The Origins of A Quiet Apocalypse
The idea for A QUIET APOCALYPSE (Demain Publishing) originated back in the late 90s. I was working as a regional community nurse in the National Mental Health Service for Deaf People. As part of that incredible experience, I was fortunate to become fluent in British Sign Language over a nine-year period of working exclusively with the Deaf Community.
One day a hearing person said to me (in all innocence, I hasten to add) how it must be ‘so scary being deaf’. This was an interesting concept as the Deaf Community are not scared of their Deafness, they embrace it, are proud of it, and consider the thought of being forced to be any different (especially with medical intervention) as a challenge to their cultural identity.
When I considered the thought of deafness from a hearing perspective, I realised that perceptions were very different, that they would not be embraced readily, they would be considered horrific or, as the person pointed out, ‘scary’.
Later I came up with the idea of a pandemic featuring a virulent, mutated strain of meningitis (MNG-U) that would leave most survivors deafened except the few who were immune still able to hear. Taking on board the themes of incredible loss, I also thought about how the deafened survivors would consider the Deaf Community who have been left pretty much untouched by the virus. As loss often begats anger in the early stages of the grief cycle, in AQA the Deaf Community are unjustly branded as ‘Harbingers’ of the virus, and thus reviled and hunted for the purposes of retribution by the embittered survivors.
With all of this outlined, I thought I had the makings of a very good story and, as with all good ideas I had back then, life took over and I shelved it for a while!
I was to revisit the concept from time to time, over a good ten years or so, usually to ask philosophical questions about how people who could hear one day and not the next would cope, be that on a physical or, more importantly, a psychological level. I was especially interested in the construct of the fear that would come from such a transition. It begged the question, ‘If terrified, deafened people had access to hearing people, how would they behave?’ – and once that question dropped in my head, the story really started to take shape.
As a project, AQA began small – a short story that I’d written for an anthology invite that didn’t eventually pan out. The tale reached first draft stage before I lost it. One day it was there on my desktop, and then the next, a small matter of a Windows 10 upgrade sucked it out of existence. I should have been furious.
But I wasn’t.
I wasn’t for a variety of reasons, but the most obvious – to me at least – was that the short format was too narrow a vehicle to tell a story that had potential to be so broad in scope. But what the short story did achieve was a detailed outline that I re-wrote the very same day. One thing that this process did was allow me to detail other elements to the story, that of isolation and prejudice experienced by the Deaf Community and focus the narrative as a morality tale for discrimination and exclusion.
On the surface, AQA has a simple premise. Ex-schoolteacher and hearing MNG-U survivor Chris is held in servitude to an embittered deafened farmer named Crowley. Chris is deliberately maimed by Crowley so that he cannot escape, and we see the word through the lens of a hearing person destined for a lifetime of servitude. There is promise of escape, capacity for rescue, but in the world of AQA nothing is quite what it seems, and events subscribe to the belief that respite comes in many different forms.
In the main, reviews of AQA have been jaw-droppingly positive, many suggesting it sits happily alongside post-apocalyptic genre classics such as Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend; accolades that I still struggle to comprehend given how much I respect these two incredible pieces of fiction. But there has also been plenty of frustration aired by reviewers keen to learn more about the world beyond that of Chris and Crowley.
AQA has sometimes been badged as a ‘sensory’ (A Quiet Place, Malorie) horror story but that is not how I wrote it. For me, the novella owes more to Orwell’s 1984 and Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale than something like Josh Malerman’s Bird Box. The monsters in AQA are human, fraught with emotional ambiguity, the circumstances not so fantastic.
To discern these elements, the second novel CATHEDRAL (due for release in January 2021, again through DEMAIN PUBLISHING) focuses squarely on life in the titular city alluded to in the original book. This time the narrator is Sarah, a deafened citizen of Cathedral who falls in love with a man rescued from the wilderness beyond the city walls. Cathedral has its own social order, its own laws, traditions and brutal punishments. To those inside its walls, the city represents safety, security and order. To those outside, it is a place with almost mythical prominence, a place steeped in folklore. The drama unfolds as Sarah and her new lover struggle to find common ground in their differing perspectives of the same city. We learn more about how far human beings will go in order to reduce their fears and maintain stability and, for me, it is a far more frightening book than the first.
At the time of writing this article, I’m almost mid-way through the third novel, THE SAMARITAN, which further expands the AQA world, with another hush-hush project in development with Demain Publishing, and due for release late in 2021. There is an overall feel that AQA is the stone dropped into a still pond, the ripples of disquiet expanding, growing into something that is no longer defined by its boundaries. And this makes it an incredibly fulfilling project to work on.
To finish, I guess it’s that important time where I need to give thanks to Dean Drinkel, Adrian Baldwin and Roberto Segate and all at Demain Publishing for the faith and creative input they’ve had in putting the AQA universe out there, to the readers and reviewers who have given such incredible feedback, and, of course, to Gavin and Steve Stred from Kendall Reviews for their unwavering support.
Until next time, thank you all.
Dave Jeffery, October 2020
All-day Halloween (31st October) you can pick up A Quiet Apocalypse for only 99p/99c
Dave Jeffery is the author of 15 novels, two collections, and numerous short stories. His Necropolis Rising series and yeti adventure Frostbite have both featured on the Amazon #1 bestseller list. His YA work features critically acclaimed Beatrice Beecham supernatural mystery series. His screenwriting credits include award winning short films Ascension and Derelict, the latter also featuring a mental health theme.
Jeffery has worked in the NHS for 35 years specialising in the field of mental health nursing and risk management. He is a registered mental health professional with a BSc (Hons) in Mental Health Studies and a Master of Science Degree in Health Studies. Finding Jericho is an amalgamation of his experiences of working with service users who have experienced stigma and social exclusion due to their mental illness. As a novel, Finding Jericho (Demain Publishing) has featured on both the BBC Health and Independent Schools Entrance Examination Board’s ‘Recommended Reading’ lists
Jeffery is a member of the Society of Authors, British Fantasy Society (where he is a regular book reviewer), and the Horror Writers Association. He is married with two children and lives in Worcestershire, UK.
Dave Jeffery can be found at: www.davejefferyauthor.com
You can follow Dave on Twitter @davebjeffery
A Quiet Apocalypse
The end is hear…
A mutant strain of meningitis has wiped out most of mankind. The few who have survived the fever are now deaf.
Bitter with loss and terrified to leave the city known as Cathedral, the inhabitants rely on The Samaritans, search teams sent out into the surrounding countryside. Their purpose, to hunt down and enslave the greatest commodity on Earth, an even smaller group of people immune to the virus, people who can still hear.
People like me.
My name is Chris.
This is my story.