"Biophile" - A Short Story by Ruby Cowling from her collection This Paradise, 2019
Initially published in The White Review, April 2014
You may read the story here
A Lock Down Series Work.
This is my first venture into the marvelous creative challenging work of Ruby Cowl. I am very glad to have started what I hope will be an enduring connection with The Reading Life.
"Biophile" is an intriguing and complex story that will reward all lovers of the short story.
The story narrated by a female game designer. Many of us under lock down are spending a lot of time on our favorite computer games. The narrator's company, Funsoft, designs very intricate role playing games based on literary classics. She is currently working on a game based loosely on Wuthering Heights. This is a very competitive business, game players are fickle. The job of the designer is to addict the player.
"Funsoft’s internal slogan was simple: Keep Players Playing. Which meant: get people addicted. Seduce them, blanket them with snuggly narcotic sensations. Get them to bury themselves in your two bright dimensions of zipping video candy. The lits brought some estate-reputation issues, and Plan B on Wuthering Heights meant a total remodel, fraught with the pangs of artistic compromise – Blustering Crags, we’d call it, with new character names, visuals nudged just far enough away from the originals to keep the estate lawyers at bay."
The narrator has a complicated personal life, sometimes she entangles the elements in the game into her internal monologues about her family life. A dominant theme of her fantasies and from the game in development is the interface of players in the game with the dense Forrest areas of the area.
She seems to be increasingly drawn into the game:
"—The soil is an illusion. Not matter, but a dream. In this way mountains can be moved. See, Harmony? You can move a mountain. Shitshitshit I am under a mountain No. Calm. Breathe. Don’t be sick. Breathe just a bit. It’s all I need. I chose this. I am all-powerful. I am the universe. I could do a game based on the gods. A game based on consciousness itself. No, forget the games. Fuck them. I wriggle a finger and feel the earth settle tighter around my hand. I veer from stabs of hope to the soft murmurs of submission, the hope worse than the fear. Then no, no, yes, this is it, here it comes, the eruption— Dinner over, everyone else elsewhere."
Cowling does a marvelous job showing us the narrators romantic involvements, her family complications and much more.
Ruby Cowling was born in Bradford and now lives in London. This Paradise is her first book. Her stories have won The White Review Prize (2014) and the London Short Story Prize (2014) among others and been widely published in journals and anthologies, including Lighthouse, The Letters Page, Unthology, and The Lonely Crowd. .
Print Media Praise
‘Admirably ambitious in scope, Ruby Cowling explores big themes – climate change and natural disaster, technology and survival – using strange and sometimes fantastical imagery to trace the obscure edges of human experience.’ Alice Ash, Times Literary Supplement
‘The most original short stories I’ve read in a long time … current, entertaining, and relevant. Highly recommended.’ Jimena Gorraez, Litro
‘The range of Cowling’s style and subject matter is impressive … This Paradise is a beautiful and highly original collection.’ The Spectator
‘Ruby Cowling offers a call-to-arms, an urgent encouragement to breathe complexity back into a human experience made simple. We will be recorded, we will be flattened and reduced. But we can record too.’ Jon Doyle, Review 31
‘Most stories have their ‘home’ audience. But when fiction crosses that inner ring, and survives to tell its tale, well – that’s art. And This Paradise achieves that handsomely.’
Tamim Sadikali, Open Pen
I read this story twice, I thing I will return to it once the lock down period ends.
I look forward to reading the other nine stories in This Paradise