Ready for a futuristic, sci-fi take on a classic monster? Go read “Helix” in Issue 046, then come right back here to find out what inspired author Britt Foster to write such an epic tale.
LSQ: This story is so exciting! It ended just the way I hoped it would too. I found it so satisfying, so thanks for that 😉 I love the scope of this story, and how you blend classical monster imagery with a futuristic vision. What gave you the idea for “Helix”?
Britt: I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed the story! The idea for “Helix” started with a vague desire to write about genetically engineered vampires. Genetic engineering has always fascinated me, especially when it comes to tweaking the DNA of humans, because it offers unlimited possibilities for humans to control of their own evolution. There’s a lot of controversy in the real world about whether we should go down that path, but can we stop ourselves?—we already have the technology to get started, after all. It makes me wonder what the mega-rich and/or powers-that-be are already doing in their secret laboratories.
This curiosity about what goes on in secret laboratories probably has a lot to do with my childhood. I grew up in a town based entirely around “The Lab”, and there were always whispers about secret experiments being conducted, especially in the canyons. My classmates had wild stories to evidence this, and when we would ask our parents about the rumors, we were warned not to chase after classified information (which was spooky and made us want to chase even more).
One popular story involved a boy noticing armored cars driving around in the canyons and deciding to follow them. He came across a garage door in the canyon wall, broke in, and found a second door inside with a sign that read, “proceeding further may result in death”. The boy got out of there as fast as he could and hid in the bushes, only to have several armored cars go flying past him minutes later. There were also stories about The Lab having captive extraterrestrials. I remember being shown a Youtube video about a man who claimed he was part of the alien project and, after speaking to the public about it, was mysteriously found dead.
“Helix” is the final result of several abandoned attempts to follow the genetically engineered vampire thread. I probably wrote about 50,000 words, with different characters and different plots, before I sketched out “Helix”. It was like molding clay—I played with the material a lot before I finally settled on a shape I liked.
LSQ: The genetic engineering aspect of this was fascinating. How did you decide what traits you wanted Helix to have? What made you want to design in something like her darkened sclera? (Also, your description of her eyes was my favorite line in this fantastic story.)
Britt: The chimeric adaptations came from my fantasy of what a perfect superhuman would be. They needed to be more in tune with nature to save the planet from human destruction. They needed to be smarter, stronger, more empathetic, and a little more animal/instinctual/intuitive. They needed to consume fewer resources.
The vampiric aspect of the chimeras comes from my lifelong fascination with vampires. I love that vampires have the ability to survive without killing anything, plant or animal or otherwise, and the way they’re often depicted as senseless killers frustrates me. They could easily just take a few sips of blood and let their victims go on living, so why don’t they? Self-control shouldn’t be so hard for a creature than can live for centuries.
I like the idea of vampires that are more evolved than humans. I like the idea of them being more in tune with their animal selves and /still/ being more evolved than humans. Part of this comes from my interest in shadow work, which involves looking at the parts of ourselves we usually hide from, and thereby recognizing ourselves as whole—good and bad—instead of pretending we’re 100% good all the time. Humans often pretend they’re better than animals, good and pure and right, when in reality, humans are just animals wearing clothes, turning a blind eye to their dark sides. I think vampires speak to unconscious processes within humanity; we survive on the life force of other beings, we chase immortality through various avenues, and we are predators—/the/ predators, preying on the entire planet—beneath our veneer of morality.
I wanted to create a human that sips on life force instead of guzzling it, a human that takes only what it needs instead of spilling blood all down its chin in the epitome of wastefulness and excess.
The darkened sclera is mainly an aesthetic choice. I think it looks cool. The imagery of something that appears demonic but is designed to save the planet satisfies me. It also plays into shadow work, especially in regard to our “demons”/flaws often serving some deeper purpose, such as protecting or teaching us. What looks demonic and scary is often just something that’s misunderstood, something we need to look at, accept, and work with. When we befriend our demons, they cease to have power over us. They don’t lash out unexpectedly and make us do things we regret, like they do when they’re invisible.
When we can /see/ the blood on our chins, we can make an effort to drink less of it.
LSQ: “Helix” reads almost like a prequel to a larger concept, a longer story. Do you have any plans to continue this adventure?
Britt: Yes, “Helix” is a prequel to a larger concept. I’ve been working on a novel about the chimeras for a couple years, but it’s been messy and unpredictable throughout. After changing the plot and timeline several times and still not knowing where to go, I decided to write a short story so I’d have something less huge to gather all my ideas into. It was very helpful in that regard!
I do plan to continue this adventure, and I have a much clearer idea now about what happens.