At the age of 19, film student Gaelan Wort has crafted a dystopian epic and plans for it to be part of a trilogy. An avid science-fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction reader, Wort wrote The Nature Of Predation at 18. The story is centered around the failing fictional Aegis City, after the fall of the Old World. While the city’s leaders are leading Aegis City towards demise, an insurgency in the slum district rises up to usurp them. It explores human nature, and is themed around politics and philosophy. We sat down with Wort to speak about writing, and his new book.
You wrote The Nature of Predation at the age of 18. How does it feel to be a published author at such a young age?
It feels absolutely amazing, still somewhat surreal to be a registered author. It’s a marvellous feeling when the future comes to culmination. I’ve been attempting novels since I was in primary school but naturally, at that point in time, my maturity changed faster than I could write. I would be writing a story and then realise it was horribly immature halfway through and scrap it. I’ve always had a passion for writing, I loved short stories and writing assignments. But it was only upon reaching the cusp of adulthood that I could stay with a narrative without abandoning it halfway through.This is a passion and I’m hoping to prioritise this for the rest of my life.
Wow, so that means there are more books to come in the future. Do you plan to continue the series?
Yes. It’s not necessitous but I am planning, at the very least, two more books. I’ve plotted out the continued storyline. It will be a long-term endeavour, definitely.
You say you plotted out the storyline of the next two books. What’s your writing process like?
The conceptualisation of this first story came as a by-product in creating the whole narrative arc across the entire trilogy. The original idea came in the middle and I elaborated on it to create this origin phase to set things up for the further narrative arcs. Everything was set up — the entire timeline from beginning to end — before I started penning the first book.
When did you start plotting out this timeline? What inspired it?
It was early last year, I can’t remember the exact date. I’ve always been interested in writing and there were certain character dynamics that I’ve always been interested in and enjoyed. They were fleshed out in this exercise and all the other details were inspired by rock songs. The characters are the most important aspect in any narrative in my opinion but they’re almost necessary components for the plot dynamics that would happen between them.
Did you use any real-life societies to inspire Aegis City or any real-life socio-political conditions to describe your dystopia?
The naming conventions employed in Aegis City references Greek mythology quite a lot. Aside from the law aspect, Aegis City has some relations to ancient Greece. Ancient Greece was comprised of numerous small city-states and that echoes in the segregated districts in Aegis City. The Ruling Senate in my book is also a similar iteration that ancient Greece implemented, less of a ruling conglomerate than an individual hierarchy for each city-state but it had a similar political structure.
Regarding the political undercurrents in my story, that’s not the focus. I’m looking at humanity and emotion. But I suppose I did look at the broad-based conflict-theorem that modern society perpetuates with left versus right. I seek to vilify the intersection between ambition and politics no matter what specific ideology it embodies.
How interesting! Have you always been interested in ancient Greece and political philosophy?
I’ve always been interested, especially during the course of writing this book. I’m interested in all history really. Inbetween the next two books in the series I’m writing a gothic horror alternative history themed around the Habsburg’s seizing control of Transylvania in the late 17th century. There’s a lot of validity in any historically significant event because it’s a pendulum effect in my mind. Everything rises to one extreme then plummets to the next. In a way, The Nature of Predation emulates that theme in ancient Greece and this modern dystopian society after the fall of the Old World. It’s almost a cyclic paradigm. It’s a reset to zero and reconceptualisation of their societal origins.
Besides history and philosophy, what else do you read? What are some of your favourite books?
I’m a huge fan of Mark Lawrence, particularly his debut Prince of Thorns and the entire series thereafter. He inspired me to be a writer because he bucked so many conventions of the fantasy genre. I’m also a huge fan of Scott Lynch and his Gentleman Bastards series, it’s just overflowing with style.
For most of my life I’ve been reading science-fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction. I’m now looking more into the non-fiction world like Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus and such. But my favourite stories are those further from reality. High fiction gives you an unfiltered lens into the human condition, human interaction. We’re all social creatures and we define our lives by interactions with others. Fantasy and science-fiction helps facilitate safe extremes, well hopefully, without offending anyone. You can look at these vast differences in human perception and see how they relate and equate to each other. That’s the magic of stories: it’s this ritualistic exploration of the human condition.
You’re going to be speaking about your book and the science-fiction, fantasy genre in South Africa at Comic Con this year. No spoilers but what are your thoughts?
At the moment there’s still a limited output especially as far as outputs are concerned and representation for authors is difficult. There’s a trend towards cookbooks or political analysis to gain traction in the market. But if you look at the television that we stream, I go to a film arts university so i know that there’s an ecosystem in South Africa that revolves around these genres in all aspects of media. If our television screens are so attuned with these outputs then our bookshelves can be also.
What advice do you have for aspiring science-fiction and fantasy writers?
I struggle to break away from the generic advice but it’s a trusted adage that before one writes, one has to read. Read abundantly and read about what you plan to write. Don’t put the endeavour off, the best way to hone your skill-set is to exercise that said skill-set. You can’t wait till you have the necessary talents to be a writer. You have to write — and therein be a writer — to generate those talents.
Wort will be at the ComicCon Africa Artists Alley from 21 – 24 September 2019 at Gallagher Estate. He will also be on a discussion panel on 21 September with authors Toni Cox and Sian B Claven.
The Nature of Predation is available for purchase online at R 295.