Greetings, creatures! As I mentioned in January, the delectable Queen’s Head zine is sadly no more. They had published my sci-fi body horror Wire and I had the pleasure of doing an interview with QH editor Ryan Vance. He asked very insightful questions, so I thought I’d post the Q&A here. I’ll be looking for an online home for Wire, but in the meantime you can read it in the New Writing Scotland 32 anthology.
QH: Next in our series of interviews with our Sci-Fi Issue authors is Ever Dundas. We first heard from Ever when they submitted Wire to our call for submissions from #6. Though we had to postpone its inclusion due to the printed issue’s space restrictions, it turned out to be a fortuitous delay, as their surreal tale became the inspiration for a fully sci-fi edition of The Queen’s Head. We wanted to know what could send such a twisted story our way – here’s what Ever had to say:
QH: Sci-fi and body horror are certainly no strangers, and there’s a lot of hallucinogenic gore in ‘Wire’ – are there any authors who inspired this story’s viscera, and were any parts of the story difficult to write?
ED: I’d have to start with the massive debt owed to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. HG Wells was also an influence (The Island of Dr Moreau, The Invisible Man). More contemporary influences include Angela Carter (The Passion of New Eve), JG Ballard, Chuck Palahniuk, and Michel Faber’s brilliant Under the Skin. I’m a huge fan of the comics writer and artist Charles Burns (famous for Black Hole), who brilliantly explores and exploits our body-related anxieties.
As much as those authors played a part, Wire was probably more influenced by film: Cronenberg’s oeuvre, the Alien and Terminator films, Akira, Tetsuo. I’m a massive fan of schlocky horror films with lots of body horror, like Re-Animator, Return of the Living Dead part III, Xtro, American Werewolf in London, Evil Dead, Feast, Braindead, The Blob (too many to list!)
The gore wasn’t difficult to write. I have a strong stomach for the gruesome. My husband studied anatomy and we have a number of anatomy figures and books around the house. While suffering is hard to deal with, I’m fine when it comes to blood, body parts etc – recently, a fledgling pigeon (I named her Bart) was sadly killed in our courtyard, and parts of Bart’s body were scattered everywhere. I love pigeons, so I was upset that Bart had died, but I had no problem clearing up the aftermath, and found it fascinating to be able to see inside Bart’s body. Our society spends a lot of time and money covering up and glossing over the fact that we are made of meat, blood and bone; that our bodies are often messy and one day we’re going to die – science fiction and horror offer the perfect means through which to explore our anxieties.
QH: What role do you think art (and writing specifically) has, when technology is pushing boundaries – chemical, biological, social – probably faster than most of us realise?
Writing provides narrative(s) through which to understand rapid technological change. There are no material limits on the imagination, so it can inspire and encourage scientists to reach for the impossible. Fiction can also act as a warning and provide an excoriating antidote to the comforting lies we tell ourselves – as JG Ballard said about his controversial novel, Crash: “I wanted to rub the human face in its own vomit, and force it to look in the mirror.”
Technological advances don’t happen in a vacuum – by framing scientific progress in a larger narrative, fiction writers explore the social and ethical implications, speculating on the effect it could have on our lives and our future. For instance, Wire touches on tech advances and capitalism, hinting at the ramifications of a corporation’s monopoly on the ubiquitous Inex and the widening gap between rich and poor; the rich are able to enhance their bodies with the Endo25, highlighting the problem with the idea of the utopian posthuman that supposedly does away with signifiers such as class and gender.
There have been a few recent anthologies released where scientists and fiction writers collaborate, such as Beta-Life, Bio-Punk, and Litmus – this is very encouraging and I’d like to see more projects like these.
- A hypothetical: if our future is one of cyborgs, what would be your ideal technological enhancement?
Of course, we’re cyborgs already – drugs, mobile phones, computers, cochlear implants, pacemakers, prosthetics, 3D bio-printing, etc. It’s just a matter of further advances.
I suffer from a chronic illness and one of the symptoms is chronic pain. Obviously I’d like a cause and cure to be found, but if that wasn’t on the cards, my ideal enhancement would be the ability to shut off chronic pain (in my story, She’s A Liquid, the protagonist works to create technology that stops chronic pain and involves the healing power of music).
I would love to have an Inex, doll-like cyborgs with spidery limbs that replace mobile phones (but unlike mobiles, we’re directly connected into our Inex) – so if any scientists in the field are reading this, get on it! I didn’t explore the Inex fully in Wire, but they will be making an appearance in my next novel, the sci-fi thriller HellSans, and they will be more central to the story.
If I was to channel my wee kid self, the answer would simply be that I like the idea of being part machine. I love the recent advancements in prostheses, particularly hands – I just think it looks pretty damn cool.