“Unbroken”: How the HandLBaR came about.


I, like so many people, am an avid fan of everything Steampunk: from the elaborate Victorian costumes, to the bizarre and often slightly macabre inventions and steam-driven technology.

This genre provides such an immensely rich soil for creative endeavour, because it not only draws on an historic era which, in itself, has provided the inspiration for some awesome narrative fiction, but it also benefits from a wonderful overlay – a lavish, intricate, imagined world of invention and fantasy.

There is no better genre in which to write a story that combines humanity with invention, frailty with fantasy, all in a post-apocalyptic setting.

The story of Unbroken revolves around a few central ideas:

1) We are all somehow ‘broken’, if not physically then emotionally.

2) We all aspire to find someone in our lives, to make us whole — to provide that missing piece.

3) It is not always obvious from the outside looking in, which parts of a person are damaged. In today’s social media-driven society, we only see the glossy, the hyped, the “happy” stories of other people’s lives. The aspects of their stories that they wish to share. But we never have a clear view of what life is really like for them. Arguably, this serves to isolate people even more.

4) As the narrative developed, some other ideas emerged. It occurred to me that this imagined world would look quite different from our own and these people must suffer quite unique and interesting challenges in their society.

a) I imagined that in a world where one’s freedom is illusory because one is essentially held captive by such extreme societal rules and boundaries, as is evident in Unbroken, a fertile imagination would develop, not unlike the development of an acute sense of hearing in a blind person to compensate. Hence, in my story, make-believe-days, themed and exaggerated costumes and larger than life characters provide heightened or novel experiences.

b) This led me on to contemplate the question of values, economics and commerce in such an environment. It seemed only natural that commerce/a black market would develop to fill any gaps or meet unmet needs, of whatever sort. It struck me that, in a world where the flesh is frail and cold prosthetic hands prevail, there would surely be a need for a softer, intimate touch: hence the idea of The HandL BaR.

c) As for the harnessed bar tenders… They truly are a case of truth being more splendid than fiction. They were inspired by a lovely and rather unique hotel near Stansted airport in the UK, where a similar magnificent glass honeycomb-like obelisk to Dionysus (Bacchus) dominates the central lobby space and elegant, acrobatic waitresses twirl and float, gliding up and down on abseiling harnesses, retrieving the requested drinks.

The decor, mirrored counters, Underground reflections, and honeycomb lighting, were my own additions.

Once again, like so much of my early stories, this one started as a short script and I still think it would make an awesome little film. It would require a fare bit of budget to finance it – especially the CGI, production design, cast and post production! But, I hope someday we can make that little dream come true.