For my new book I have temporarily left behind the period of 1066 and taken up a new subject in the guise of an alternative history story based upon the popular ‘what if?’ premise. I did not start out with the intention of writing an alternative history it is just that this genre proved to be a very suitable vehicle for the story that I want to tell. There is still a considerable amount of research to be carried out in the name of authenticity, just as with Historical Fiction. It may be an alternative account but that does not mean that I can abandon everything prior to the moment in time when actual and fictional history diverge, if I did that then really it would be a fantasy novel but what I want is something with a bit more relevance to the real world and I think that fantasy might lack the kind of bite I am looking for.
Once I had chosen the genre and did the preparatory research I started writing and it all came together very quickly. I had already assembled a team of beta readers and it did not take me very long to provide them with the prologue and opening chapter for them to read, digest and critique. One of the more interesting responses to come out of the early stages of the read was that there was a lot of anger behind the text.
Now this observation came from someone who knows me very well and has done so for many years. I think that the relationship we have with each other has allowed them an insight into my writing that most of the other beta readers lack, which is not a bad thing as it clearly gives a different kind of perspective on my work.
The other point to perhaps to consider is that I am writing about some of the subjects from a genuine point of experience; some of these things happened to me! I call my new novel ‘Eugenica’ and it examines what might have happened if Britain, the birthplace of modern Eugenics, had gone done down the path of eugenics based social and health policies in the 1930’s. Other countries actually took this route, Norway, America, Canada and, perhaps most notoriously, Germany for example. The results were usually devastating upon the individuals who suffered under these systems.
Although Britain, if we return to the ‘real’ timeline, did not take the path that most commentators of the early 20th century expected it to being a disabled person in this country is not an easy existence. I know because I am disabled!
In many respects I have had it easy compared to other people, some of whom have been treated appallingly and still are sadly. From my formative years I was the subject of medical investigation because I have a very rare muscle condition; Becker’s variant Myotonia Congenita, which was first identified in the same year that I left school. My symptoms are severe and I suffer impaired mobility, which is pretty obvious to most observers.
Recently the current government waged a very effective propaganda war against the disabled prior to dismantling the benefit system that supports them. It was clearly a move to win over public sympathy from the cripples to the politicians and it worked. The government won hands down and the majority of society seem to have a so what attitude to the outcome.
This, I believe, was the starting point of the story that I wanted to write. Clearly life in Britain today is nowhere near as bad as it might have become if the country had fully embraced eugenics, there’s no suggestion of forced segregation and sterilisation for example, or state enacted euthanasia for that matter. Nevertheless I feel angry about the treatment that some disabled people have been subjected to, not just by politicians or the media or an apparently uncaring society but also by the medical fraternity. You might not believe some of the things done to me in the name of medical research?
They say that the best writers concentrate on the subjects that they know and I can see the logic in that. I am writing a book that, amongst others, examines the treatment of the disabled, admittedly in an extreme social setting, and I have an axe to grind, which is probably why I am writing angry, is this a good thing?
I think that it is. My reader expressed concerns that some people might find it a little uncomfortable, objectionable even, that it might stir things up. I understood what they meant but my immediate reaction was ‘so what?’ Eugenica has discrimination and prejudice as two of its core themes, they are thorny subjects. It also has dehumanisation to facilitate the war on the weak as a major theme, not a topic that you can deal with using kid gloves. There are some more positive themes in there as well but it is the ones just mentioned that are the tinder lit by my own personal experiences that in turn ignites my anger I suppose? I ask that question because here’s another observation, entirely subjective, I had not realised that I was writing angry!
I am now very curious to see what they other beta readers made of my early work on this project. I want to see if they come to a similar conclusion about the element of anger already suffused into the text. It is going to be interesting to see if they recognise it and if I am going to continue writing angry now that I have been made aware of something that I seemed to have been conducting unconsciously?