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Sci-Fi, Survival and Sachsenhausen

It seems that the experiences of my three months away still bubble and boil inside my subconscious. The whole point of the trip (as I may have said earlier) was to provide a base for plotting out Descent: Diaspora, the second volume in my upcoming trilogy, to give me a real feel and appreciation for the refugee mindset (among other things). The survivors at the end of Descent: Death, the first volume in my forthcoming trilogy, are few in number and it is their stories that fold over into Descent: Diaspora. So, as they say out there, you've gotta live it to write it, so I did - I thought.

In the broadest possible terms, the people I met in my three months were familiar. Clothe them differently, change the accents and situation, and they turn into the people next door, workmates, friends, the people you meet in the supermarket. Yes, their backgrounds and experiences are radically different, but dig deeper and it's the similarities that shine through. And that's where my mind has taken me now.

There's a large portion of people who fear for their lives among those I met, but what surprised me was the number of them looking simply for a place and opportunity to make their way better in the world, what some call 'economic refugees'. I make no judgement on any of them, I can understand the desire to provide for family, to wrench your way out of whatever hole life has thrown you in by any means possible. I'm the son of a migrant, of parents who faced the same empty future for themselves and their children, the only difference between us being the size of the boat traveled in and a piece of paper obtained before, not after, arrival. But I digress.

Surprisingly (or not so, depending on your viewpoint), I found hardly anyone I talked to who hated their country of origin. Despair about the state it was in, of course; anger and frustration with those in power, absolutely; and fear over crime or war or oppression stalking their homeland, always. People I talked with were sad by having to leave their countries and, if it were at all possible, if things were better (however that was defined) would have rather stayed than left; and hoped, one day, to return again to at least visit. This was coupled with optimism about their desired destination that, usually, was alive to the problems they would face there. So, in a real sense, there were ties forward, ties behind, and a sense of place and (perhaps, or hopefully) belonging that would otherwise exist.

And that's where the trouble started.

As my subconscious tells me, at the end of Descent: Death there is no place for my survivors to return to; and at some point in Descent: Diaspora (hey, have to keep some sense of suspense, don't I) what little future hope may have been given to them is torn away. So whatever similarities, however superficial, my characters have with the refugees I encountered, they soon find themselves thrust even lower; no hope forward, nothing behind.

So, where to get that extra meter or two to bridge the gap? Sachsenhausen. A concentration camp where the past is gone, the future a gas chamber away, and today only pain and hunger. Perfect. I find myself going back through a few memoirs of inmates who survived, and at present it's one by Odd Nansen, a Norwegian prisoner. It's a chilling tale, even from someone who readily admits that, as far as inmates went, he as a Norwegian was relatively well treated (by this he means only beaten up every few days, only half starved, being not quite worked to death, and only having a roughly 1 in 5 chance of being gassed), but it is the tone of the memoir as time progresses and the matter of fact description of the plight of those around him that grips me. But even so, even in the depths of Sachsenhausen, even those being marched away to die still found some hope, some faint possibility that the war would end and they'd be saved, or they were being sent to forced labor, not death, or that by some miracle they'd find their way out.

Not so in Descent: Diaspora. The future is dark, black, and unforgiving; the past an impenetrable curtain.

So now, my subconscious, do your work; take me to a place darker than Sachsenhausen (where I can somehow combine Sci-Fi, Survival, and Sachsenhausen) and let my imagination drive my story.

Stay tuned.

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