The Story of my Book: Stephen Sewell on Babylon
Stephen guest blogs for us to tell us the story behind his new novel - the first of a series - Babylon.
There are crimes and crimes. Murder is a crime, so is dumping toxic waste. If 17 people die as a result of being exposed to illegally dumped toxic waste, as they did in the Ivory Coast in 2006, are they murder victims or simply the victims of an unfortunate oversight on the part of a major international company. And should the directors of that company be charged with murder, or be allowed to collect their annual bonus?
Not that what happened in the Ivory Coast in 2006 is unique or even particularly uncommon. The World Health organisation estimates that since 2004, 140,000 have died annually as a result of climate change. Should the directors of coal powered power companies be charged with murder? And if not, why not? Why is a fictional serial killer, Hannibal Lecter, who murdered 14 people, an evil man, while Mr. Michael G Morris, the Chairman and CEO of American Electric Power, the largest emitter of CO2 in the US and a welcome guest at the White House, is not?
14 people is murder. 140,000 is…what?
This is the backdrop for my series of novels, the first of which, Babylon, is about to appear in the bookshops and the second, The Captive, which I am currently working on. Set against the rising horror of environmental collapse, these novels follow two young people trying to do what young people have always done, find a way, fall in love, find a future, in a society almost totally corrupt and drowning in its own cynical indifference, and where the options are being starkly simplified by the killers running it. What I’m trying to do, and have been trying to do in all my work, both in theatre and film, has been to address the questions the drama of our times confront us with.
Mick is a young man, a backpacker whose life from the very beginning has been mixed up with the upheavals convulsing the world. The son of a dead soldier, he attempts to escape the suffocating atmosphere of council flats and economic gloom for a life of adventure in a new world, only to discover the disease afflicting him has deep roots, reaching even into his own soul. It’s a journey every human being is now making as we confront the stark choices materialising before us, and I hope that Babylon might be a help to others along the way.