RICK K. REUT
I was born in a small Belarusian town called Borisov, which back then, in the ice-cold-war winter of a more than symbolic 1984, was still a part of the USSR, a world so hopelessly Orwellian that it is falling apart from sleepless dreams to become brave new even now. This may also be one of the reasons for my first book title.
Growing up on American Movies and British Rock Music made me Bilingual. Trilingual, if you count the dying Belarusian tongue we were traditionally made to study at school. At that same school I became an avid reader of American and English literature, thus falling in love with the language and its literary legacy. This love may also be responsible for the monstrous mixture of an American Englishman at heart and an Australian of New Zealand’s breed somewhere below the equatorial belt I am today.
I began writing verse in English at the age of fifteen, in Russian at about eighteen, in prose around twenty, and in letters around the whole wide world in two years of unrequited affection that made me consider the pastime seriously. And so I wrote. Mostly to myself, but then more and more often to others. Despite the latter’s encouragement, I’ve never tried publishing outside the campus community. That is, not till now.
Having studied up to a BA in both literature and philosophy in 2006 and 2010, respectively, I also happen to be the author of two theses: “The Problem of Post-Gender Identity in Contemporary Social Theory” (in Russian; Department of Philosophy, European Humanities University, Vilnius, Lithuania) and “Pulp Fiction 2, from Shakespeare 2 Tarantino and Back, an Inter-Textual Language Analysis of the Evolution of the Dramatic Genre from the 16th Century Play to the 20th Century Screenplay” (in English; St. Petersburg State University, Russia, in collaboration with Bard College, US).
All this academic abracadabra, however, is hardly of any help when it comes to making the mentioned sleepless dreams come true unless someone gives them a little literary lift.
Even Braver New World sTaTe
The story is a sequel and a sort of a counterpoint to Aldous Huxley’s classic modernist masterpiece, Brave New World. It takes place seventy-seven summers since its time.
The World State has changed considerably, having taken a bio-technological turn towards transsexualism, on the one part, and technology-provided social communism, on the other. The only place this post-gender and post-capitalist progress hasn’t pervaded yet is the reservation area of so-called Isolated Islands, where Bernard Marx and Helmholtz Watson were to be exiled at the end of the original book.
The protagonist of this story is Bernard’s grandson, Adam Marx, who, being disappointed with his life on the world’s margins, longs for the Mainland. But it looks like his dream can never come true, for there is no place for a naturally born man in a society of biotechnological mutants. Fortunately or unfortunately for him, however, his cravings happen to coincide with an ongoing campaign of one of the ten current World State Controllers in pursuit of Its own political as well as personal agenda.
The initial trigger for writing Even Braver New World was my interest in the phenomenon of transsexualism. One of the outcomes of that interest became my BA thesis at the Department of Social and Political Philosophy of the European Humanities University in Vilnius, Lithuania, where I happened to be studying at that time. The title of the thesis was “The Problem of Post-Gender Identity in Contemporary Social Theory.”
As I was toying with the idea, it occurred to me that the best way to illustrate some of the conjectures concerning the currently forming trans-human society would be by writing a work of fiction similar to the one that Aldous Huxley had published in the first part of the previous century.
At first, I wanted to turn it into an integral part of my thesis, which would follow the footnotes to its analytical section. Also, being convinced that no novel narrated nowadays can be called “novel”, that is, “new” in the full sense of the word, for the forerunning tradition of exhaustive experimenting with genres, plots and styles seems to have drained the literary soil, rendering our age utterly barren when it comes to offering anything but direct or indirect, deliberate or chance, conscious or unconscious simulations and repetitions of the past, I decided to tap into the said tradition by merging with it the same way a small stream merges with a bigger river before running into one immense inter-textual ocean.
After considering Huxley’s Brave New World, the choice of the “bigger river” seemed clear. Just like Tom Stoppard had dived into Shakespeare’s deep, wide sea by writing his “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” on the outskirts of Hamlet, and Huxley himself had borrowed bountifully from the same source, starting with the name he took from the “Tempest” and continuing to cultivate ideas on loan from other prominent philosophers like Plato, Marx and Freud, to name just a few, I thought I’d try to follow in the footsteps of the famed.
Alas, as it could have been expected, the administrative rigidity of the academia barred my way forward through this channel, confining the work to its analytical part alone. But it may have been for the best, for it gave me a chance to revise the book and bring it a bit closer to perfection than it had been in the beginning.
Even Braver New World was conceived as a trilogy. The titles of the three parts are: Even Braver New World – State, War, and Peace.
Inspired by and written on the margins of an acclaimed masterpiece, the book centers around certain social, political and philosophical problems pertaining to sexuality. Most of the characters run parallel to the original Brave New World ones, serving as their inter-textual counterparts.
For instance, Adam Marx, whose first name is an apparent allusion to the first man from the Book of Genesis, is the protagonist of the story. He is also the grandson of one of the core characters of Huxley’s prequel, Bernard Marx. Having been naturally born in the reservation, just like another Brave New World character, John the Savage, Adam is a 25-year-old virgin working as a mailman at the Isle of Man’s Post Office. Dissatisfied with his life on the Island, he decides to contact his deceased grandfather’s best friend, Helmholtz Watson.
Helmholtz is the only active character of the novel, borrowed directly from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, yet over the past eight decades changed to a withered old man, plagued by regrets, repressed rage and yearning to ease the pain of his miserable existence. He is also posed as the true author of Brave New World under the penname of Aldous Huxley, a postmodern move of mixing reality and fiction the book is full of. Helmholtz introduces Adam to his work and tells him the truth about the Mainland, thus serving as a link between the two worlds: the brave new and the even braver new one.
Another link is the current Director of London’s Hatcheries and Conditioning Center, Darlina Downing, who assists the Chief Caretaking Continent Controller, Gianna Globe, in conducting a trial program that allows Adam Marx to leave the Isle of Man for the Mainland at the end of the first part.
Gianna Globe, another core character of the novel, is the successor of the Brave New World’s European Controller, Mustapha Mond, mirroring the man as an embodiment of the entire even braver New World State. An incredibly seducing and smart she-male of indefinite age, the Controller campaigns for peaceful integration of the Islanders into the transsexual society, wishing to end a sociopolitical conflict that spawns terroristic resistance. Controller Globe manipulates Adam into serving Its purpose by making him fall in love with It, a state in which Adam is willing to do literally anything to please the Controller, including changing his sex and becoming one of the New World State’s citizens.
And finally, Tania Trahova, the Chief Caretaking Continent Controller for West Asia with unmistakably Russian roots, is Controller Globes’s ideological opponent, who suggests a radical solution to the problem of island terrorism. As Gianna’s antipode, the West Asian Controller is the closest to what one can call the villain in the story. But, as the end draws near, It, like many of us, may turn out to be merely misunderstood.