The Beasts of Electra Drive
The Beasts of Electra Drive (novel),
launching in April 2018
From Hollywood Hills mansions and Century City towers, to South Central motels and the oceanside refinery, The Beasts of Electra Drive by Rohan Quine spans a mythic L.A., following seven spectacular characters (or Beasts) from games designer Jaymi’s game-worlds. The intensity of those Beasts’ creation cycles leads to their release into real life in seemingly human forms, and to their combative protection of him from destructive rivals at mainstream company Bang Dead Games. Grand spaces of beauty interlock with narrow rooms of terror, both in the real world and in the incorporeal world of cyberspace. A prequel to Quine’s other five tales, The Beasts of Electra Drive is a unique explosion of glamour and beauty, horror and enchantment, exploring the mechanisms and magic of creativity itself.
For some great reviews of The Beasts of Electra Drive, click here.
Jaymi is an independent games designer living on Electra Drive in the Hollywood Hills. Opposed to him are his former colleagues at Bang Dead Games. Their mounting competitiveness regarding his own extravagant game-creation reaches a point where they attack him physically with a flying drone.
Bang Dead is preparing the global release of a game called Ain’tTheyFreaky!, centring on five tabloid-flavoured social-media “Newsfeeds” for the victimisation of certain people by others—the “Gal Score”, “Guy Score”, “Trivia Score”, “Arts Score” and “Cosy Score”. Jaymi decides to fight back, for self-protection and to counteract this game’s destructive effects.
He takes an irrevocable step: after creating Amber, the most dangerous of the characters (or Beasts, as he calls them) who will populate Jaymi’s project The Platinum Raven, he releases Amber from that game, such that Amber slithers out of Jaymi’s computer monitor. Appearing human, this now-incarnated Beast is sent to stalk Ain’tTheyFreaky!’s creators in real life—developer Dud Guy, visual designer Kelly, IT boss Ashley and programmer Herb.
While Amber terrorises them, Jaymi creates a second Beast, Evelyn, a woman of ease and freedom, from his project The Imagination Thief. Incarnated too, she joins Amber in sabotaging a Bang Dead venture in the physical world.
As Jaymi’s output spawns three more titles—The Host in the Attic, Apricot Eyes and Hallucination in Hong Kong—he jumps into the creation cycles and subsequent incarnations of five more varied and human-seeming Beasts. These are Shigem, Kim, the Platinum Raven, Scorpio, and his own simulacrum the Jaymi Beast.
Targeted by a more lethal drone attack than the first one, he decides that his Beasts’ missions must escalate: they will infiltrate the very substance of Ain’tTheyFreaky!. Evelyn, Shigem and Kim therefore sneak into one of the game’s visual environments (a mythically seedy Downtown L.A.), where they try to put an end to some of the casually-programmed cruelty in the game. Shigem shames one Bang Dead programmer into secretly working for Jaymi instead; and Kim persuades another high-ranking Bang Dead employee to join Jaymi likewise.
Five of the Beasts proceed to sabotage Ain’tTheyFreaky! at code level, turning its own server farm into a radically different kind of environment from before. Their sabotage takes aim at the game in such a way as to break it down into its constituent glyphs and pixels—then electrifies these, recombining them into brand-new forms of such enchanted love and wickedness and originality that they’d certainly have been forbidden by Bang Dead.
Amid the resultant conflict, a Beast is sent to kill a human; a Beast is arrested, before escaping and wreaking revenge; and another human is lashed to the top of the transmitter tower above the Hollywood Sign, where…
After the ensuing convulsions of destruction and violent creation have run their course, Jaymi’s Beasts slip away to their appointed onscreen destinations, one by one; and he is left alone again, just as he was before he brought them into being. As he fires up his newly-completed game The Imagination Thief for the first time, however, it is clear that neither he nor the world around him will ever quite be as before.
Cover of paperback novel The Beasts of Electra Drive
For a video and transcription of a lively chat with my developmental editor Dan Holloway about the process we subjected this novel to, click here.
For a video and transcription of Dan’s and my interview about that process, when we appeared on the Literary Fiction panel alongside Galley Beggar Press publisher Sam Jordison and authors Sunny Singh and Alex Pheby at the Triskele LitFest, click here.
For an in-depth interview of me by author Jay Lemming about literary fiction, centring on this novel, click here.
For the inclusion in Vine Leaves Literary Journal of an excerpt from the novel, click here.
And for the inclusion in indieBerlin of an excerpt from the novel, click here.
Table of Contents of The Beasts of Electra Drive
(These 120 little mini-chapters are ever so short, nibbly and snackable…)
PART I. AMBER’S CREATION, BANG DEAD GAMES, AND THE LONE VIOLINIST
1. The lone violinist in the woodlands at dusk (Ghost, as Hook)
2. The terrace pool at the house on Electra Drive
3. Here come the Beasts, up the slopes of the canyons
4. Declaration of war by the Dreary Ones (Inciting Event)
5. Ain’tTheyFreaky! by Bang Dead Games
6. Jaymi conceives his game The Platinum Raven
7. Development and basics in the Avenue of the Stars tower
8. Infrastructure and stress-balls in the Avenue of the Stars tower
9. Jaymi creates Amber’s code
10. Visuals and laughter in the Sunset Boulevard building
11. Coding and khaki in the Sunset Boulevard building
12. Jaymi creates Amber’s appearance
13. Jaymi’s games The Imagination Thief and The Host in the Attic
14. Jaymi incarnates Amber (First Doorway of No Return)
PART II. “GAL SCORE”, EVELYN’S CREATION, AND THE STALKING OF THE DREARY ONES
15. Amber incarnate in the house on Electra Drive
16. The Hollywood cafe on Cahuenga Boulevard
17. The “Gal Score: Babe or Gross?” Newsfeed
18. Jaymi creates Evelyn’s code
19. The Silver Lake bar on Hyperion Avenue
20. How very concerning—did you report it?
21. Herb hacks Evelyn’s code
22. Herb at home in the Westwood Village cottage
23. Jaymi creates Evelyn’s appearance
24. Amber stalks Ashley through the motel by LAX
25. Evelyn’s appearance comes alive
26. Kelly smudges Evelyn
27. Kelly at home in the Factory Place loft
28. Jaymi creates Evelyn’s soundtrack
29. Ashley at home in the Century Park East apartment
30. Evelyn’s soundtrack comes alive
31. Amber stalks Dud at work
32. Jaymi test-drives Evelyn
33. Kelly tails Amber through the Hollywood Hills
34. Jaymi incarnates Evelyn
35. Ashley and Dud attack Evelyn (First Pinch Point)
PART III. “GUY SCORE” AND “TRIVIA SCORE”, SHIGEM’S AND KIM’S CREATIONS, AND THE RIGHTEOUS GUN COCKPIT
36. The “Guy Score: Hunk or Gross?” Newsfeed
37. Jaymi creates Shigem’s code
38. Amber with binoculars on Sunset Plaza Drive
39. Shigem emerges within his code
40. Herb hacks Shigem’s code
41. The infinity pool at the Blue Jay Way house
42. Jaymi creates Shigem’s appearance
43. The severed grey tongue-meat swinging round the football
44. Shigem’s appearance comes alive
45. Kelly smudges Shigem
46. The “Trivia Score: Wacky or Boring?” Newsfeed
47. Jaymi creates Kim’s code
48. Herb hacks Kim’s code
49. Evelyn, tiny in the face of the deluge
50. Jaymi creates Kim’s appearance
51. Kelly smudges Kim
52. Sun-glare and skinny palms in Westmont, South Central
53. Jaymi creates Shigem’s and Kim’s soundtrack
54. The Righteous Gun Cockpit, from Bang Dead Games
55. Jaymi test-drives Shigem and Kim
56. Amber’s eyes in the photo of the motel by the vacant lot
57. Jaymi incarnates Shigem and Kim
58. Ashley and Dud attack Shigem
59. Evelyn’s eyes in the photo of the motel by the liquor store
60. Ashley and Dud attack Kim
61. Kim on the canyon by Hercules Drive
62. Dud shocked in the motel by the liquor store
63. Dud shocked in the motel by the vacant lot
64. Dud’s ghastly photo opportunity
65. Jaymi refines Shigem
66. Lethal attack, understanding and despair (Midpoint)
PART IV. “ARTS SCORE”, THE PLATINUM RAVEN’S CREATION, AND ELEVATING DOWNTOWN L.A.
67. The “Arts Score: Simple-Smiley or Complex-Frowny?” Newsfeed
68. Jaymi creates the Platinum Raven’s code
69. Herb hacks the Platinum Raven’s code
70. Three Beasts sneak into Herb’s computer
71. Jaymi creates the Platinum Raven’s appearance
72. KitKat and Krispy Kreme dramas in Downtown
73. The Platinum Raven’s appearance comes alive
74. Kelly smudges the Platinum Raven
75. This Downtown L.A. is a more peculiar one than most
76. Jaymi creates the Platinum Raven’s soundtrack
77. The street queens of Violet Street
78. The Platinum Raven’s soundtrack comes alive
79. Hatred across the L.A. River: a cruel and stupid world
80. Jaymi test-drives the Platinum Raven
81. Shigem shames Herb
82. Jaymi incarnates the Platinum Raven
83. A unicorn’s-horn of invention by Herb
84. The Platinum Raven’s mission to Blue Jay Way
85. Ashley and Dud attack the Platinum Raven (Second Pinch Point)
PART V. “COSY SCORE”, SCORPIO’S CREATION, AND THE BEASTS GO REPURPOSING
86. The underground server farm beyond LAX
87. The Platinum Raven in the house on Zeus Drive
88. The “Cosy Score: Normal-Comfy or Strange-Scary?” Newsfeed
89. Jaymi creates Scorpio’s code
90. Kim shames Ashley
91. Scorpio emerges within his code
92. Feint of a hack into Scorpio’s code
93. Jaymi proposes the repurposing to Herb
94. Jaymi creates Scorpio’s appearance
95. Scorpio’s appearance comes alive
96. Talking of meat
97. Kelly smudges Scorpio
98. Jaymi creates Scorpio’s soundtrack
99. Jaymi test-drives Scorpio
100. Jaymi instructs the Beasts for the repurposing
101. Jaymi incarnates Scorpio
102. Amber’s mission in the El Segundo refinery
103. The Platinum Raven’s mission on Avion Drive, LAX
104. The Beasts converge on Sandpiper Street
105. The club night in the server farm
106. Amber heading east on a mission to murder
107. Victory and disaster (Second Doorway of No Return)
PART VI. THE JAYMI BEAST’S CREATION, BATTLE AND TRANSCENDENCE
108. Dud’s bad morning
109. Police romance and the apex predator
110. Feint of a co-attack on Scorpio
111. Scorpio as succubus in the house on Jupiter Drive
112. The weak tan figure and the vast tornado
113. Jaymi’s games Apricot Eyes and Hallucination in Hong Kong
114. Jaymi creates the Jaymi Beast’s code and appearance
115. Jaymi incarnates the Jaymi Beast
116. From Mulholland Highway to the Hollywood Sign
117. Transcendence, vengeance and fierce beauty: the private screening (Climax)
118. Torment on Mount Lee (Climax)
119. One apart (Climax)
120. Bridge to The Imagination Thief (Resolution)
List of main characters
Jaymi Peek is the protagonist and imperfect hero. His idealistic and ambitious qualities are evident when he resigns as a high-flying games designer at Bang Dead, frustrated by the conceptual limitations of the mainstream industry and vowing to blaze his own visionary trail. When his talents turn out to be so spectacular that his characters are able to be released into real life, his natural joy in shaping them through their “creation cycles” becomes increasingly flavoured with his desire to use them to sabotage the most pernicious output of his former employer. That output is indeed pernicious, deserving the destruction Jaymi wreaks on it; and his intelligence, humour and fertile creativity should be reassuring. Yet beneath his general mission to elevate the world, there is an uneasy sense of danger in his growing power, of amorality within his ambition to enrich and refine the culture, and perhaps of oddness in his apparent isolation from normal human society. So complex is the balance of his own drives and priorities, indeed, that it even seems a strangely natural thing when two of his former colleagues end up murdered at the hands of his Beasts.
BEASTS (Jaymi’s creations, who appear human)
Amber is Jaymi’s first incarnated Beast, whose appearance and infernal allure reflect the fact that Jaymi conceived of him (for the game The Platinum Raven) as the continuation of Rutger Hauer’s psychopathic character in the movie The Hitcher. Amber embodies Jaymi’s urge for vengeance on the hatred and closed-mindedness that flourish in the world.
Evelyn, Jaymi’s second incarnated Beast, is sunny and kind, but sassy and street-smart. Evelyn embodies not just her creator’s pointed response to Bang Dead’s poisonous “Gal Score”, but also Jaymi’s instinctive urge for ease and freedom, in the face of the sheer authoritarian rigidity that flourishes in the world.
Shigem, Jaymi’s third incarnated Beast, is an effusive, flamboyant nightclub host, a lovable and neurotic survivor. Shigem embodies not just his creator’s pointed response to Bang Dead’s poisonous “Guy Score”, but also Jaymi’s instinctive urge for the kind of warmth and openness that’s so often targeted for punishment in the world.
Kim, Jaymi’s fourth incarnated Beast, is quiet, observant and loyal, with a tinge of thoughtful pessimism. Kim embodies not just his creator’s pointed response to Bang Dead’s asinine “Trivia Score”, but also Jaymi’s instinctive urge to think more deeply than tends to be allowed by the toxic “simplicity” that’s so encouraged in the world. The later stages of Kim’s and Shigem’s two creation cycles fuse into a joint affair, uniquely, as Jaymi designs them to be a couple.
The Platinum Raven, Jaymi’s fifth incarnated Beast, is a desert-eyed, cool-toned platinum-blonde whose cheekbones are much given to slanting down in grandeur from nocturnal projections above the Hollywood Hills, but who also harbours a red-hot death-wish at the heart of her. The Platinum Raven embodies not just her creator’s pointed response to Bang Dead’s depressingly trivial “Arts Score”, but also Jaymi’s instinctive urge for transcendence of all the smallness of vision that flourishes in the world. She’s an implicit representation of his own status as a creator, too, suggesting his urge to isolate himself in order to pursue his perfectionism of craftsmanship in creating Beasts whose incarnations constitute the richest communication he could have with the world. (Her soundtrack would probably be Lana Del Rey.)
Scorpio, Jaymi’s sixth incarnated Beast, is a ferociously dark and sensual creature whose complex gender identity makes something of a mockery of the distinction between male and female. Scorpio embodies not just his creator’s pointed response to Bang Dead’s mind-sogging “Cosy Score”, but also Jaymi’s instinctive urge for the fierce beauty of a self-destructive voltage, when any kind of wild beauty is so often policed and forbidden by the world.
Dud Guy, Jaymi’s principal antagonist, is in his late thirties, white and stocky, his hair an average brown above a forgettable face with a ready-to-grin mouth that’s chewing gum. He is Head of Games Development at Bang Dead in Hollywood, hired with a specific brief to develop a gigantic global tabloid-news-flavoured social-media game called Ain’tTheyFreaky!, centred on five rolling Newsfeeds where everyone gives scores and comments on one another, with a monetised system of championing the most championed and shaming the most shamed. This game epitomises everything that drags us all downwards and backwards, and it will inevitably sweep the world.
Ashley Tweke, at first an antagonist, is crisply-presented, white and in her early forties, heavy and uptight in manner, and sometimes unintentionally comical. She’s in charge of Bang Dead’s IT infrastructure, including its server farms where the flicker of Ain’tTheyFreaky!’s glyphs and pixels occurs. A natural conventionality has caused her not to question the company; but her awareness and conscience are awakened by Kim, and she starts covertly working with Jaymi against Bang Dead.
Kelly Kandy, an antagonist, is open and fun-loving in manner, black and in her late twenties, and works as a visual designer at Bang Dead. In fact her horizons are quite limited, with a strong streak of laziness and convention, and an unthinking loathing of Scorpio as soon as she sees him.
Herb Shrim, at first an antagonist, is Native American, plump and of indeterminate age. He’s a star programmer at Bang Dead, a hardcore technical wizard, happily nerdy but sometimes evincing a sharp sense of humour. He turns out to have more moral fibre than might be assumed: his conscience is awakened by Shigem, and he starts covertly working with Jaymi against Bang Dead.