When writng an entirely fictional thing such as ‘Panoptica’ it is sensible to first map out the fictional world you intend to set the story in. This was not a problem with ‘Jessica’s Trap’ since it was set in the English civil war so the basic setting was already in a history book. The demon characters were all in another old book. The setting was easy.
With ‘Samuel’s Girl’, the setting was the fictional town of Marchway which I had already mapped out, bit by bit, in short stories. It’s set in the present so again, the basic reality is there.
‘Panoptica’ is set in the future (at this rate, sometime next week) so the sensible thing to do was to spend some time setting the parameters. How does the money system work? How do people get around? Can they travel outside the city and what do they see betwen cities? How do they get food and medicine? How are children raised to ensure that they accept the State-controlled world they live in? How are the ‘ghosts’ (the unchipped outsiders) surviving outside the Panoptica-world? All that and more needs to be in place in your head before you start.
I didn’t do that.
As a result I have to keep going back and changing things as I discover new issues and have to find a way to solve them. Travel between cities is possible after filling out endless forms and paying endless form fees. Travel is by train with no windows because (they are told) the land outside the cities is a radioactive wasteland as a result of a war, and even the windowless trains are not fully protective against the deadly cancer-causing rays of doom. This very effectively discourages the drones from ever trying to leave the city.
The children though, that was more of a problem. I tried various scenarios. Our protagonist (known so far by the placeholder 10538, for reasons ELO fans will instantly understand) was married to a woman and they had a child. That was far too ordinary. The State has been trying to destroy the family for a long time so in Panoptica, they must surely have succeeded .
Then I thought of the ‘Brave New World’ scenario where children are grown in tanks and brought up by the collective, but the dire state of Panoptica’s finances and the desperately poor indoctrination that passes for education means there is nobody to pay for such an installation, and nobody who could be trusted to run it.
Perhaps children are rotated around parents, such that you ‘adopt’ a random child for a year and then get another one next year. That means you get to be an expert in raising a child between the ages of 4 and 5 but never get to see any of them grow up. No, that would also mean that some poor bugger has to pay for college for a child every single year. There would be rebellion and that is to be avoided at all costs.
So I decided on a system whereby mothers give birth in isolation and under general anaesthetic. It’s painless so it’s an easy sell to the drones. When they wake up they are either allocated a baby (not neccesarily their own) or told that the baby died in childbirth. Dead babies are easily produced in Panoptica because nobody has any qualms about killing them. Disabled or damaged babies are therefore killed and the mother to whom that child was to be allocated is told that it was a stillbirth.
Gay couples do not escape this. A doctor will see any gay couple who want a child and their education means they believe it is possible. Under the pretence of maternity care, one of them will be injected with water-retention drugs so their abdomen gradually swells. Then, under general anaesthetic, the water is drained away and the now-slimmer gay bloke gets allocated a baby.
If this means a woman has to die to make the numbers balance, so be it. Political correctness trumps ethics. That’s already true anyway.
In Panoptica, nobody is born alive but disabled because those born disabled don’t get to take a second breath. White parents can have black babies and vice versa. Gay couples of either sex can reproduce. All of this seems perfectly normal to the drones because they have been taught that it is normal, and because they see it in everyday life. How can you deny State teachings when the Pakistani/African couple next door have a Chinese baby? There you are, you see, it really does happen. There is no such thing as race. It’s all just random.
Okay. That’s that part of this future horror sketched out. I now have a background for 10538’s shock and horror at hearing those terrible, divisive and sexist words ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’ used in place of the much more inclusive ‘Carer’.
Then I take a look around the blogs and find – dammit – Oily Al and his Sinister Nanny Party have already taken the first steps along this road! I shouldn’t be surprised really. It is the logical way for Lefties to stamp out racism.
Scottish children are to be allocated a ‘named person’ at birth who will oversee the parents’ ability to look after the child according to State directions. Not so much a Godparent as a Satanparent, methinks. There will be no discussion between this ‘named person’ and the parents at any time, and the ‘named person’ can call in authorities if they see medical records suggesting the child may not be developing into a good little drone.
If Oily Al gets this into place and then gets independence, I am moving out pronto.
Then I am going to retitle ‘Panoptica’. I’ll call it ‘Edinburgh’.
Hm. I have a map of Edinburgh. So now I have a street plan for Panoptica all ready to go.