Progress has been made, finishing off Dinner for Two and Three Little Pigs, and I’ll be posting chunks of those in a few days, for those still following that progress. Questions and commentary are, as always, welcome on them (or the first piece that I posted on here, which is still sadly nameless.) But it occurred to me that some of you might – and that’s a very big might – want to have some background on the setting and terminology, rather than just throwing you to the wolves and drowning you in the terminology. I’m open to suggestions on that as well; is it better to just throw the reader into the world and leave them to puzzle it out, or is a bit of background and introduction into the dialect and history important/useful?
Either way, figured you loyalists crazy enough to read this blog might find something of interest or amusement in here, so here’s some of the notes I have on the the Rotten Apple universe. Enjoy!
What causes it? Leprosy-D is the common medical term for the virus that the deaders (and “proto-deaders”) carry. It evolved from “standard” leprosy at some point in the Civil War, and came back home with the soliders to spread. Like normal leprosy, it can promote twisting of bones or flesh and protein deficiencies, as well as increased deadening of nerves relating to senses of taste, touch and smell. The subject’s metabolism is slowed drastically, almost undetectable. Full activation of the virus typically only occurs once someone who is infected should have “died,” though some symptoms (typically indistinguishable from normal leprosy cases) are sometimes present before that moment. It is not highly contagious, usually requiring an individual who possesses a genetic susceptibility to leprosy or prolonged, unprotected and repeated exposure through open wounds or large amounts of fluid transfer (a lovebite probably isn’t going to do it unless the person is very unlucky; full-on snogging every day for a year is like 50/50 chance; blood transfusion? Yeah, you’ve got it.) Occasionally ordinary leprosy may “evolve” into leprosy-D, but this usually only occurs if the leper has extensive contact with existing deaders.
Unique problems? Due to the protein deficiencies caused by the disease, deaders typically have to keep their diets full of rare and raw meats or similar items to avoid feeling “starved;” prolonged periods without proper nutrition are likely to cause further metabolism slowdown, typically evidenced by difficulty thinking, poor motor control reminiscent of late-stage arthritis, deterioration of appearance (particularly in locations of wounds that were unhealed at the time of their “deaths”) and mood swings. Many also suffer from calcium deficiency, and prolonged periods without treatment may lead to brittle bone disease or softening of bones, causing problems with movement. Both are typically treated medically, as a special supplement has been developed to provide more regulated levels of protein and calcium, usually delivered in slow-release, concentrated capsule form. Of course, one could also make a habit of eating raw meat, bone and all, but that tends to interfere with “fitting in” and reinforces the “zombie” image that most deaders prefer to avoid. Due to their reduced metabolisms, healing happens slowly (if at all), particularly damage that was present at the time the leprosy-D virus activated, but advances in plastic surgery (generally called “plastique procedures” in-universe) are catching on among the few affluent deaders. For the rank-and-file, it typically involves a lot of makeup and practice with home sewing kits. Lastly, leprosy-D proves to have odd interactions with the rabies virus, leading to a greater susceptibility, shorter incubation period before late-stage symptoms appear, and an only semi-functional immune system that often prevents them from dying of the disease (and capable of going on when otherwise apparently lethal damage is done to them), meaning yellers can be a severe problem.
Deader – An individual afflicted with leprosy-D. Generally only applied in cases where the virus has “activated,” occasionally applied to anyone known to carry it.
Rotter, Rot – Highly offensive term for deaders, roughly analogous to “the N-word” in terms of level of offense intended or implied.
Yeller – Originally an offensive term regarding a rabid deader, has since become common terminology. Partly inspired by “Ol’ Yeller,” partly due to the odd vocalizations many such individuals make, and partly due to the typical colorization of liquid rabies samples (yellow.)
Rotten Apple – The quasi-official name of the deader ghettoes located in New York, occasionally applied to any part of an area that is known to be frequented by deaders.
Deadhead – Derogatory term for normals enamored or involved with deader affairs and culture, or normals who engage in romantic relationships with deaders. Occasionally applied to members of religious or political organizations that venerate or welcome deader members.
Redead – Common police and street slang for a deceased deader, in particular a corpse being investigated.
Lifer, Lifest, Lifeism, etc – Terms to describe individuals or philosophies opposed on a fundamental level to the existence or rights of deaders. Used similarly to “racist” (and that term is sometimes applied as well), in the “default” setting (1960s-1970s) this is not necessarily considered a character flaw as much as “the way things are.” In later periods, it likely implies such as much stupidity and backwards thinking as being racist or sexist does today.
Major world changes:
World War II was ended prior to the US getting heavily involved; an outbreak of Leprosy-D in Hitler’s concentration camps led to a deader population explosion. Attempts at containment failed, and the deaders overran German forces. With final nudges from the British Imperium, the Third Reich was obliterated, leaving Japan and Italy to carry the war, which they did poorly. When the British developed the atomic bomb (in this time frame, our non-involvement with WWII has led to other ripples in science and technology) and took down Hiroshima (Nagasaki wasn’t bombed), it signalled the end.
The British Imperium has replaced the United Kingdom; shortly after WWII, Catholic/Protestant fighting reached a new fever pitch, with a growing infected populace that got back up and kept fighting rather than staying down. Feeling they had no other recourse, England initiated a series of carpet bombings colloquially known as “The Burning of the Eire,” leaving most of the former Emerald Isle an atomic slagheap. The few human survivors have mostly fled to Scotland or England, where they are typically treated as second class citizens (moreso, if they are known or suspected to have been participants in the fighting.) Capitalizing on the fear and show of power, England tightened its stranglehold on Scotland and Whales, forming the basis of the Imperium.
Russia and America are closer allies; Kennedy “surviving” his assassination and the differences in WWII lead to Khrushchev retaining his power base and the two being loosely allied in a cold war with the Imperium. The “Space Race” has been more of a joint project, with plans to launch an all-deader joint crew in 1970 (believing that their reduced survival requirements will make for an easier, more cost-effective project. Of course, they have to figure out a way around the explosive decompression that tends to occur to deaders…)
Current hotbutton political and social issues include deader marriage rights (both amongst themselves and with normals), deader parental rights (for existing children and adoptees), and political blocs forming both pro- and anti-deader. “Metabolically challenged” is coming into vogue as the “PC” term for victims of the virus.
Racism and sexism have taken something of a backseat; with zombies walking about, far fewer people are concerned about skin-tone, language or what’s hanging (or not) between an individual’s legs when they’re eying the guy who just moved in that might get it into his head to eat the kids one night. Some places are obviously still mired in them (Irish folks in the Imperium, African-Americans in the deep South, people of “pure” German or Norse descent in Germany (which is mostly governed by Jews, Gypsies and Deaders following their hostile takeover during WWII)
I’ve got piles more notes (I’ve found, as I mentioned in an earlier post, that world building can generate reams of paper long before you actually start telling a story in that world), but that hits most of the high points, I think. If any of you out there have further questions, suggestions, or “What tha f***?” moments, I’m all ears, and those can be dropped in the comment box below.
Until next time, have fun out there!