O is for…Oomans.

Yesterday’s N post saw a short piece in the A-Z blog challenge, delving into my WIP, Prophecy of Innocence. Always one to strike a balance, I have a feeling today’s is going to go on a bit. Brace yourselves.

So  O is for ‘Oomans’. What on earth are you blabbering on about now Joanne? What’s ‘Oomans’.  Well Oomans are the antagonists of Book 1. Although my main character does have a more personal antagonist in the final quarter of Book 1 and into Book 2, in Book 1 it is actually the human race (Oomans as they are known to the elflings) who are the main antagonists. This proved a massive problem for me when writing a synopsis because the Oomans are a faceless enemy with no one character taking that traditional role of antagonist.

So firstly let me tackle the word Ooman. Well, the word was kind of stolen from an old friend of mine who would often refer to everyone else as ‘humans’ casting himself almost as an alien being, separate to us mortals. Not that he saw himself as higher or anything like that, just that humans are an oddity who I think he always wanted to distance himself from, and I can’t say I blame him. When he said the word humans in this context, I don’t know if he did drop the h, but I always imagined he did! Sometimes when he wrote humans I am sure I recall the oo spelling at some point. This must have been the case because I know I stole it from him, but my memory is going to pot so I can’t remember exactly why I wrote it this way. In Prophecy the elflings call humans ‘Oomans’ quite simply because they overhear a conversation spoken in a broad Manchester accent and the h is dropped by the human who is speaking.

So why have humans as the main antagonists at all?

Well, this is the whole premise of the story.

I should start by saying I am not a fan of the human race. (That’s not to say there aren’t many wonderful facets to humanity, I wouldn’t debate it for a moment.) However, human beings as a species I cannot grasp. I don’t like us if I’m honest. I don’t like our arrogance. I don’t like our assumption that what we deem progress is actually in most cases not progress. In Prophecy Of Innocence the elflings represent the lost innocence of the human race and the Oomans of the Industrial revolution represent, I suppose, our very worst aspects: Our greed, our selfishness and our blind-sightedness. Don’t misunderstand me, the novel is not (at least I hope it’s not) preachy. It is a theme which runs through the books but one which is always told through the eyes of the elflings and through innocence. However I am preachy at times and this is my blog and I am attempting to explain the thoughts behind my WIP so I will expand on a couple of thoughts. (These are completely random and not particularly eloqently or logically joined so apologies and please don’t judge my writing ability on what follows!)

Today I visited a place which had many exhibits about green issues. (global warming, recycling, energy usage etc..) Aside from learning that my 13 year old petrol fueled car is the least green way to get about thus guilt tripping me into thinking really I should get something else, it was this board which  scared me the most .

It shows how many people are currently on our planet and the counter continues adding as you watch, dumbstruck, with the rate of what seemed to be a new person every second (The photo does not capture this obviously!) As other boards nearby pointed out: The world’s population growth is not sustainable. We cannot keep plundering the planet as we are but the more people we have, the more we use and the worse the problem gets. Worryingly, we know all this but of course we are too arrogant to do anything really truly, properly sustainable about it. And as I walked around this very busy country park today I saw so many children in one place, in one tiny corner of the earth, I felt quite sick with worry for the world. If I thought for one moment the children I was looking at will grow up to save us from ourselves I’d have breathed more easily. Sadly, although Prophecy of Innocence dares to hope at this the reality, I fear, is not as my fiction would have it.

We all want to live in bigger houses we don’t really need. We think we need them because we think we need more space to store all the stuff we don’t need just so we can keep up with all the other people who have too much stuff they don’t need. Ironically if we didn’t have TVs or magazines, cars, ships or aeroplanes to travel more widely, we would be none the wiser that other people even had this stuff. We all want to be Lord or Lady of the manor, or in this day and age the latest celebrity, but forget we’re not. None of us are happy and content with our material lot and we could easily blame Madonna but really each one of us can only blame ourselves. We are not the victims of advertising, we are the the fuel.

I sometimes look at my weekly recycling bins in shame. I can’t believe two people (and one of those only really counts as half) create so much rubbish. It is obscene and I am by no means an over-indulgent person. My mind literally boggles when I think how much just one street produces and then one town or city. And I know, I know I’m just as guilty as the next westerner in buying conveniently packaged foods for example. I shouldn’t but I am just as arrogant as everyone else to justify it by telling myself: “it’s okay, the packaging can be recycled” or “someone else will sort this out in the future” or “I only do this little bit, there are people using far more than me”.  Poppycock. I need to do more and be the change I want to see.

Last night an agent from the World Wide Fund for nature knocked on my door, seeking donations. He was telling me about how they educate farmers to hang chilli peppers around their fields to stop elephants trampling and destroying the crops. Prior to education, farmers would shoot on site. Two thoughts: Third-world human farmers ignorant of the decline of elephants just trying to protect their land to keep themselves fed. Survival.  First-world arrogance that one human in one part of the world can tell another human in another part of the world how to live when we in First-world countries are doing more to destroy this planet then anyone in a Third-world country could hope to even dream of. (Before anyone jumps down my throat, I am not advocating the shooting of elephants, I’m simply trying to point out how stupid and paradoxical human nature is. What one human does to survive in their environment is seen as brutal and an act against the environment by another. The one trying to save the endangered elephant ironically probably gives less thought to the looming self destruction of his own species.)

So how do all these random musings tie into Prophecy? Well, whilst the Oomans are busy ripping up the landscape in the name of progress, the elflings are the innocent victims of the destruction. Much like animals and plant life are. By humanising the elflings somewhat  the purpose is to help us think that actually if we thought we were doing this to another human being would we?

Unfortunately, I sadly think the answer is yes because ultimately, when push comes to shove and the chips are down human beings look after number one first, followed by their tribe. That’s it. In this sense we are animals and we think only of our own INDIVIDUAL survival. The elephants in India don’t worry about the elephants in Africa. I know humans do show this humanity; we try and care for others in other countries but as I say we really, as much as we hate to admit it, only look out for a small proportion of our own species. Similarly we take what we can from the earth to do this. Our lives stretch a relatively short time span. We have no concern for the future. We won’t be here. We think the innocence of each generation will turn this around but all each generation does is ensure they bring up the next generation of consumers. Young children want more and more, not less and less. This is how they are educated. By us. They never have to wait for a TV programme to come on; it’s there 24/7. Food, toys and clothes are cheaper and more disposable than ever. How on earth will the next generation save this planet?

Prophecy Of Innocence is a story essentially which tries to give hope that this one day will happen and my pessimism will be proved wrong. Perhaps this is why I write it; I’m trying to give myself hope. I want us to know that despite ‘Oomans’ being the ones slowly destroying the planet, it is only ‘Oomans’ who can save it. But have we already gone too far? To quote my favourite line from Jurassic Park:

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

I think this is, in a nutshell, what I’m trying to say about the human race. Our progress has no longer become about survival of the species. We know how to survive. We just now think we need more than we do to survive. We are, when all is said and done, our worst enemy. And so for a story we seem the obvious choice of antagonist. 

And on that cheery note, we’ll be moving swiftly on to P tomorrow and the intricacies of writing prologues! Gulp!

 

7 Comments

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7 responses to “O is for…Oomans.

  1. Another terrific post, Joanne, and I’m glad to see that you are tackling such a critical issue in your story. One of my writing “mentors” (in quotes because he wasn’t somebody I ever met) was Gene Roddenberry of Star Trek fame, from whom I learned that a story always needs relevance running underneath, a topical examination of who we are, where we’ve come from and where we are going. Otherwise it’s just a lot of flash and nonsense.

    If I haven’t said it enough, I’ll say it again – I am REALLY looking forward to reading the finished product!

    • I’m glad no one gave me that advice before I otherwise I’d have panicked and probably not come up with anything like that. As it was organic it makes me happy to hear it’s the right thing. It’s also the thing the publishing editor liked. Now just for the execution to be right! So much pressure especially knowing someone actually wants to read it now!

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