Saturday, April 27, 2013

Thoughts on Pennyweight, my current work in progress

As I mentioned on a social network a while back, I’ve been a harbinger of the apocalypse countless times. In Cry Havoc, we witnessed society beginning to collapse due to a drastic paradigm shift in morality.  In Sex in the Time of Zombies, The Dead & Dying, and The Seven Habits, mankind was under siege by hordes of the walking dead.  In Apocalyptic Organ Grinder our undoing was a doomsday virus released by a religious cult. And that’s not even counting the other ways I’ve wiped out our species in my short stories.

After destroying so many worlds, I find it gratifying to create an entirely new one from the ground up. If all the parallel universes and alternate dimensions which have ever existed can be thought of as a sea, the world of Pennyweight would be the breakers against which its waves crash. As such, flotsam and jetsam often become wedged in the rocky crags; bits and pieces several eras from our own world blend with technologies we have never known, creating a familiar yet alien mosaic of Space-Time.

The world is predominantly Victorian in styles of dress, architecture, and conventions; but there’s also a bit of art deco flair mixed with hints of 1950s America.   It would be common in this universe to hear boogie-woogie renditions of popular songs from our reality scratching and popping through the bell of an electric phonograph. Though the lyrics would be the same, these wouldn’t be cover versions. In the Pennyweight world, for example, Tainted Love would never have been recorded by Soft Cell because they simply don’t exist, falling instead into the capable hands of a husky-voiced chanteuse with a horn section.  The works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christy do exist, however.  The same stories, written by doppelgangers living in an alternate version of our reality.

But then there are other things which wouldn’t quite fit in with our world.  One is a character called The Shadow Wrangler, a creature who pulls himself into existence by pooling the shadows of surrounding objects to mold his form.  Another is a surgically enhanced rat who can speak, thanks to crude speakers implanted in his sides and the tangle of wires sprouting from his brain.

The society these characters live in has electric, but it isn’t generated from fossil fuels or any other method known to us. In this reality, the spirits of the deceased can be trapped in a container known as a Soul Chamber. The soul then produces energy , which is fed through flesh-like cabling. The more dead bodies you have access to, the more energy you can produce.  And the more energy you can produce, the more rich and powerful you become.  The wealthiest families of this world are the ones with the oldest bloodlines  They possess sprawling, subterranean crypts and have access to generations who traded in the promise of an afterlife for the prestige of the family name. Author Michael S Gardner once suggested the phrase “soulpunk” to describe this aspect of the world and I that term works just as well as any other.

I really do think this is my most imaginative work to date and it feels good to return to it after being away so long. I tend to think of the book as a dark, psychosexual fairytale for adults. There are hints of horror, specifically in the delusions of a heroine who suffers from psychotic breaks (which she refers to as The Dream of Blood).  However there’s also a touch of dark fantasy and science fiction, making this a difficult work to pin down into one particular genre. But that is perfectly fine by me and is probably why it’s so much fun to play around with.

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