Well, friends, you didn’t disappoint – I’ve had a whole bunch of downloads and a few positive comments, mostly from people who have skipped ahead and read the later bits- you naughty sausages. Below I’ll answer a question or two I’ve been asked, but first I’ll point out that Playing Doctor went live here and here last night, so if you’d be kind enough to lend a review, I’d be very grateful.
Anyway – to those of you that asked, Playing Doctor came from my artistic pain (weeps, sad violins play). I’d played around with the idea of self-modification in that William Gibson/ Neal Stephenson sense, you know, Neuromancer and Snow Crash. Everybody in cyberpunk novels has some technology embedded in them, which is a pretty cool idea, and I wanted to pursue that, but I also wanted it to be (semi-) realistic. It’s all very well talking about mobile phones embedded in your jawbone, but it’s a little too removed from what’s possible now, so it always seems vaguely phoney. Real world body-modification is far more mundane (piercings, tattoos, titanium hip joints) so I wanted to find the middle ground between the two. Bodily identity plays a big part in that, too – when do we regard your body as yourself, and when do you regard it as something other, something outside? Very Heideggarian, if you know what I mean (me neither).
What happens to Frank is based largely on my experience. Basically, for about a year I had this sense of being totally disconnected from the world. It was very odd – nothing that happened seemed to be happening to me – it was like watching the story of my life on television. I became a bit…divorced…from things like wants and needs and emotional stuff, and life lost its flavour. I’m afraid I was a bit of a dick to people during this time, and generally unpleasant to know. I had no lust for life and no means of self-expression, and I was going into a bit of a tailspin, losing friends and opportunities at a rate of knots (if I mistreated you between August ’11 and August ’12, I’m genuinely sorry and willing to offer a fulsome apology, in writing and possibly also flowers and chocolates, depending on how much of a dick I was). It took me a long time to straighten myself out, and writing Playing Doctor helped me to put things into a kind of context and draw a line under what was basically a pretty unpleasant time for me. Very recently I read something about “depersonalisation disorder” and, while I’m loathe to self-diagnose myself based on something I read on the web, I recognised certain…symptoms.
Anyway, that’s behind me.
Another thing – the characters in the novel are genuinely unpleasant sociopaths and I don’t believe that everybody’s like that. I think people become like that based on their experiences, but there’s a lot of good people out there – people willing to offer kindness for no other reason than it’s what they do. So the characters are in a sense caricatures of the worst aspects of people. I do not share their views.
Thirdly, the medical procedure outlined in the book is entirely fabricated and, according to somebody, nicked from Firefly (I didn’t realise this, but that’s what River Tam has done to her). So I guess I wasn’t being as brilliantly original as I thought. The effects of the procedure are my own invention.
I think that’s everything. It’s a cold, snowy day here, so I’m going to watch Police Squad (in colour!) and drink huge buckets of Chai tea. Here’s a picture or two, and sorry for rambling.
And Belinda Stewart-Wilson, who played Will’s mum in The Inbetweeners.