From Hollywood Hills mansions and Century City towers, to South Central motels and the oceanside refinery, The Beasts of Electra Drive by Rohan Quine spans a mythic L.A., following seven spectacular characters (or Beasts) from games designer Jaymi’s game-worlds. The intensity of those Beasts’ creation cycles leads to their release into real life in seemingly human forms, and to their combative protection of him from destructive rivals at mainstream company Bang Dead Games. Grand spaces of beauty interlock with narrow rooms of terror, both in the real world and in the incorporeal world of cyberspace. A prequel to Quine’s other five tales (and a Finalist in the IAN Book of the Year Awards 2018), The Beasts of Electra Drive is a unique explosion of glamour and beauty, horror and enchantment, exploring the mechanisms and magic of creativity itself.
Jaymi is an independent games designer living on Electra Drive in the Hollywood Hills. Opposed to him are his former colleagues at Bang Dead Games. Their mounting competitiveness regarding his own extravagant game-creation reaches a point where they attack him physically with a flying drone.
Bang Dead is preparing the global release of a game called Ain’tTheyFreaky!, centring on five tabloid-flavoured social-media “Newsfeeds” for the victimisation of certain people by others—the “Gal Score”, “Guy Score”, “Trivia Score”, “Arts Score” and “Cosy Score”. Jaymi decides to fight back, for self-protection and to counteract this game’s destructive effects.
He takes an irrevocable step: after creating Amber, the most dangerous of the characters (or Beasts, as he calls them) who will populate Jaymi’s project The Platinum Raven, he releases Amber from that game, such that Amber slithers out from Jaymi’s computer monitor. Appearing human, this now-incarnated Beast is sent to stalk Ain’tTheyFreaky!’s creators in real life—developer Dud Guy, visual designer Kelly, IT boss Ashley and programmer Herb.
While Amber terrorises them, Jaymi creates a second Beast, Evelyn, a woman of ease and freedom, from his project The Imagination Thief. Incarnated too, she joins Amber in sabotaging a Bang Dead venture in the physical world.
As Jaymi’s output spawns three more titles—The Host in the Attic, Apricot Eyes and Hallucination in Hong Kong—he jumps into the creation cycles and subsequent incarnations of five more varied and human-seeming Beasts. These are Shigem, Kim, the Platinum Raven, Scorpio, and his own simulacrum the Jaymi Beast.
Targeted by a more lethal drone attack than the first one, he decides that his Beasts’ missions must escalate: they will infiltrate the very substance of Ain’tTheyFreaky!. Evelyn, Shigem and Kim therefore sneak into one of the game’s visual environments (a mythically seedy Downtown L.A.), where they try to put an end to some of the casually-programmed cruelty in the game. Shigem shames one Bang Dead programmer into secretly working for Jaymi instead; and Kim persuades another high-ranking Bang Dead employee to join Jaymi likewise.
Five of the Beasts proceed to sabotage Ain’tTheyFreaky! at code level, turning its own server farm into a radically different kind of environment than before. Their sabotage takes aim at the game in such a way as to break it down into its constituent glyphs and pixels—then electrifies these, recombining them into brand-new forms of such enchanted love and wickedness and originality that they’d certainly have been forbidden by Bang Dead.
Amid the resultant conflict, a Beast is sent to kill a human; a Beast is arrested, before escaping and wreaking revenge; and another human is lashed to the top of the transmitter tower above the Hollywood Sign, where…
After the ensuing convulsions of destruction and violent creation have run their course, Jaymi’s Beasts slip away to their appointed game destinations, one by one; and he is left alone again, just as he was before he brought them into being. As he fires up his newly-completed game The Imagination Thief for the first time, however, it is clear that neither he nor the world around him will ever quite be as before.
Keywords: literary fiction, magical realism, dark fantasy, horror, gay, Los Angeles, videogame, transgender, Hollywood Hills, L.A., creation, incarnation, game, tabloid, refinery, motel, transmitter, contemporary