by Richard Godwin
Let me tell you a bit about my new novel, an extremely unusual, iconoclastic novel, Android Love, Human Skin, the title of which says so much in itself. It is my second sci-fi novel, after the heavily dystopian Paranoia and the Destiny Programme. And it is hardcore sci-fi. Or is it? It is also Noir, literary, Erotica, slipstream and something else entirely. When I wrote it I found myself penning passages that read like porn, extremely well-written porn. Well if Bret Easton Eilis can do it in American Psycho, why not? It is also black satire of the kind aimed at bringing down governments and their bullshit ideologies. So much there in this novel. Perhaps a new genre? A hybrid genre to say the least.
Welcome to a world of four genders. A world that is quite probable, a world that may be being engineered right now, a world of gender conflict previously unknown. In a future where a biochemical weapon has removed the skins of the population, the rulers hunt for the beautiful ones, those men and women who still have skins. In the glass citadel, the new utopia, where the only surviving humans with skin are placed, the new government, the union, recreate the world of gender by offering humans four types of robot with which to have relationships. But the androids, who comprise four different genders, have human DNA, and they have other ideas, ideas beyond the political programme. And a Revolution of an extremely different kind is about to occur, one which calls into doubt everything we assume to be the case about humanity and its future. What is android love? Read and find out.
Android Love, Human Skin is a dystopian novel that explores the nature of gender and sexual conflict and the addictions to pleasure in a virtual world. Society has been revolutionized by gender control and the technologisation of men and women.
In many ways when I wrote it I wanted to explore, dramatically, two key areas: gender and social engineering. And the two came together in the form of the idea of creating new genders to highlight the biologically real conflicts in the prevailing ones we know of. I say real because much conflict is state-imposed, state-run. Good for business.
We live in an age of mass conformity on a grand scale, despite what it seems. As the great Noir novelist Jim Thompson wrote, ‘There is only one plot: nothing is what it seems.’ And while this may be the basis for all great storytelling, the axiom it encapsulates is never truer than it is today. Technologisation of society has occurred at all levels. The choices we are offered are a carefully designed set of juxtapositions that exist inside a control programme that is totalitarian at its poisonous roots.
In my novel I wanted to take a look at that by inventing a future world that exposes the hollow lies at the heart of the present day. This is a social control programme.
Here is an extract from the opening of the novel:
‘Breakdown. All the bodies in piles. A mountain of bones. The roads like bones beneath the wheels of the armoured trucks that fetched them away.
The military wore masks. Unsafe air. Collapsed world. Ravaged earth. The weapon was launched during the war, peeling away human skin.
Photographers took shots of the red bodies dripping on the tarmac. Took shots of the dehumanisation. Took shots of the soldiers. Took shots of their dead colleagues.
The army opened fire, removed press intrusion. A few men and women escaped the annihilation of their skins, were taken to the hospital where they were building the machines, readying them for the future state. They worked on them. They built a world of skin, a beautiful world of beautiful bodies.
The old society was decayed. Men and women sexually alienated through the unreal world of virtual lives lost in the engineered fantasy. Sexual pleasure derived from electrical signals. They plugged themselves into the orgasm generator, addicts to the thrill, empty bodies and empty minds, the children of machines. Riding the pleasure wave.
Population wipe out in the empty city. Information access denied now. The government was ready. The science was already well advanced. Their victory howled along the empty streets like a midnight song only vagrants could hear. But there were no vagrants in the place of endings, only the bodies they needed to build their state from the flesh and bones, from the peeled world, where they’d removed the thing they wanted most, that human thing that defined the body of man and woman. This was more than sex. This was more than Eros and his hectic fever, a design on the living by voyeurs.
Inside out man and woman, like an inverted glove, bodies like bleeding gums or diseased genitals. Ugly world. They took them away. They built the citadel while the survivors slept in the hospital, while their doctors worked on their bodies and the other bodies they were preparing.
The government retreated beneath the screen. Became the watchful observers of human pleasures.
A single tree blew in the wind, the last fallout of the weapon, a poisoned air that smelt of charred meat, then it was gone, no leaves or branches, just a stump somewhere in the mind, existing in memory, a place far away from the recreated world ready for the humans with skin. What world without beauty is worth governing?’
Android Love, Human Skin is both a love story between robots and humanity, and at the same time it is equally a dark deep look at social engineering in all its forms. What I am exploring here is the nature of gender identity. I am also exploring the nature of propaganda and the need for Revolutionary action when faced with totalitarianism. And the role of Art, of all Art, literature, painting, music, sculpture, in that.