Hello – yes! I have been asked by the fabulous owner of Civillian Reader to share an annotated excerpt from my forthcoming novel Glitterati, which is a dystopian satire about fashion, family and the feckless billionaire class.
Simone is a fashionista – one of the fashionable elites, who live in a sumptuous, opulent utopia, with their every whim catered for. Early in the novel, it is only Simone’s strange anxieties holding him back from being one of the most fabulous people around.
Let me introduce you now to Simone, and one of the most acute sources of anxiety in his life…
The problem with Simone’s bed was that it was full of fish.
Fish are very pretty. I wish I had put more fishy fashions into the book.
It was fashionable to sleep on a waterbed composed of a mattress with a clear membrane and filled with all manner of aesthetic aquatic life. There were even quaint little lights along the base of the mattress, to lend the walls of one’s bedroom an underwater look, as beams refracted through the mattress’s ever-shifting contents. The fish themselves were remarkable specimens, Simone had to admit; all kinds of vivid, exotic creatures, with shimmering scales that would have made him blush with envy were it fashionable to blush (which it currently was not). In fact, for the first few days he had slept quite soundly upon the mattress, lulled to sleep by its gentle wave-like sloshing, and entertained by the flitting of the pretty fishes upon awakening. Once, he even saw a large yellow fish devour a small red fish whole, and was delighted by the way its belly turned orange.
Simone is extraordinarily wealthy, which means that he doesn’t have to think about things like capitalism, political division or climate catastrophe. Instead, he can spend his days thinking about far more important things, like the colours of the fish in his bed.
A couple of weeks ago, however, Simone had awoken to witness horror. He had rolled over, taking special care to keep his silken pyjamas immaculately unwrinkled, and set his eyes upon a bulbous pink fish, which looked to Simone like a collection of pink balloons with fins and bulging eyes. The pink fish had made him giggle – it was the way it jiggled about in the water like blancmange. But then, something strange had happened. As it was swimming along, a string of something brown had emerged from somewhere beneath its tail. Simone watched the brown string, watched the way it detached itself from the fish, and then watched as it slowly sank down to the very base of the mattress, where it settled among small glass pebbles. And it was there, among those pebbles, that Simone saw yet more pieces of brown string, slowly disintegrating in the mattress’s aquatic movements.
This may be a dystopia, but at least the reader can rest assured that the fish in Simone’s bed are receiving enough oxygen to live simple happy lives, as implied by the movement of the water, which in turn implies the presence of a pump.
It took him the best part of the day to realise what the brown string was.
I feel as if I should explain: the fish, you see, are pooping. The brown string emerging from the fish is poop, and it is settling on the base of the bed. Presumably, one of the unfashionable housekeepers occasionally clean the fish bed, but this is never made explicit. Perhaps if there is a second edition of the book, I will go into detail about how the poop is disposed of.
Of course, Simone was aware that other people defecated, but it wasn’t something he really thought about. Defecation was for the privacy of the bathroom; a simple matter of the aesthetic body ridding itself of unaesthetic waste (except, of course, for those mornings after he had consumed a considerable amount of cocktails, rendering his stools all kinds of interesting colours). Yet, he had never considered that lesser creatures might also defecate. It made sense, of course – he supposed that such beautiful fish must have a means of ridding themselves of ugly bodily detritus – but to be confronted so brazenly by that fact in the comfort of his own bedroom, why, it was unfathomable! To think, all those weeks he had spent lounging upon his fishy mattress he had inadvertently been sleeping upon an aquatic lavatory! Worse, the fish just carried on swimming around in it, and breathing in it, as if they were entirely unaware of the hideousness of their existence, trapped in their private toilet.
I once dreamed about being trapped inside a toilet. I’m not sure if I was very small, or the toilet was very big, but the experience was quite frightening.
Since that dreadful day, Simone had been unable to sleep on the mattress. Georgie still did, of course, and she was there now, curled up in her own set of luxurious pyjamas, which were striped pink and red and made her look like a beautiful prawn. Simone beheld her for a while, considering whether he could face the fishy mattress, but eventually decided against it. For all that it would be delightful to sleep beside Georgie again, he would prefer to wait for a new bedroom fashion to come in – one, he hoped, with considerably fewer fish. So, instead, Simone went to the pink leather chaise-longue, which had become his temporary place of sleep, and curled up on it, doing his best to strike a comfortable yet still aesthetically pleasing pose.
One most always retain one’s composure, even while asleep. It simply wouldn’t do to be caught dribbling, for instance. Disgusting!
Gently, he drifted away to sleep.
Presumably, the gentle gurgling of the fish bed provides quite the lullaby.
There was a dreadful, but perfectly pitched wail.
A cliffhanger! How awful of me, to leave you with so many questions! Who is wailing? Is it Simone or Georgie or someone else? Is it because of the fish? Where can I get a set of pyjamas that make me look like a beautiful prawn? There’s only one way to find out, I’m afraid…
Oliver K. Langmead’s Glitterati is due to be published by Titan Books in North America and in the UK, on May 17th. Here’s the full synopsis:
A Clockwork Orange and RuPaul’s Drag Race meet Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in this fabulous dystopian fable about fashion, family and feckless billionaires.
Simone is one of the Glitterati, the elite living lives of luxury and leisure. Slave to the ever-changing tides – and brutal judgements – of fashion, he is immaculate. To be anything else is to be unfashionable, and no one wants to be unfashionable, or even worse, ugly…
When Simone accidentally starts a new fashion with a nosebleed at a party, another Glitterati takes the credit. Soon their rivalry threatens to raze their opulent utopia to the ground, as no one knows how to be vicious like the beautiful ones.
Enter a world of the most fantastic costumes, grand palaces in the sky, the grandest parties known to mankind and the unbreakable rules of how to eat ice cream. A fabulous dystopian fable about fashion, family and the feckless billionaire class.
Also on CR: Guest Posts on “A Few Words on Mark Twain’s Mysterious Stranger” and “Deleting Digits”