Another Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood’s brilliantly realised drama, brought back some memories for me: –

A while ago, when I worked in mental health, I came across a very interesting experiment carried out by scientists investigating the survival instinct in animal behaviour. This is what happened:

Dogs were kept in kennels where they were fed, cleaned out and watered regularly and had a comfortable place to sleep. They were not petted, walked or groomed. There were electrified fences around each enclosure, and each enclosure had a low roof over it.  After a number of weeks the scientists took the roofs off the enclosures and watched to see what would happen.  Most of the dogs stayed right where they were, in the knowledge that food and water would arrive at regular intervals.

However, a small number of dogs saw an opportunity to escape, and risking the mild electric shock from the fence, jumped out of the pen and, not knowing where or how they would be fed, ran away to face the unknown dangers of OUT THERE, rather than stay in the relative safety of their pen.  I thought, when I read this, that people are like this. Some seize an opportunity with both hands, no matter what the cost to themselves. Others remain in situations which have become prisons, stifling and punishing free thought, creativity and relationships. So I wrote The Marsh People, a dystopian fantasy, where the situation is reversed. This time the dogs are in charge…

Kelpin, the real heroine of the story, is adaptable and quick-witted enough to survive. Others fare less well. Scummo, in taking care of her, finds a role for himself for the first time.

Published by Immanion Press. Kindle Edition £2.24. Hard copies £6.00

The Marsh People is a story about a captive people who make a bid for freedom and survival, beyond the shelter of the City, on the land around the Burham Estuary.

Dogs have rounded up the villagers and herded them into the teeming, inhuman City to work under the control of the Masters. The workers can barely remember their previous lives and have grown used to conditions in captivity. Scummo, however, impulsively makes a bid for freedom, whatever the consequences, taking with him his neighbour’s orphaned daughter, Kelpin.

Meeting up with The Outsiders, a group of rebels opposed to the rule of Masters, Scummo meets an array of eccentric and colourful individuals, who, like him desire freedom.

But the Masters are not about to allow them that luxury without having to fight for it.

A dystopian fantasy.  ‘a great imagination on show’.

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M. V. Williams
The Marsh People
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Learned Helplessness

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