Sentient Behind-the-Scenes: Navigating Life on Society’s Edge


Imagine your life cut off from the rest of society. Imagine living on a commune with five older people who were once activists, hiding from a world that you know won’t accept you. A world in which, at the tender age of sixteen, everything turned upside down. The president was assassinated for attempting to end factory farming for the sake of the climate. Animal activists began disappearing. Your parents were activists.

And now they’ve gone missing. 

Twelve years pass in the blink of an eye, and now here you are, living on the outskirts of society, wishing for something more.

This is the story for Kage Zair, a major character in the Sentient series. 

Kage is a 28 year old transgender male. His introductory chapter in Sentient reveals a scenario in which he feels trapped. Stuck in this house with nowhere to go, no chance of exploring the world, or finding out what might’ve happened to his parents. Not having had the chance to transition into the man he is intended to be. Stuck in a body he doesn’t want, stuck in a home he has grown out of. 

When I first came up with the concept of the character of Kage, he was a lesbian, not trans. But as he evolved, and as I came to realize the thematic elements of the series, it was better suited for Kage to be transgender. I like the juxtaposition of feeling, “stuck” in the wrong body and how that plays against a backdrop of being stuck in this house for so many years, with older influences, such as his uncle, Trevor, telling him it’s not safe to leave. 

While I am not comparing the rather solitary and hidden lives of animal activists to the lives of transgender folx (that would not be fair), what I want you to consider is the overall feeling that might come from living on the outskirts of society. I think that’s what much of dystopia is all about; characters who do not fit in.

The reality is, and no fiction here, that trans folx don’t yet fully fit in to today’s societal “norms”. Although the culture is changing and gradually improving, the lived experience of a trans person is incredibly unique. Similarly, animal activists live lives so far outside the realm of day to day society, that much of society isn’t even aware, perhaps largely by choice, of what goes on in an activist’s life. Why an activist would have to go into hiding. Why an activist might have to change their names and their identities in order to complete undercover work in factory farms, as was the case for a few undercover investigators I interviewed who’d done work for organizations like Mercy for Animals

The research I did for this chapter and for the overarching subplot of Kage’s life is via the book, “Green is the New Red” by Will Potter. The book offers a detailed, journalistic review of the lives of animal activists-the death threats they’d received, how many had criminal records for trespassing on private property or attempting to save animals from factory farms and testing facilities. In some cases, some ended up in prison.

It’s understandable then, that Kage went into hiding. His parents were animal activists. His uncle, the same. And the commune on which he lives was once an animal sanctuary where animals saved from factory farms lived out their lives. 

How isolating it must feel to live on the fringes of society. And also, why would we want to “fit in”? Am I right? What are we trying to “fit in” to? This is why, as the story continues, an emphasis on community becomes so integral. Kage finding other activists, like-minded individuals with whom he can relate. Is it possible that community can become the antithesis of dystopia? The “coming together” of humans into groups and networks that remind us how similar we are, after all? Those relationships that give us the hope that humans aren’t really terminally unique. We are more alike than we aren’t. Community can remind us that “fitting in” might just be a concept, a “piece of fiction” that we made up. We forget we are interconnected. We are not separate. And these ideas on community and connection are detailed further in Sentient Rising, as well as the upcoming finale, which is coming soon.

How about you? Do you agree that community can foster a connection that helps us reduce that sense of isolation? What communities have you found that make you feel more connected?

I’d love to hear from you!


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