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Dystopias, Productivity and Ableism: Author Interview with E.M. Carter

I've always thought that dystopian fiction is a fantastic mechanism for exploring social and economic issues within our own society. Perhaps that's why the genre has evolved so predominantly into the Young Adult space. That, as teenagers grow up, they can begin to think about issues wider than their own lives. This certainly feels an appropriate thought when it comes to a brand new release - Repression Ground by E.M. Carter.

As fellow dystopian authors, we got the chance to sit down and chat through her new novel, why she wrote it, alongside the themes of ableism and productivity.

What is the premise of the Repression Ground and why did you write it?

Repression Ground Dystopian Cover

Repression Ground is a dystopian thriller that follows the journey of 16-year old Girl C, who is waiting for her Productivity Ceremony where she will finally be assigned her own name. She has a whole wall of indoctrination to break down, having been brought up in a training centre, like all the kids in Newland, and a web of lies to uncover that could shatter her world and the whole nation. I’ve always loved dystopian books – from 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale through to The Hunger Games. I think dystopian books can be both powerful and speak truth to power, often amplifying injustices in our world today as they are imagined to extremes. I wrote it partly because as a disabled person I see unjust narratives playing out around me every day, and I wanted to bring these into the light in a new way.

The themes in Repression Ground aren't too far away from those in the Merit-Hunters Series, but how, would you say, are they different?

I was so taken by some similarities in our books, and love that we’ve both imagined a world where some of these things are happening. Your characters are hated if they are Unworthy, and mine if they are Unproductive (we’d never talked about all this beforehand, honest!) I think yours is a great exploration of how the world often views work today, and how work is seen as the most important thing – to the extent that to earn merit people find ways of skipping sleep, never eat ‘treat’ food etc. Mine also concentrates on strength and weakness and power structures in broken societies, especially in terms of those who are sick, elderly and disabled. I think they both give a great message about value and relationships and what really matters.

Can you explain a bit more about ableism and why you chose a dystopian setting to demonstrate the difficulties disabled people can face?

I think we sometimes need to represent the extremes of certain narratives in order to break down walls of prejudice. In the Covid pandemic, I observed – with great discomfort – those who were othering the weak’ and saying that it didn’t matter if they died – what mattered were the young and healthy. I imagined what this might look like as an entrenched narrative in a society that has moved far from where we are now, but not so far in other ways. I see ableism every day, on social media and the world around us, and wanted to speak this out in a new way. The main character has neuro diversities that her world doesn’t even recognize, let alone support – I wanted to bring representation to things like dyslexia and dyspraxia, which often don’t feature in young adult books.

What are your plans for these books and where can people buy them?

Repression Ground is the first in a trilogy. The other two, Rebellion Ground and Redemption Ground, will both be published in 2024. You can get it here on Amazon in ebook and paperback, and on other online bookstores including Blackwells.

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