Jessica B. Bell
One of my favourite books of all time is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. It is at once cynical and hopeful, and made me believe that stories were worthwhile, even if sometimes people aren’t. Bradbury believed that TV was the beginning of it all – that our attention spans would drop substantially, and that political correctness would lead to censorship on the ultimate scale. Reading his 1953 novel in a modern age, one can see with eerie hindsight how prophetic his work was. He may have never seen a Reality TV show or surfed the Internet, but the entertainment diversions he described in his book were very much in the same vein.
There was a time when dystopian literature spoke to the ills of the day, and was treated as cautionary or satirical. Now, it’s become something of a setting. Write a story and set it in a post-war setting where personal freedoms and liberties have been suspended or done away with altogether. Aesthetic versus social platform.
I started writing the story that would eventually become H(A)UNTED several years ago. It started as notes in a book – character sketches, really – about a very diverse crew of participants in a game show shot in outer space. Only my characters were all caricatures, really. Each character I developed was more ham-fisted and soap-boxy than the next, each representing a current red-button topic. We had the woman who had over 100 abortions so she could sell the tissue for stem cell research. Then there was the man who claimed to be the returned Jesus Christ and, well – you get the picture. It wasn’t a story at all so much as a socio-political statement, and transparently so. There’s a fine line between hitting someone over the head to get your point across and a laughable lack of subtlety.
So I abandoned the story – I’d flip through the book now and again, have a good laugh at myself – but still kept the plot in the back of my mind, so if I ever figured out a proper way to tell the story, I would.
I’d like to say that it came easy, but that would be a lie. It simmered on the back burner for so long, that I eventually used part of the idea as an anecdote in another story (but that’s a tale for another time). I was happy it found a home, but I was still unsatisfied, feeling it could be expanded into something all its own.
Opportunity struck a couple of years ago when I was asked to write a horror story with a sci-fi bent. So, I unpacked my old notebook, got rid of all the heavy-handed political soap-boxing, and re-invented the story as a slasher-flick in space. With, I’ll admit, a little bit of social commentary thrown in for good measure.
You can find the end result, a socio-political-sci-fi-horror tale called H(A)UNTED in Viscera, a collection of strange tales published by Sirens Call Publications and available now.
Jessica B. Bell is a Canadian writer of strange fiction. It is rumoured that she lives in a damp, dark basement, writing her twisted tales in her own blood on faded yellow parchment. Her stories have been published in various anthologies, the most recent of which is Voices. She also writes under the name Helena Hann-Basquiat, and has published two novels on the metafictional topic of Jessica B. Bell, titled Jessica and Singularity. A third and final novel is planned for 2017.
Find more of Jessica’s (and Helena’s) writing at whoisjessica.com