The premise that people can produce electricity by walking on a treadwheel offers lots of plot options. They could be in prison, enslaved, or working in a free enterprise system. The wheel could be small enough for just a single person, or it could be enormous and carrying thousands of walkers. The world in which people do this could be anything from Steampunk to post–apocalypse. I toyed with all these ideas as I settled on the plot for I Town.
During the research phase I quickly relized how important body weight would be in whatever world I created. At first I decided the story could make a statement about our obsession with dieting and weight control, a satire by inversion. At the time I was obese by all popular standards and considered the standards to be extremely prejudiced against me and in favor of unrealistic pop culture icons because I could not be thin. I was naturally heavy set, and I couldn’t do anything about it.
One important aspect of my treadwheel premise was that the walkers had to consume at least as much energy in calories as they produced in wattage. I delved into nutrition and took a careful look at its tranfer into work. According to the basic laws of physics, we cannot create energy; we can only transfer or translate it from one form to another. so, apparently, when God said let there be a big bang and there was and He saw that it was good, He created all the current available energy right then. My society would have to feed its walkers according to how much electricity it wanted available to them. This fact screamed dystopian. Fat would be highly desirable; skinny would have no value.
It seemed to be the perfect formula for my satire.
But facts began to impact my diet. Not all calories are the same. One gram of protein contains four protein calories. One gram of carbohydrate gives four carb calories. Not all calories are the same. Some burn faster than other. Slower burning carbs are more likely to be burned as energy rather than stored as fat.
I wanted to know my premise was correct, mainly becasue I didn’t want to spend a year or more developing prose from a plot based on an incorrect premise. So, without dieting, I began to watch my diet. And I began to lose weight, eating normally but intelligently based on what I was learning.
During the writing of I Town I lost eighty pounds. I arrived at my maximum allowable body weight eating at McDonalds, going to family fish fries, continuing my pursuit of the perfect chocolate chip cookie and blueberry muffin.
So the satirical aspect of I Town isn’t about our infatuation with thinness but with our addiction to consumption.
You can read more about it on its own site at InductionTown.com.