Written By Michael Juge
A mind is a terrible thing. Although meant to be a simple witticism, anyone who has lived under the specter panic and anxiety can appreciate the truth of it. It’s a disorder that is hard to articulate except to say that the mind turns against itself and torments its owner, often lasting for months at time, and it chips away at one’s will to live. In the summer of 2006, on the eve of becoming a father, I was struck by another bout of panic and anxiety. This bout started the usual way: insomnia, obsessing about the insomnia, panicking over my obsessing over it, then panicking over my panicking. But now it included something new, a ringing in my ears. I couldn’t escape it anymore than I could escape my obsessive mind.
In the grip of this, I found myself picking up Dies the Fire, an apocalyptic novel by SM Stirling. As I read, something strange happened. The torrent of panic-fueled obsessive thoughts eased, leveling off to a subdued crappiness. It seems ironic that a book detailing the collapse of civilization and the ensuing chaos could comfort me, yet the story corralled my thoughts into a place I could manage.
After my son’s birth and with blessed pharmaceuticals kicking in, the panic and anxiety ebbed, but it left me shaken. I had come so close to the abyss. I knew there were others out there who didn’t make it to the other side of the panic and succumbed to their demons. I believe the apocalyptic story resonated with me so profoundly while inside the belly of the demon because it mirrored my own mental deconstruction.
All of this suffering and self-inflicted torment, it had to count for something. Someone had to tell the story. A few months later, I decided I would give voice to the panic that hounded me for so long, and what better vehicle to explore this than through an apocalyptic fiction?
So, I wrote about Chris Jung, a panic-ridden, Metro Sapiens and Rita Luevano, a jaded Unitarian reverend who has lost her faith in Humanism. Chris languishes in his cubicle until the event that causes the collapse of civilization winds up saving his life. The struggle to survive where they were grossly underprepared and to build communities of suburban refugees in the wake of the collapse awakens a tenacious spirit in these haunted souls. Panic, the very thing I had run away from my whole life, became my motivation.
Having a day job and becoming a father placed free time at a premium. I woke up ridiculously early every morning to write. Ideas came to me as I jogged, and I wrote past mental blocks, knowing I would fix it in rewrite.
Recalling the panic for the character development was painful, something I always avoided before writing Scourge of an Agnostic God. But the process was empowering, for writing gave the painful experiences meaning and allowed me to approach panic on my terms. As I wrote, I realized that writing became my sword, my voice to stare down the demons. And whenever the demons return, I recognize that they are a part of me, but they no longer own me.
Michael Juge is the author of Scourge of an Agnostic God, a plucky apocalyptic tale that laments the death of pop culture and celebrates the human spirit. Michael was born and raised in New Orleans and has served as a special agent and as intelligence analyst for the US Department of State. He lives a fulfilling life with his wife and two kids and psychiatrists agree that he is sane enough for government work. Check out www.scourgeofanagnosticgod.com for details and to see the book’s trailer.