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When Escapism Becomes Reflection 

There is a lot in this world to be angry about.

That’s why I’ve always found the most solace in fantasy—in escaping this world and its problems that make me feel helpless in order to dive into a wholly new world and its problems. Because those problems are fixable, to some extent, whether through magic or tenacious characters. It may be fiction, but it’s still hopeful in the way I’d like to remain hopeful in this world.

When I wrote Scavenge the Stars, I knew off the bat that my main character, Amaya, was a girl who was angry at the world she was in. She was taken from her home, from her parents, by a system that penalizes the poor and rewards the rich. She was a victim who lost everything by those seeking to profit off of that loss. She is also the main character in a story inspired by The Count of Monte Cristo, so naturally, all of this hurt and hatred condensed into one motivation: revenge.

When you have nothing left, it’s easy to look at someone who’s hurt you and think, I’d like for you to hurt too. Amaya grew up in a world that hurt her, and she wanted to hurt it back. But here came the snag, the thing that threw my story into a new territory beyond the familiar beats of Monte Cristo: there was a plague. At the time of writing Scavengeand it’s sequel, I had no idea that within a year+ time we would be dealing with our own sort of plague, and that it would make me feel as helpless and scared and angry as my characters.

In the end, it’s discovered that the people in power who ruined Amaya’s life are also behind this sickness. Her revenge is put on hold because she realizes she’s not the only person who was wronged, not the only person who lost something because of the greed of others. Her revenge and her anger instead become the questions “how can I stop this” and “how can I save others from losing like I have lost.”

It’s with this mindset I wrote Ravage the Dark, a sequel that quietly weeds out the Monte Cristo trimmings and instead focuses a lot more on Amaya’s world and how she interacts with it. While she lives in a secondary world that is not ours, I borrowed some things that make ours difficult—largely, class inequality and the fact that wealth is only held by a select few. And, unfortunately, a lot of what I wrote in regards to the treatment of this disease bore similarities to what we’re still seeing today.

But it was fantasy. I could do whatever I wanted with it, make the world exactly to my specifications. I never want to write secondary worlds that reflect our own too much—I prefer writing worlds that have no such thing as racism, sexism, ableism, or homophobia. This is very much true in the Scavenge duology, where Amaya creates a found family with characters of different races, genders, and sexualities. She’s angry, yes; she’s scared, yes; but she’s surrounded by her community, and together they can take on anything.

This world we live in makes me angry. The world Amaya lives in makes her angry, too. But the both of us have found an answer: to find your people and help them, love them, respect them. It’s not about getting revenge—it’s about what we can do to prevent this from happening to anyone else.