Inside Iris is a dystopian science fiction novel by Belfast author, Scott Gilmore. With viruses spreading in the news, there’s no better time to read Inside Iris.
In September 2018, I published my debut novel, Inside Iris. This dystopian science fiction novel, the first instalment of The IRIS Trilogy, was inspired by the idea of viruses and disease becoming resistant to traditional medical treatments. With the recent release of the follow-up novel, Anna’s Awakening, I thought I would compose some creative writing blogs about the background of why I wrote the books and the inspiration behind them.
With the current Covid-19 cases across the world, I am continually updated by the number of infected people and, unfortunately, the deaths associated with the spread of this flu-like illness. There is no doubt that viruses like this are a tragedy, but do we need to consider changing how we interact as a society and how we utilise the precious medical resources we have in the 21st century?
The IRIS Trilogy are three novels which will look at how our society may change its outlook in the search for treatments for viruses or diseases that take hold of countries around the world. Whether illnesses become epidemics or pandemics, we as a society are reliant on associations like the World Health Organisation, the CDC, and the NHS to lead the fight against viral infection and disease. However, if such bodies run out of answers, what will be done to survive as a species?
Inside Iris was my debut dystopian science fiction novel and I feel the questions posed within its pages are some that have always intrigued me. Ever since I was a child, science fiction and dystopian societies have given me many creative ideas that continue to inspire me to this day.
In the article below, I share the inspiration behind the novel and why I chose to write it in the first place. There is no doubt that Inside Iris and Anna’s Awakening are two dystopian science fiction novels that will entertain as well as pose questions that readers will ponder after the books are finished. Read on to learn what inspired Inside Iris and The IRIS Trilogy.
Inside Iris: The Play
When I was a young writer studying my Creative Writing MA, I started as a playwright. I was obsessed with plays by masters, such as:
- Samuel Beckett,
- Arthur Miller,
- Harold Pinter, and,
- Sam Shepard.
These writers gave me so many ideas for stories and how they could be acted out rather than read or told. There was a while where I would compare the productions of cinematic adaptations to the filmed stage productions of famous plays. In turn, this led to me writing my BA dissertation on such a topic. At the time, it felt less like work and more like a young creative, soaking up all he could from those titanic writers whom he looked up to.
As I look back now, I laugh at some of the plays I wrote. They were seriously awful! However, the foundations of character development, setting construction, and plotting a story were being built. There was no doubt that the bug had bitten me and, in turn, the dystopian science fiction author within me owes a lot to that young dreamer.
Through this time, I came up with the idea for a play called Inside Iris. The girl, Iris, was a timid young teenager who was confused about her identity. She was also struggling to make sense of the world around her. Her whole life had been turned upside down through grief. She had to negotiate that as well as grow up in a world without one of her parents.
Let’s just say that the play didn’t work out, but the girl who was created within it stayed with me until I started writing the novel, Inside Iris in the spring of 2018.
When I sat down to write the book, the first line flowed from me with little effort, ‘Fragmented would be the word I would use to describe Iris when I first met her‘. The young girl within the play was broken and felt she had little left of the world she had before losing her mother. She was fragmented. This was my nod to the girl in the play who just had to have her story told.
Jade’s Monologues & The Birth Of Iris
One of the creative writing techniques I have always used is that of the monologue. Here, the character talks to me about an area of their past that they felt was poignant or memorable for one reason or another. This would give me an idea of what their voice sounded like and, in turn, this would give me details about their past that few people would know.
I knew I wanted to have female characters in my dystopian science fiction novel. There are reasons why my protagonist had to be female. These reasons are outlined throughout Anna’s Awakening and into the third book. Therefore, I had to spend a length of time honing in on the voices I had for Iris and Jade. This was especially important for Jade as she would be the narrator for all three novels.
By utilising monologues, I could access some of the high and low points of the character’s lives told from their points of view. This would also give me an idea about how Jade and Iris would behave or react to situations of extreme pressure or stress. Those who have read the ending of Inside Iris will know how Jade reacts, and her actions impact upon Iris into Anna’s Awakening.
The first chapter of Inside Iris (all three are available for free download by joining the SG Fiction community) is printed as I wrote it in my first draft. Other than a minor edit, the monologue that Jade gives here is how I wrote it in the spring of 2018. It is through this chapter that Jade gives the first description of the test subject, Iris, in her clinical room within The Institute.
This ghostly description gives birth to the intrigue around this young girl and, in turn, gives birth to Iris as a character. From this moment on, we unravel the layers of this teenage girl and find out that she is more than we see in our first meeting.
Dystopian Science Fiction: The Perfect Fit
After the Jade monologue and Iris came back to the forefront of my creative mind, I wanted to see where the story took me. This meant that the genre of dystopian science fiction was a perfect fit in my mind.
In the days before I wrote the first chapter, I watched a series of news reports on how the WHO and NHS were putting policies in place to limit the use of antibiotics. This process was to be used to ensure antibiotic resistance was slowed and they would be more successful when treating illnesses when we needed them.
It was then that the idea of Inside Iris started to snowball. I found myself watching documentaries on Netflix about pandemics and movies that had their roots in similar areas. As far as I was concerned, dystopian science fiction was where I wanted to place Inside Iris and it was about immersing myself in as much material as I could.
In a previous blog, named Tomorrow’s Worlds, I talk about five science fiction settings that are memorable in my mind. A number of them had elements of the dystopian sci-fi setting within them. There were pieces of this ‘good world gone bad’ idea that I wanted to include within my fiction. These elements came about in the form of Hexingham and The Institute.
By creating a new world within the real-life UK, I could let my imagination run wild with a citizen uprising, an unethical medical research facility, and a small number of citizens being experimented upon for the good of the human race.
When I planned out Inside Iris, I wanted to have an ambiguous medical research facility that could be seen as an overarching villain in itself. This became The Institute.
As I put the setting together, I thought about how I wanted this structure to look and, in my mind, I wanted it to be brightly lit from all directions. This building was to appear as a shining beacon to a modern world that was regularly battling illness, disease, and viruses.
These modern plagues were only being held at bay by the medical teams at The Institute, headed up by Dr Rosen. As far as the people in Hexingham and beyond were aware, the doctors and virologists within The Institute defeated these illnesses with hard work and scientific research. However, they were unaware of the truth that the DNA of Iris, and several other subjects, was used to synthesise cures to combat these diseases.
When I look at elements of corruption linked to government and multinational corporations, I thought about whether a futuristic society could see genetic testing as a viable way to combat viruses and disease in the future. What if the human race was backed into a corner? Would a government somewhere use immunities of its citizens to create cures away from the public eye and the spotlight of the press?
These ideas gave birth to The Institute and Malcolm Barton.
Iris’ Search For Identity
At the heart of it, Inside Iris and Anna’s Awakening are the story of a teenage girl searching for an identity. Unlike other ‘coming of age’ drama or fiction, Iris’ identity was taken and hidden from her to take advantage of genetic gifts and immunities within her genes.
I wanted to create a story that was as much about the girl uncovering a past hidden to her as the dystopian science fiction elements and genetic research. There isn’t a person out there reading this creative writing blog who has never had a crisis of who they were or who they want to be. This is naturally a part of our condition, and we can regularly find ourselves becoming anxious at questions like,
- Who am I?
- Why am I here?
- What am I doing with my life?
- What is the meaning of life?
Iris, and latterly Anna, is no different from any other young person or adult out there who has pondered such questions. Her determination to find out the truth and why The Institute chose her over all other research subjects are central to the story of Inside Iris and Anna’s Awakening.
Throughout The IRIS Trilogy, we find out more about who Iris is, what happened to her family, and why she was in The Institute from such a young age. To learn more about Iris’ search for her identity, get a copy of Inside Iris and Anna’s Awakening today.
I have always felt that dystopian science fiction gives us a peek into the future. Some people will say the whole dystopian genre is negative and doom-mongering, but I see things differently.
If creative minds are silenced or poked fun at for such stories, there is no one to look at the possible moral or ethical implications for meddling in areas deemed questionable by society. I like to view these writers as artists holding up a mirror to show us what we could be like if we are not careful.
I have often said how my favourite novel of all time is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. When this novel is discussed at high schools, colleges, and universities around the world, we are constantly reminded of Dr Frankenstein’s desire to bring dead flesh back to life, the use of grave robbers in the early days of medicine, and the desire to create the perfect human.
Many of these queries are still valid today and, with my use of viruses and disease as inspiration, I wanted to pose the question of whether medicine would treat citizens like test subjects. Would society turn a blind eye so long as the experimentation was for ‘the greater good’?
The only way to experience the story for yourself is to buy a copy of Inside Iris. It is available on Kindle or Paperback from Amazon via the hyperlinks in the introduction of this article. Read the dystopian science fiction novel and ask yourself whether you could see society going this way in years to come.