Stephen Ayres© All rights reserved.

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Why John Down and Surfing?


Since abandoning my original choice of character to accompany Adam in the halls – Leonardo DaVinci – I struggled to think of a replacement that met my needs. I did not want one of history’s megastars such as Genghis Khan or Julius Caesar, nor a made-up nobody.

Looking for someone Victorian, or perhaps Regency, I toyed with the idea of including David Garrick, the famous actor, or perhaps Charles Babbage, the inventor of the proto-computer, ‘The Difference Engine’. Both men had their strengths and weaknesses, and nearly the right amount of stature I was looking for. In the end I steered towards David Garrick – I loved the story of how his audience burned down his theatre because of a bad performance, and how, upon reopening, he begged the audience’s forgiveness.

Whilst researching what kind of transport system to have in the halls, I found a couple of short video clips that changed everything. I already had the white lines, but was not sure how they actually worked – on demand smart-liquid conveyor belts or perhaps egg shaped anti-gravity pods.

Looking up magnetic levitation systems (Maglevs) I came upon the following video clip:

Hover Board

I immediately envisioned Terminal operatives surfing up and down the halls, using the super maglev lines that were intended to power the never installed pod system.

Always an armchair fan of surfing, mainly from my love of 1960’s surf music and its surf punk offshoot, I started researching.

I needed a team of surfing experts to train the Terminal staff, so I looked up the famous surfing meccas. Also wanting something relatively local – a Welsh cousin of mine used to surf at Newquay – I searched Google for Newquay Surf and sat taking notes for a couple of days, whilst drinking coffee and the ‘occasional’ glass of wine. Using the same search on Google Images, I clicked through a number of images, until I spotted a young guy in yellow on a surfboard:

Surfing Dude

Remembering that Down’s syndrome was named after someone, I quickly searched on Wikipedia and found John Langdon Down. Without a second thought, David Garrick was out and John Down was in:

1) He was Victorian.

2) Intelligent and educated

3) Famous but not that famous.

4) He gave up fortune to pursue a different career path (dedicated).

5) He was religious (I needed a replacement for Manny).

6) His honour and religion could conflict with the Captain’s orders (creating tension).

7) Devoted to his wife, and she to him (creating both warmth and tension as required).

8) From what I have read, he was, for the time, a genuinely nice person.

There are other qualities and details that made him the right choice for the part, but are too numerous to add to the list.

John Down’s inclusion did make me wonder how the Viroverse would treat people with Down’s syndrome, given the high abortion rates in our own society. It is a conflict between a parent’s right to choose, and the rights of the foetus to life, that goes to the frontline of the right to life debate. I admit that whilst I see both sides of the argument, and that there is no compromise position, the whole matter made me very uneasy and quite sad.

Harshly, the Viroverse policy was to deny people with Down’s syndrome the chance of a second life, branding them ‘undesirables’, even though they could thrive in its cosseting ‘everything supplied’ embrace. An undesirable himself, Adam puts this right, much to John Down and Captain Andrew’s delight.

Stephen Ayres © 2014