I’m pleased to present dystopian novel, Paradise Girl, by Phil Featherstone in today’s special edition of Fantasy Authors Unplugged. Read on to find out more about the book!
Nobody knows how many viruses exist, but scientists agree that they outnumber all other living things put together (actually there’s some debate about whether viruses can actually be considered alive, but for now we’ll assume they can). Only a tiny number of them affect humans, and most of those that do are easily dealt with by the body’s immune system. However, there are a few that the immune system can’t cope with, and these can cause serious illness and, in extreme cases, death. An example is ebola, which is spread through the transfer of body fluids. It’s also transmitted by fruit bats, which can carry the virus without being affected by it.
A few years ago a volcano in Iceland erupted, throwing smoke and ash several kilometres into the sky. A result of this was the grounding of commercial aircraft for several days. I live in a remote farmhouse high on the Pennine hills in the north of England. Usually the only signs of human life outside my home are the vapour trails of planes as they approach or depart from Manchester, or travers the country to and from other places. At the time of the Icelandic eruption, they stopped. The skies were empty, a beautiful, clear blue. For that short time I could have been the only person alive. This started me thinking: suppose that really was the case, where might everyone else have gone? What might have happened to them? Destroyed by radiation? Abducted by aliens? Wiped out by a plague? Ebola was in the news at the time, and so the latter seemed the most likely.
I began to work on the idea. Somebody in such a situation would be subject to unbearable pressures. They would be desperately lonely and terribly afraid, alternating between relief at surviving and the daunting prospect of a future without hope. It would add poignancy if the central character was young, maybe still in their teens with their life before them. Think about an almost endless series of days stretching ahead, with nothing to relieve them or distinguish between them. What dark places might a mind go when faced with that? What terrible dreams might occur?
They would try to cope by writing a diary, which would describe what they saw, heard and thought, and through which they could reflect on their predicament. It seemed to me that this would work best if such a character was female. Kerryl Shaw introduced herself, and I began to write her story. You can read it in Paradise Girl.