…I couldn’t help thinking of this line from Rosanne Rabinowitz’s story in the austerrorty-themed anthology Horror Uncut, edited by the late Joel Lane and myself, coming soon from http://www.grayfriarpress.com. It popped into my head when the tragic story broke about the fifteen babies poisoned (two of them fatally) by contaminated intravenous feeding drips. Of course the Tory press screamed that these were “NHS drips”, giving the impression that the public sector is to blame, despite the contaminated batch coming from a private pharmaceutical firm ITH Pharma. Of course, the full details aren’t out yet, but later reports strongly implied that the firm’s practices were at the root of the problem, mentioning that ITH had since cleaned up their act. And, what do you know? The story hasn’t cropped up much since… http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-28113157
All through the editing process, I’ve been asking myself: what is the point of a horror fiction anthology as a way of campaigning against austerity / cuts / privatisation? I think I’ve answered my own question! Those responsible for these policies know the importance of words as a tool in promoting, justifying and generally softening up the public for them. A recent poll, suggesting that a large section of the public is swayed by the myths about welfare promoted by the popular press, demonstrates the effectiveness of this tool. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/voters-brainwashed-by-tory-welfare-myths-shows-new-poll-8437872.html. When politicians and their friends in the media turn fiction into a ‘truth’ that’s widely believed, why not use fiction to reveal the truth?
It would be deluded to argue that fiction can change society. However, as I’ve argued, how writers (whether journalists or fiction authors) use language can affect how their readers view reality, and this can change society, for better or worse. When it reaches a mass audience, the fantasy genre has a great influence on the language of popular struggles: Take the adoption by the ‘Occupy’ movement of the mask from V for Vendetta, or the use by Thai anti-government demonstrators of three-fingered salute from The Hunger Games movies. Of course, I can’t pretend that this small press publication will have quite that impact. But it would be nice to think it might represent a small two-fingered salute against the ‘Con Dems’…
As this wonderful, if ghastly, cover image by the talented Neil Williams suggests, the effect of austerity and privatisation on healthcare is a recurring theme in a few of the stories in Horror Uncut, not least Joel’s own contribution, ‘A Cry for Help’, as well as tales by David Williamson and Laura Mauro. In fact, the idea for this artwork was loosely inspired by an image from another of his NHS-themed tales, ‘For Their Own Ends’, which he wrote for Black Static #22, as a response to what was then (2011) still a government white paper on Health and Social Care. For a back copy, go here: http://www.ttapress.com/blackstatic/backissues/2/