Home > World-Building > Day Two Hundred and Ten: The Only Real Man

Day Two Hundred and Ten: The Only Real Man

For the month of December, I’ll be world-building. This means taking a look at the people, places, and institutions that I have created over the last six months and trying to figure out more about them. This will involve a look at the stories in which they’ve appeared, and then some speculation, stream-of-consciousness writing, and with any luck a few revelations. In addition, I may come back and add new material as the Elves in my unconscious ship out new ideas, so I’ll be sure to link them up.

Your feedback as readers is, of course, more than welcome. There are probably questions that I’m forgetting to ask and holes that I need to fill.

Wish me luck!

——————

Now this should be interesting. My random number generator (courtesy, as always, of the fine people at random.org) gave me a character who has the unique privilege of existing in two universes at once.

Let me explain: when I started going through all the characters in all the stories, I realized that I basically had four universes going on. There was Earth Prime, which held most of the stories, a high fantasy Earth, an Urban Fantasy Earth, and then there was Outer Space. That last universe could well be linked to Earth Prime, or it could be separate. As yet, there are no reasonable connections between them.

Except, of course, for Eddie Holsclaw. And unless he’s an immortal, I can’t really use him to link them together.

Here’s what happened. As you know, I occasionally like to mash random characters together and see what happens. This one time, I rolled up Eddie, from day 9, Reunion, and Jani Morgan, from day 25, Babysitting. The result of this was that I had to make a choice: do I take Jani out of her spacefaring sci-fi setting and put her on 21st-century Earth, or do I move Eddie up into space in the far future? I chose the latter, and that gave me day 110, In Transit.

Now, one could ask oneself, “One, which Eddie is canonical? Which one is real?” Fortunately, One, that’s an easy question – the original Eddie is the real one, since I wrote him first and the mash-up stories are all only canonical if they add something to the overall world. But the interesting challenge was fitting him into two very different environments while still keeping continuity between both appearances. He had to be the same person, no matter where or when he was.

The trait that most defines Eddie is that he suffers from Capgras Delusion. This is a psychological disorder in which the sufferer believes that the people around him are not who they say they are. Despite looking exactly like your wife or your brother or your friend, this person is an impostor. You can’t explain how you know – you just know. The most recent research seems to suggest it arises when your temporal lobe (the part of your brain that recognizes the person) stops talking to the limbic system (the part that would normally generate the feelings associated with that person). You see your husband, but you feel nothing for him. The rest of your brain, not knowing how to cope with this, comes to the conclusion that this is not actually your husband, because if he were, you would feel something. Therefore, he must be a very clever impostor.

With Eddie, I took this a little bit further. Not only does Eddie think his friends and family have been replaced with doubles, he believes that they have, in fact, been replaced with robots. Capgras sometimes comes in with schizophrenia, so I decided to go the whole distance with him.

In Reunion, we see Eddie at a family reunion. [1] He is utterly convinced that his aunts and uncles, his grandmother, are all cleverly programmed robots that are trying to get to him. He believes that they not only replaced his family, but tortured them first to learn everything they know. He won’t eat the food, as he believes it’s been drugged, and is constantly looking for ways in which the robots have slipped up on their mimicry. Above all, though, he tries not to let them know that he knows what they are.

Until Rachael Decker shows up. She was one of the few people in high school who was nice to Eddie (who, let’s face it, was a bit weird). The thought of her being tortured and replaced by a robot is too much for him to bear, so he grabs a barbecue fork off the picnic table and starts stabbing her with it. He is wrestled to the ground by family members as the story closes. While it’s not explicitly stated in the story, Rachael does die [2], and Eddie is shipped off to a mental hospital.

The other story, In Transit, involves Eddie being transferred from a secure holding facility outside of Antares so that he can be sent to a slightly more secure prison asteroid. During the trip, Jani Morgan tries to talk to him, only to set him off again. He still believes he’s being targeted by a vast conspiracy of robots, only now he seems a little more free with letting them know what he knows. He speaks openly about it, and starts ranting before one of the guards hits him with a tranquilizer.

Of course, there are two big problems with Eddie as a character, from a writing point of view.

The first is that you have to be careful when you write someone with mental illness. The effects of Capgras and schizophrenia are well-documented, and this isn’t something that you can just make up as you go. [3] If I’m going to hold on to Eddie as a character in the future then I have to really sit down and read about this condition. How do people deal with it? How does it affect the families and friends of those who suffer from it? What are the treatment options, if any? How can the illness be managed? Is it any easier to live with once you know what it is, or does it become more frustrating, knowing that your brain has betrayed you? I don’t have the answers to any of these questions, but using Eddie will require that I do my best to find out.

The second is that, Capgras Delusion or not, Eddie is still a person. There’s more to him than an unfortunately short-circuited brain, which is true of anyone with a mental illness. Unfortunately, it’s easy for a writer to just wrap a character around a neurological disorder and be done with it. Why? Because it’s easy, especially when the character is not the protagonist. Regardless of the role that your character plays, though, he is more than simply a mental illness with a name slapped on it. So it is imperative that I find out more about Eddie apart from the Capgras and the murderousness, but a lot of that is going to be contingent on the above-mentioned research.

And despite what he became in the mash-up story, I don’t want Eddie to become a villain. I think he’s a decent guy who has been pushed into a very unpleasant place in life, and doesn’t have the skills to cope with it. Maybe the treatment he gets following Reunion will allow him to live a little better.

———–

[1] I still need to work on my titling skills.
[2] She’s my Kenny. I have to put her on the list for a character sketch.
[3] Which I kinda did. My bad.

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