James Smythe was born in 1980 in London, and now lives in West Sussex. After gaining a PhD from Cardiff University, he’s gone on to teach creative writing and work as a writer and narrator on video games. He’s the author of The Machine (Blue Door/Harper Collins, £12.99) and The Explorer (Harper Voyager, £7.99) and his novels have been described as ‘an episode of Star Trek written by J. M. Coetze’. He is also re-reading Stephen King for The Guardian website. Eithne Farry
I am Brundlefly/Seth Brundle from Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986). Bzzzt.
David Cronenberg is a genius. I don’t use that word lightly, either. He’s been responsible for some of the greatest pieces of cinema ever made, and he’s done it all while carrying themes and ideas from film to film, always moving forward while constantly nodding backwards. The Fly is maybe my favourite of his (fighting it out with Dead Ringers). It’s based on a story of the same name by George Langelaan, and it’s… Bzzzzt.
Sorry. It’s one of those great sci-fi stories where the main character reaches too far, hubristically heading too deeply into a thing that they don’t understand, and the repercussions are enormous. In The Fly, that character is Dr. Seth Brundle. He’s got a teleportation device that he’s invented, meant to transfer the molecules of something from one portal to another.
There’s a rush of invention for him: as soon as it works on inanimate objects, he wants more. He tries animals, and he loses track of his own safety measures. And, all the while, he’s entering a relationship with Veronica, a journalist. He gets distracted, and drunk, and then… Bzzzzzzt.
Then he decides to teleport himself across the room, despite not knowing if it’ll be safe. A fly gets caught in the device with him, and he starts to change. He becomes Brundlefly. And so, welcome to me as a writer. I get caught up. I find things that are shiny and I try to explore those, and I probably dive in before I’m ready. (Some writers are methodical and take their time. Not me. Blast out a first draft, then worry about making it work. I’m eager, probably over-eager. I write too much, and I throw away and start again.) Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzt.
I’m pretty sure that a fly got trapped inside my keyboard at some point, and he’s what’s helping me write now. Typing words when I’m not looking. I’m not changing physically, maybe – grey hair? Do flies have grey hair? – but still. Sometimes I feel like I know what I’m doing when I write something. But sometimes? Sometimes I’m clinging to the walls, and I do not feel like myself at all.