Well I worked for hours this afternoon, and here's what I came up with:
Technology (from New Scientist, October)
Roll-up monitors – but I think 3D heads-up glasses a better idea
Fuel cells – mini power packs for phones, PCs etc
Community wireless net nodes – no government control?
Smart tags on everything, readers all over, this is v. Minority Report but could well actually happen. Adds to danger as chars have to avoid being tracked.
Have a scene where Orchid takes Shelley up into the city at night and uses a bow to shoot out security cameras. Extra dimension – not just rock-terrorists but actual (if non-murdering) terrorists.
MM for really scary dark bits
The Cure for sad/disjointed bits
Shudder, T-Rex for happy, sexy, sci-fi bits
RATM for hunting/chasing
Air, Garbage for romance
Ziggy for general feel
Curve, Garbage for uncertainty/paranoia
Depeche Mode will work all sorts of ways
Puritanical. Maybe even have a Purity Party. The Authority is the name for the govt., probably a city-state govt. Has a President.
Religion and political paranoia of a certain kind (i.e. rather like some parts of America just now) have led to all ‘unnatural’ interferences with the human body being classified as sinful, therefore abortion is illegal, as are non-essential plastic surgery and recreational drugs (including alcohol and cannabis but not tobacco or caffeine). Make-up, coloured contacts, tattoos and hair dye are all legal but considered sinful and not respectable. Homosexual sex is illegal, and cross-dressing (for men and women), whilst not strictly illegal, would get you beaten up and possibly arrested on suspicion.
Animals and plants however, whilst considered Gods creations, were given to us to have dominion over them and are therefore given no respect and GM’d into unrecognisability. But as there will be almost no animals that’s not going to figure much.
There is no non-religious political movement in the mainstream, though there are various flavours of Christian affiliation. Outside the law are illegal, largely atheistic political groups, but they are free-form, anti-authority and disorganised. It is quite common for students to drop out and join this underworld (about 1 in 100 will do so) but it is expected that the majority will drop back in at some point rather than try to make a career in the underground, never mind raise children.
Even though this underground is known about and tolerated to some extent (by the Authority, not necessarily the general public), there is no free mainstream media (controlled by commerce rather than the Authority overtly, but in fact they are in bed together) and no overlap between the mainstream and the underground is allowed if the Authority can prevent it. Should the underground ever be more than a few thousand disaffected junkies, it might become a threat. Therefore any popular movement which might drive more young people that way is squashed. Dissent is squashed. Artists (musical or otherwise) who express dissent are banned from mainstream media coverage, cannot play/exhibit in licensed venues and cannot sell their product on the legal market. Nobody in the underground has any money and all are open-source nuts, so artists who change direction can go from rich and famous to poor and infamous overnight. Anti-religious and anti-Authority feeling from the netherworld side is hyped and exploited by hysterical proponents of these things.
Chuck some really fantastic dream sequences/hallucinations into it. Think Winter’s Tale. Unicorns in the brickwork, like that photographic set I was going to do in the NQ.
Use the fire escape!!
Have someone at some point suggest that they are living in the Matrix. ;P
So, plot-wise what have we got?
Open with Shelley being called by Jamie’s mother because he’s gone missing. His father caught him with make-up/homoerotic downloads, whatever. Was spending too much time on the net, the community net. Daddy revokes net privileges. Jamie ups and leaves. He is 17. Mum distraught. As good a Christian as she is, she’s worried for her little boy. Dad blusters to cover his guilt. She may be hiding from him that she’s seeking help. The cops don’t care, they won’t follow him into the netherworld. (they know he’s there, they scan everyone in and out. Once inside, they’re lost to the Authority)
Shelley is a crime novelist, a bad one, writes potboilers (her latest of which foreshadows this story) and doesn’t make any money. She should be in college studying archaeology but she can’t afford it. She’s 25. She’s pretty straight. She thinks of Jamie as a quiet boy, kind but shy, never blossomed under the eyes of his harsh and loud parents, demanding younger sister. She has soft spot. Agrees to hunt about on community net, see what she can find out.
Discovers that Jamie has alter-ego name of Halo, sees himself quite differently; space-vampire glitter-king lord-of-the-netherworld… him and about 200 other people. A movement. A silly, superficial-artificial, sexually ambiguous musical and philosophical movement. She finds his blog. We read it along with her, and we find out all about Orchid.
Shelley finds that one of these people is someone she’s met; she goes to see her to find out how she can find out more. Coral takes her to a party, first having to disguise her, kit her out, allow her to fit in. Shelley is uncomfortable. Jamie is not there, but people who know him as Halo have snips of gossip, rumour.
Over period of days/weeks Shelley follows these through dark and dangerous, but undeniably exciting places. This period interspersed with snips from Jamie’s blog and articles/transcripts from flicks and casts about politics, music, Orchid being a threat to the morality of the city’s children, etc. A picture of the world is built up. Shelley’s danger is realised. Stories about members of Orchid’s entourage being killed are dropped in. The Authority believes they are Satanists, or at least it persuades the media to put this about. Added are stories about sacrifices, vampirism, androids, aliens. People will believe anything.
Shelley is gradually drawn into the scene. There are drugs.
She tracks Jamie/Halo to Orchid’s entourage. It is possible he is one of the dead. The Community has its own news system but it’s unreliable. She must somehow infiltrate this close-knit sub group about which she has heard so much conflicting and unpleasant rumour. She is afraid.
-and I can’t type with my weight on my elbows and a cat on my arse *sigh*-
Somehow, she gains entry to the hallowed inner circle. Jamie is there and OK but going by another name and looking pretty different. He doesn’t recognise Shelley, either, at first. Orchid has a manager who started some of the rumours himself not figuring that Orchid’s assets would be frozen and he would lose money. There is suspicion and bad feeling all around.
She discovers that
a) they are not monsters or Satanists although they are pretty weird and she won’t say they aren’t aliens
b) they don’t know why their people are dying
c) another member of the entourage, (possibly someone she’s been hanging out with and trusts?) starts acting a bit odd, name of… Gork.
d) they are actually politically active freedom fighters not just posing pansys – Orchid takes her up to the city to shoot out surveillance cameras.
She falls in love with Orchid as everyone does and being a newcomer she gets his attention for a while, earning the envy of other members, who then welcome her as a sister when Orchid has tired of her. She and Jamie figure out who each other is.
She sticks around to investigate the deaths. (This is the bit P disapproves of).
Simultaneously, she is picking up clues that there may be areas of the under-city that hold fascinating secrets. She may find a way to discredit the Authority and make much more of a difference than they can with their current methods. OK so this is exactly like the main plot in the Barbarian Queen, but WTF, I don’t got another one. So she stops going upstairs with Orchid to shoot stuff, and goes down. Don’t know if Jamie accompanies her or not. Gork does.
They look like they might have found something – proof that an alien race built Grace City, maybe handy artefacts? Gork reveals that he is an undercover agent and attempts to talk her around, knowing she is also undercover and not strictly one of ‘them’. But he appears to be crazy. She refuses; he tries to kill her. Obviously, he fails. She must then try to kill him; she works through all the possibilities (there are many with motives) and deduces that Gork is the Boa Constrictor. She then has a dilemma of whether she really wants to empower the Community as there’s a lot there she doesn’t approve of. Maybe she kills Gork at this stage, maybe she finds a way to prevent him killing anyone else while she thinks, I dunno.
She goes back home to take time out but it all seems strange and alien to her. She visits her aunt to say Jamie is OK and their cosy clean life seems rotten and corrupt. It chokes her. Still, she is about to decide to do nothing and go back to her former life when she is arrested and interrogated like Neo. Somewhat like Neo, even though she is released without charges, this forces her to come down against the Authority.
She goes back into the netherworld and kills Gork, if she hasn’t already. With a bow and arrow. She equips the Community to start a revolution, but refuses to take part in it, instead choosing to explore the alien ruins. The End.
Jamie’s blog, which we read in an order dictated by Shelley and her investigations, reveals how he feels out of place and has been bullied at school. He is anxious because he can’t form relationships with girls, and is under considerable pressure from his mother (Pat) to do so. His father (Bill) is pushing him into a career in the civil service, which idea repulses him. His sister (Martha) is a holier-than-thou church attender who is 2 years younger (15) and tactless. Perhaps it’s her who finds the eye-liner and grasses him up? He doesn’t entertain the idea he might be gay, but Orchid’s lustrous purple eyes find their way into his fantasies.
Everyone around him seems crass, ugly, hidebound. He seeks refuge amongst the unreachable, beautiful people. He dreams of the netherworld, and spends all his time on the net trying to make friends with people who will tell him how to get there. Before Orchid is banned, he attends gigs (and of other bands who walk a fine line, too). Afterwards he downloads their music from the net and fantasises. Eventually he meets/gets to know someone who tells him about an underground gig. He is very excited about going. Things have been particularly bad lately, his schoolwork has been lousy, and his father is revoking net privileges. He cannot tell anyone about the gig and doesn’t know how he will survive a week without the net in the run-up to this most exciting event. This is the last entry.
What Shelley learns from rumour is that Jamie (under his net name Halo) hooked up with a young man called Zeb at the gig, took a hit or two of Heaven and decided to never go home again. -Put in some lyrics from an Orchid song that echo Sheila or Barbarism-. He and Zeb have a tempestuous, drug-fuelled sexual relationship that in turns thrills Jamie and confuses him. They live in Zeb’s netherworld squat, sleep all day and go to gigs and parties at night. Zeb gets them backstage at a gig, not an Orchid gig, but Orchid’s entourage turn out to be at the party. Zeb gets Orchid’s attention, leaving Jamie burning with rage and desire for both of them. He overdoses. People shrug; they don’t know if he’s dead or alive.
When Shelley turns up and susses Jamie out, she learns that Jamie did survive. Zeb pleaded with Orchid, who still has some money and influence, to take care of Jamie. Thus they both became members of the entourage. Jamie changed his name again (to what? Sabre?); fresh start. Soon after this people start to turn up dead, strangled. At least one of them Jamie is close to, fond of. He is afraid. He is possibly, probably, in some danger. He pleads with Shelley to stay, to help them, and she does. After much rowing, he and Zeb are back together; Jamie too has had his fling with Orchid. He reckons on making a life in the netherworld and will never go back.
Motega (Native American for ‘New Arrow’)
Lucas, Luka (LightBringer)
Sabre/Saber (as in the sword)
Arrow would have a good complex meaning – his father could have banged on about the arrow of the Lord or the arrow of Justice, swift and sure. Jamie is about to make himself the arrow of the opposition. An arrow could also be a phallic symbol. Motega would be great but it’s not very glam. *sigh*
And don’t go home tonight
Come out and find the one that you love and who loves you
And I realised, I realised, I could never, never go back home again