James Everington has a new collection of short stories out, Falling Over.
Regular readers will know already that I think that James is one of the best new writers out there. His first collection, The Other Room, was the most impressive debut I've read in years.
To mark the launch of Falling Over, James is writing a series of guest blogs about the inspirations and influences on the stories in the collection, and for my blog he's picked a story in Falling Over that I love.
So, over to James...
This blog should be about Jack Finney's seminal novel The Body Snatchers and its influence on a story of mine called Falling Over which starts with the sentence:
Ever since Michelle has come back from hospital, I’ve not been sure that it’s really her.
I'm sure the influence of Finney's novel seems obvious...
But, like the central character in Falling Over, I've never actually read The Body Snatchers (it's on my wish-list if anyone is feeling generous?) although I have seen the film adaptations of it, the 70s version being may favourite.
So instead, this blog is about the song Bodysnatchers by Radiohead and its influence on a story of mine called... well you get the idea.
Yes, a song not a story. Can a song be an influence on writing to the same extent as another piece of writing? It must surely be a different type of influence: I've listened to Bodysnatchers far more times than I've read even my favourite Ramsey Campbell short story and my reception of it is also coloured by the other songs on the album, and other songs by Radiohead, interviews with I might have read with the band, and all that jazz.
It's also coloured by the fact that I couldn't swear that I've necessarily heard all the lyrics to the song correctly. Almost certainly not, in fact, given how Thom Yorke sings. (I like the fact that the lyric site I checked before writing this blog just says "incomprehensible" at one point).
So to start: I'm reasonably certain that at one point Thom Yorke sings the lines: I've no idea what I am talking about/I'm trapped in this body and can't get out. And I immediately think about times when I've felt like that, about times when I've felt like an observer in my own body, listening to what I'm apparently saying and thinking I don't believe a word of this! Talking to a stranger maybe, and agreeing with views alien to me just to avoid any conflict. Standing up in the office and giving a presentation full of meaningless corporate speak and nodding my head sagely whilst others do the same.
But what is this part of me behaving in such an odd way? It's the grown up part of me, essentially. The part of me that knows you have to do these things to get a job, to get along, to live. The bodysnatchers are, to me, the compromises we have to make.
Has the light gone out for you/Because the light's gone for me?/It is the 21st century... Typical Radiohead lines, these, sounding both ultra-modern and apocalyptic. I wanted Falling Over to have a similar kind of feel, to capture the feel that late capitalism might be collapsing in on itself but so slowly we do nothing about it. It's not science-fiction as such, but I wanted the world in the background to be just slightly further down the road (or The Road) to environmental depletion than the one around me. But society just carries on, coping with the inflated petrol prices as best it can.
And it occurred to me that the compromises that seemed to inform the idea of the bodysnatchers contained in those first line are exactly the compromises that, on a macro scale, are causing such things. We're all in effect watching the pod-people slowly dirty up our world, but the pod people are us.
I've seen it coming Thom Yorke shouts over and over at the end of the song. We can all see it coming.
And yet, like people not quite in control of our own bodies, we do nothing.
Falling Over is published by Infinity Plus and is out now. Ten stories of unease, fear and the weird.
"Good writing gives off fumes, the sort that induce dark visions, and Everington’s elegant, sophisticated prose is a potent brew. Imbibe at your own risk." - Robert Dunbar, author of The Pines and Martyrs & Monsters.
Find out more at Scattershot Writing.