One of the central ideas in Geek Love is that of the cult. The structure of the Binewski family can, in a way, be viewed as similar to a cult. They live seperated from society, have a strong-willed central leader, and a tendency to power struggles.
Katherine Dunn has long been fascinated by cults. In an interview with Donna bowman for the AV club website she defines her idea of a cult as "a negative structure that is destructive to its members, and usually one that has a charismatic central figure who is the dominant power."
Although she says that the cult started by Arturo in the novel is not specifically based on the events in Jonestown, Guyana in 1978, she admits that it was "a very, very potent event in my life". She also mentions that a speech later given by Arturo is a "very close parallel of one of Jim Jones' speeches"
Jonestown was the informal name for the "Peoples Temple Agricultural Project", a religious community in northwestern Guyana formed by the Peoples Temple, an American cult led by Jim Jones. It became internationally notorious when, on 18th November 1978, 918 people died in the settlement as well as in a nearby airstrip and in Georgetown, Guyana's capital. The name of the settlement became synonymous with the incidents at those locations.
Jim Jones moved the members of the People's Temple to Guyana from San Fransisco during 1977, amid media oubt at his treatment of church members. On 18th November 1978 a delegation investigating the Peoples Temple visited Jonestown. After their visit, five of them including an American Congressman and defected church members had asked to return with the delegation, were shot by Jonestown gunmen at nearby Port Kaituma Airstrip. After the murders, jones ordered that a giant vat of Kool-Aid laced with cyanide be made, and this was fed to over 200 of the group's children before man drank it themselves. A total of 909 Temple members died in Jonestown, all but two from apparent cyanide poisoning. Suspicions as to wether the deaths were all suicides has been rife, with reports of many bodies, including Jones', being found with either gunshot wounds or needle marks in the back.