Length – 1 hour 4 mins
Cast – 4F/3M
In a world of overpopulation, virtual space is becoming a new territory in which people can “inhabit”. Their lives can be uploaded when they want to pause life or, in some cases, death. We follow the story of Caitlin, a mother who has stored her unborn children in this virtual purgatory until she feels ready to raise them. However, she has reached her data storage limit and is tracked down by officials. Is the virtual world a more dangerous place to leave her children? From fears of hacking to information cuckoos, what will happen once this space is compromised?
This idea came to me in a rather odd guise – and that is through the Sims, a game that my little cousin is rather taken with. It’s an obvious extrapolation of the ubiquitous doll house premise – where you can control the stories that happen to the dolls inside the space, but now it’s taken to a level where you can see them interacting and building a new family (which is, in my opinion, rather odd and takes something away from the old experience). I know of it, but haven’t played it as such. She took great delight in showing me that there are “cheats” available, and one of them was the fact you can turn babies into NPCs (Non Playable Characters).
That disturbed me quite a bit, on which she reassured me, saying “When you want to play the game and babies get in the way, they can just be in the background for a while”. The idea struck me like a thunderbolt later that day and I couldn’t wait to get started on writing. The first draft is called NPC, in case you’re wondering.
So, Caitlin is 8 parts neuroticism, 1 part considerate and 1 part selfish (and she isn’t sure of how to distinguish between the last two). It plays off my fear about starting a family (I’m incredibly off the beaten track for this, and am finding my way back into civilisation with a shredded map), but it’s at that age where lots of people I went to school with already have children and are starting that whole road already. It’s something I can’t quite fathom and it’s one of those concepts where people say you grow into your role. It seems like a rather large leap of faith.
Caitlin suffers extreme vertigo. The thing that stumped me was – shall I have one reason or many reasons, which took me a while to figure out. I also love Anna towards the end – obviously having children is not something to take lightly, but the way that Caitlin deals with it seriously ticks her off. I love how she plays off it in the latter half.
Now, the alternative scenes.
Weirdly, that was inspired by 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson, a writer I much admire by his scope and extrapolation into other worlds. The chapters where Swan moves through the darkness is actually the inspiration behind those scenes – I was worried that the interactions in this “other space” might confuse people, but I’ve heard mainly good things on it so far. I loved writing those scenes and the awkwardness between the two characters (I thrive on writing awkward situations – I know people tend to avoid them, but I love them for some reason and won’t stop) that I’ve used the world and space for separate plays.
The Russian Doll effect
I love this. Each space fits inside the other: we have the womb, space, and the virtual world nestled neatly inside each other as technology and contemporary society are wrestling over rewriting new rules in which to conserve these environments. This is why the occupation of the trapped person changed in draft. Scale I think is vital for SF of any kind, and it’s something I aim for in theatrical works too.
An extract of Cuckoos and Chrysalids is being staged by Writers Bloc on Monday 19th August 2013 at the Old Red Lion Theatre. Excited beyond words!