
So that’s how The Johnson Project was conceived. (See what I did there?) It’s a novel about a Zika-like plague that renders all women on earth sterile. Just when everyone thinks that the human race is doomed for extinction, a fertility specialist named Ted Johnson finds the cure but makes the tough decision to offer the procedure only to those couples who are prepared to raise a child. The whole world begs to differ but Ted Johnson and his family seem to have the upper hand and will control reproduction the way they see Utopia. They initially open their center to Americans and Canadians because the vetting process is thorough and they need time before branching out to other continents. The Johnsons take a good hard look at how other countries treat their women and children and don’t like what they see. Here’s their chance, now with leverage, the Johnsons have the power to insist on human rights for everyone. Everyone. Or the offending country will die out. Simple as that.
What did you do before you took up writing? — I was a mom for about twenty years and found inspiration and great story lines listening to my kids. They’re young adults now which gives me a bit more time to write.
Did you read much scifi/fantasy as a kid? — No! That’s what is crazy about my choice for The Johnson Project. I was addicted to The Twilight Zone and, of course, saw every Star Wars movie. But reading it, not so much.
There has been a lot of new and very popular sci-fi released over the last few years. Are we seeing a renaissance in the genre? Is this being driven by services such as Kindle Direct publishing? — I hope so! The topics are expanding and modern medicine and space exploration has given the genre a boost. KDP is a breath of fresh air and gives everyone the chance to tell their story.
My latest book is a murder mystery, a far cry from the Science Fiction and controversial The Johnson
What are you working on next? — My next story is still in my head but I know it will burst forth into my computer soon.