From zombie movies to superhero universes, Pittsburgh has been home to a plethora of creative media. With Point Park alumni Lucy Leitner’s latest novel, “Outrage Level 10,” Pittsburgh becomes the location of a dystopian land filled with advancements in technology that can cure just about everything except for the brain.
“If I had to preview my book in one word, ‘brutal’ is what I think of,” Leitner said. “It may not even be the right word, but it’s what comes to mind.”
It’s a story filled with violence following the main character Alex Malone who suffers from brain damage after his career in hockey. Alex works to figure out a way to stop his moments of rage and blackouts when he comes across an experimental treatment that could solve his issues. However, while he finds some bliss after the treatments, his blackouts have turned into a movie of memories that are overrun with violence and harm to others, and these memories are not Alex’s. Now Alex is faced with trying to quiet his brain while also solving the mystery as to where these memories came from.
The book is considered an extreme horror novel, but Leitner would consider the book to be a subgenre of horror called splatterpunk. Splatterpunk consists of various forms of extreme gore and violence that shows the reader everything rather than hiding certain things away like traditional horror.
She chose Pittsburgh as the setting for the story because of the “grittiness” of the city, as well as her familiarity with the area.
“When I was writing this one, it takes place in what’s supposed t be like a Capital of this new Republic of America,” Leitner said. “So originally, I had it set in DC, which is where I’m from. But then I found myself having to look everything up on a map, like the first chapter starts with a car chase, and I’m thinking, ‘I don’t know my way around DC, I don’t know the mood of the area.’”
The vibes of Pittsburgh matched those of “Outrage Level 10,” so she ultimately decided to set the book here.
Leitner lists Chuck Pulahniuk (author of “Fight Club”), “1984”, “Fahrenheit 451” and more as some of the influences for her book. Although the dystopian theme may remind some Gen Z of works like “The Hunger Games” or “Divergent,” Leitner focused more on the classics and drew inspiration from there.
Additionally, she was inspired by “A Clockwork Orange,” where Anthony Burgess made up his own language. In “Outrage: Level 10,” Leitner throws in some slang that she and her friends came up with in college.
“We tried to start a trend, and I figured, ‘I’ll put that in now,’” she said.
This future society that Leitner has created in the new book is based heavily on cancel culture throughout all ages.
“The story takes place in a dystopian future where all justice is weeded out on the internet,” Leitner says. “It’s this idea of outraged mobs coming after people for what they deem to be infractions. I see that kind of behavior has occurred over time in different areas, like during the Reign of Terror. During this time, people would be reported for activities that were deemed counter-revolutionary, and neighbors would settle scores by reporting them for activities just because they didn’t like each other. There’s this abuse of power in which people become victims of this mob justice.”
While there are many different elements that go into producing a dystopian plot like this one, the main character, Alex, is the driving force behind the story of this savage world.
“He is an anti-hero, he has a lot of memory lapses, bouts of complete rage, and through all of this, he’s a morally ambiguous character,” Leitner said. “He’s out to solve a mystery, not really for noble reasons, and he’s funny despite the kind of terrible personality he has. He’s sort of likeable in spite of it all, but in general, he’s not a good dude.”
The dark and gory adventure of Alex in “Outrage Level 10” is currently available as an ebook or paperback book by various retailers.