A local writer and illustrator has taken inspiration from Nova Scotia's much-discussed economic future — and its history — in his first novel, set in post-apocalyptic Halifax and Cape Breton.
Ben O'Liari, 39, has been a freelance writer and illustrator in Halifax for 10 years. He said he's spent a portion of those years conceptualizing a new science fiction story of which he's half finished, tentatively titled The Rogues of Novas.
"I've done a lot of comic books and stuff, but I've always wanted to write a book. I wanted to get into the detail that you can get into with a book. And I was wondering, what would make a cool book story?"
O'Liari said he didn't need to look beyond his home province to get the creative juices flowing.
"Being a Maritimer, I love it here — so, I thought maybe something set in the Maritimes … because I haven't really seen anything like that before."
O'Liari says he got the idea while walking around Halifax, wondering what the province would look like 100 years in the future. He said he hopes the story will appeal to non-regional readers, but in particular, Nova Scotians.
After recently sharing some of the concept drawings online, O'Liari said responses were extremely positive.
'Rum-runners and pirates'
As he envisioned what Nova Scotia would look and sound like if reduced to civil chaos, O'Liari says he concluded that society would return to its historical roots.
"Then I thought, because it's the Maritimes, there'd be rum-runners and pirates and that sort of thing. It just seemed like a really fun idea to me."
His version of the apocalypse, O'Liari explains, is caused by a global war that involves highly advanced robotics. By the time every country becomes involved, a pandemic decimates the world's population, bringing the war to an abrupt end.
O'Liari says the story focuses on a crew of salvagers in Nova Scotia. About 50 years after the war, they get caught up in a power struggle between warring factions. Corporations fighting for control of the region, which has been politically and financially cut off from the rest of Canada, also play a large role in the story.
"Law and order is pretty much out the window, at this point," he said. "Society's sort of trying to struggle back to its feet."
O'Liari said he's been inspired by the the ubiquitous discussion of Nova Scotia's grim economic future, citing his choice to stay in Nova Scotia to work at what he loves instead of seeking opportunities in the west.
"The protagonist in the story, he's got a ship. He's got a great ship, and has an edge on everybody … He goes down to what's left of Cuba and does rum-running up to Nova Scotia. He could go anywhere he wanted in the world, really. But, he stays around the Maritimes because that's home to him. And that's a piece of me going into that character."
If the story resonates with readers, O'Liari says he has enough ideas to write a trilogy of novels.
But first, he says he needs to start thinking about his publishing options, including methods of self-publishing.
"I'll probably start exploring that as I get closer to the completion of the book … I'm not too sure yet, but I'll definitely be exploring options because I certainly want to get the story out there."
O'Liari says he has a personal deadline to finish the novel by the end of the year.