Plague Doctors and Ghost Trains: An Interview with Jinx Strange

This week I have a very special treat for you. My friend Jinx released the first episode of Silent City,his dark fantasy serial story, yesterday. Jinx was kind enough to agree to an interview and he also threw in a little something special for those of you who have read the first part of the story. Take it away, Jinx…



What are your current projects?

Right now I’m working on an animated horror-comedy series, SlenderPhil, that’s due out this August,  Silent City, a weekly dark fantasy blog experiment, and a dark fantasy novel that’s kind of under wraps.

What are your thoughts on storytelling in blog format?

I see the potential in it, but I can’t say that I’ve seen serialization approached quite this way.  By that I mean that this is a very hybridized way of writing:  Silent City isn’t a completed work – it isn’t a novel that’s broken into installments.  There is no foreseeable end.   I’m working from a rough outline, but that’s as much net as I have.  Silent City was specifically designed to be told this way.

Where did Silent City come from?

The concept for Silent City evolved from a short story I wrote for a horror magazine a couple of years ago.  The magazine went under, as many unfortunately do, and I was left with this strange little romantic horror story set in pseudo-Victorian sewers.  The name Silent City didn’t come about until I started developing it for this project.  Suffice it to say, Silent City is silent for a reason.

What book are you reading now?

I’m almost always in the middle of reading several books at once.  I’m currently reading Fevre Dream, by George R. R. Martin.  The idea of Martin being influenced by Anne Rice (Fevre Dream was published in 1982 and Interview With The Vampire in 1976) seems bizarre but almost undeniable.  I’m also re-reading Machiavelli’s The Prince and Homer’s Odyssey.  How’s that for a historical spread?

Silent City prominently features plague doctors.  Can you tell us a bit about who they were in the real world?

Plague doctors are exactly what they sound like.  They were specialized physicians who were typically hired by a city to treat plague victims throughout Europe during numerous epidemics.

Given that their job was unpleasant at best and at worst, deadly, proper physicians often fled particularly stricken cities.  They walk something of a line between humanitarian heroes and mercenary caregivers.  Some were volunteers.  Many were paid handsomely.They all had one thing in common, however:  None of them wanted to contract the plague.  At the time, it was commonly believed that foul, diseased air was the carrier, which gave rise to the plague doctors’ distinctive masks:  Glass protected the eyes and the “beak” was used to store what was believed to be ‘filtering’ media as well as herbs and scents to cover the odors that came with the job.

Fun fact:  Apothecary and supposed augur Nostradamus was a plague doctor.

How did your character Lavinia Strani come into the profession?

Lavinia was a talented young woman, gifted in chemistry and studying under the brightest minds in the city of Shaize, long a hub of academia in the Litherian Empire.

When the Blackrattle Plague erupted, it spared no one.  It tore through the city’s elite without mercy.  Most of the city’s physicians and academics fled, and Lavinia was pressed into service, like many students of science, into caring for the sick under the tutelage of the plague doctors who remained.

The plague was unrelenting for four years, and Lavinia came into her own as a doctor.  When the plague finally ended, however, the city’s presiding Board of Physickers denied her an appointment, and would not allow her to practice the healing arts in Shaize.  She was commended by the Baron for her service and was expected to simply return to her studies.Shaize, it seemed, did not want or need her and was satisfied to thank her with a brusque pat on the back.

At 20 years of age, the would-be Dr. Strani found a place that did need her.  A place that had been under her feet all along, an underground city far beneath the sewers and drains of Shaize.  A place that had been oddly spared the Blackrattle Plague, but had its share of problems – coughs, injuries, malnutrition and the constant damp provided a host of problems.  In Silent City, a woman who knew how to treat infection properly was a heroine.  Dr. Strani had found her practice.

And it so happened that her mask was as effective against hazards like chokedamp as it was against plague-ridden miasma.  And it was a symbol.  A symbol that she was brave.  That she would stay behind and tend the people no one else wanted.  Her beak became the sign of a protector.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Only that I deeply appreciate your support and will work to bring you my very best work every week.  When I was planning this, a surprising number of people wanted to tell me that it would never work – that people wouldn’t read posts this long, or that the workload would be too much, or that it couldn’t compete with other mediums.Thank you for helping me prove them wrong.  After all, if we spent time listening to people tell us what we couldn’t do, we wouldn’t get much done, would we?

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