Oct 2011 28

by Steven-Elliot Altman (SG Member: Steven_Altman)

Our Fiction Friday serialized novel, The Killswitch Review, is a futuristic murder mystery with killer sociopolitical commentary (and some of the best sex scenes we’ve ever read!). Written by bestselling sci-fi author Steven-Elliot Altman (with Diane DeKelb-Rittenhouse), it offers a terrifying postmodern vision in the tradition of Blade Runner and Brave New World

By the year 2156, stem cell therapy has triumphed over aging and disease, extending the human lifespan indefinitely. But only for those who have achieved Conscientious Citizen Status. To combat overpopulation, the U.S. has sealed its borders, instituted compulsory contraception and a strict one child per couple policy for those who are permitted to breed, and made technology-assisted suicide readily available. But in a world where the old can remain vital forever, America’s youth have little hope of prosperity.

Jason Haggerty is an investigator for Black Buttons Inc, the government agency responsible for dispensing personal handheld Kevorkian devices, which afford the only legal form of suicide. An armed “Killswitch” monitors and records a citizen’s final moments — up to the point where they press a button and peacefully die. Post-press review agents — “button collectors” — are dispatched to review and judge these final recordings to rule out foul play.

When three teens stage an illegal public suicide, Haggerty suspects their deaths may have been murders. Now his race is on to uncover proof and prevent a nationwide epidemic of copycat suicides. Trouble is, for the first time in history, an entire generation might just decide they’re better off dead.

(Catch up with the previous installments of Killswitch – see links below – then continue reading after the jump…)



[Previous Chapter / Next Chapter]

Haggerty found Elsa sitting at her console. Now would be a good time to give her the keycard.

“You’re needed in psych right away,” she said, looking up from her viewscreen. “Corbin is already there. Dr. Zabrowski wanted a word with her following her report on the copycat press. There have been three more—”

“Consuela told me,” Haggerty said flatly. Once again, the keycard would have to wait. “Have the lab techs got anything off those boxes yet?” he asked Elsa as they tubed down to Doug’s office.

“Nothing,” Elsa said. “And they’re not hopeful. The damage was too complete.”

The news wasn’t unexpected. Rounding a corner, Haggerty saw Doug and Corbin saying their good-byes.

“I’ll be speaking to you later,” Corbin called to Haggerty as she hurried off, hopefully to badger O’Connell about the new copycats, leaving Haggerty to pursue without interference the interviews the Dragon wanted.

Doug perched on the edge of his desk and reached for a cigalite. “I’m glad you’re on this assignment,” he told Haggerty, who had seated himself in the chair opposite.

“Not sure I can add much to Corbin’s report,” he said.

“I don’t expect you to. O’Connell and Corbin told me about the copycats. I’m damned worried.”

“We all are,” Haggerty said.

“Yeah, but I’m not sure it’s about the same things.” Doug took a drag of the cigalite. “The Dragon and everyone else are thinking in terms of lawsuits, trying to figure out how those kids got the boxes and how to minimize the damage if BBI is found culpable in any way.”

“You’re not worried about that?”

I’ll tell you what I’m worried about. Are you familiar with Cobain Syndrome?”

“Can’t say I am,” Haggerty said.

“It’s named for Kurt Cobain, the lead vocalist of the late-twentieth-century musical group Nirvana. He committed suicide in nineteen-ninety-four.”

“That was more than one hundred fifty years ago,” Haggerty said. “What’s the relevance?”

“The relevance is that a few hundred teens followed his example. It’s called suicide contagion. Two girls in France left a note that they could not live without their idol and shot themselves, as he had. Four teens locked themselves in a car to die from exhaust inhalation while playing Cobain’s music on the radio. Teens played his songs on their personal music devices as they threw themselves off bridges. Some even vid-recorded themselves suiciding while listening. Luckily it was contained, but those were much different times, sociologically speaking.”

“How so?” Haggerty asked, growing anxious.

“Kids in high-risk groups for suicide contagion fit a certain profile. They feel isolated, depressed, outcast. They have poor family relationships and seek acceptance in fringe groups or cults. Too often, the only person they can relate to is their musical idol. They over-identify with the artist and develop non-reality-based relationships, memorizing the words to all his songs and believing he wrote the lyrics specifically for them. When the idol kills himself, they romanticize the death and see it as their chance to take control of the direction in their own lives.”

“But this was not a band member who killed himself,” Haggerty objected.

“It was three fans just like them,” Doug said. “Kids who were living out their fantasy of being accepted by the band. The lead singer maybe knew they were going to press. Maybe he didn’t. It certainly looked like he knew in the clip of the viewcast—and approved. That’s what counts.”

Doug took another drag of the cigalite.

“My fear is that the kids who pressed onstage are going to be revered as heroes among an urban population that harbors much less hope of control in their lives than children a century, even half a century ago. Our Cobain Syndrome copycats are no longer a rarity. Their profile fits the standard psycheval for three quarters of the under-age-twenty-five population. And with the band in police custody, their fans will be outraged. The displaced animosity could reach epic proportions. I’m talking more than dozens of kids. If this thing gets out of control . . .”

He snubbed out his cigalite.

“This is just speculation, Doug,” Haggerty said, trying to convince himself that things weren’t as bad as his friend believed.

“I hope you’re right.” Zabrowski pinched the bridge of his nose. “But bear in mind that there have already been four copycats and the media coverage is only beginning, with more outlets than at any time in recorded history. Contagious suicides increase dramatically with reports of other suicides, especially when a particular suicide is treated prominently. If the suicide is described in detail, copycats mount exponentially — and our first three were viewcast to millions of fans worldwide.”

“What can be done?” Haggerty asked, dismayed.

“I’m drafting a memo to the Surgeon General urging him to control the media. This is dangerous ground and I’m gonna need your support.”

“I’ll do whatever I can,” Haggerty said. “Let me start by giving you some news that may help. I don’t think the Dragon wants this known generally, but I’m on my way to try and interview the band members.”

“See if you can get them to publicly decry the presses,” Doug said urgently. “That could go a long way to heading off disaster.”

“Count on me, Doug,” Haggerty said, grimly determining that, one way or another, Clone Jesus would do just as his friend had asked.

* * *

Excerpt from The Killswitch Review, published by Yard Dog Press. Copyright 2011 Steven-Elliot Altman.

Steven-Elliot Altman is a bestselling author, screenwriter, and videogame developer. He won multiple awards for his online role playing game, 9Dragons. His novels include Captain America is Dead, Zen in the Art of Slaying Vampires, Batman: Fear Itself, Batman: Infinite Mirror, The Killswitch Review, The Irregulars, and Deprivers. His writing has been compared to that of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton and Philip K. Dick, and he has collaborated with world class writers such as Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves, Harry Turtledove and Dr. Janet Asimov. He’s also the editor of the critically acclaimed anthology The Touch, and a contributor to Shadows Over Baker Street, a Hugo Award winning anthology of Sherlock Holmes meets H.P. Lovecraft stories.

Steven also bares ink on his body, and is bi, as in bi-coastal, between NYC and LA. He’s currently hard at work writing and directing his latest videogame Cursed Love, an online free to play gothic horror RPG from Dark Hermit Studios, set in Victorian London. Think Sherlock Holmes, Jack The Ripper and Dorian Gray mercilessly exploit the cast of Twilight. Friend Cursed Love (Official Closed Beta) on facebook and you can have fun playing out this tawdry, tragic romance with Steven while the game is being beta tested!

Diane DeKelb-Rittehouse spent several years in Manhattan as an actress before marrying her college sweetheart and returning to the Philadelphia area where she had been born. Diane first worked with Steven-Elliot Altman when they created the acclaimed, Publisher’s Weekly Starred-Review anthology The Touch: Epidemic of the Millennium, in which her story “Gifted” appeared. Diane has published a number of critically acclaimed short stories, most notably in the science fiction, murder, and horror genres. Her young adult fantasy novel, Fareie Rings: The Book of Forests, is now available in stores or online.

Interested in buying a printed copy of The Killswitch Review? Well, Steve’s publisher Yard Dog Press was kind enough to put up a special page where SuicideGirls can get a special discount and watch a sexy trailer. Just follow this link to and click on the SG logo.

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Related Posts:
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter One
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter One, Part Two
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter One, Part Three
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter One, Part Four
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Two, Part One
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Two, Part Two
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Two, Part Three
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Three, Part One
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Three, Part Two
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Three, Part Three
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Four, Part One
Fiction Friday: The Killswitch Review – Chapter Four, Part Two