Who is Bella Goth?
Bella Goth is not so much a character as an absence, or an idea, or a set of ideas. Ideas about absence. Bella is a mechanism, the trigger setting the narrative in motion but who plays no active role herself, who will probably never appear in the novel directly. She is always mediated by other characters, phenomena, objects, or appearances. She has no core or essence, is fundamentally unknowable. We can only approach her through a complex web of likenesses, relations, connections, references, reflections, and refractions, hoping in this way to calculate her coordinates.
Bella Goth is an aspiring actress in L.A., hoping to make it in Hollywood. Or, to be more precise, in the San Fernando Valley, where most studios are situated today. Only Paramount is still in Hollywood.
Bella Goth looks exactly like Britney Spears. Physically, she's an exact copy of her, a perfect double. Bella specialises in horror movies and her dream is to one day be the final girl: the girl, usually pure, innocent, and virginal, who is the only one left alive by the end of the movie. For now she's stuck playing tiny parts in slasher films: always the first to die, gruesomely and usually half-naked. The first girl to die is usually the party girl, the 'slut'. In many cases, she has sex right before she's slaughtered. Bella wants to go from slut to virgin, from whore to Madonna. The studios, though, may find it funny to cast a Britney Spears-lookalike in small roles, but are afraid that in more important roles the likeness would be weird and confusing. The audience would feel cheated when instead of Britney Jean Spears they would see Bella Goth in the credits. Bella shrugs and takes whatever she can get.
The novel will open with a bloody scene in which Bella Goth is killed. Perhaps she will be wearing red lace lingerie and will be impaled on a sharp wooden stick, like Paris Hilton's character in the early noughties remake of House of Wax. Or perhaps another phallic object, like a saw, an axe, or a knife, will see her off. After they finish filming the scene, Bella is nowhere to be found. It looks like she never left the set, but on set there is no trace of her. No blood, no torn bits of clothing. A missing girl, young, beautiful, and mysterious: the plot device that launched a thousand film noirs.
Bella's boyfriend, Tom, is a relic from her years as a teenage mall goth, hanging around in Westfield Oakridge or Sherman Oaks Galleria with moody make-up, straightened hair dyed black, and studded belts. Dying the fountain in the food court toxic green with their teenage angst. There is no mention of Bella's parents. Perhaps Bella was not born from two parents, but created in a lab by a gentech company in South San Francisco. Or perhaps she is a character from a computer game who one day manifested herself in the flesh. Although her origins and ontological status are murky, it is clear she was raised in San José by Victor Goti, whom she calls grandfather. Later in the novel, it will be revealed that Bella is a descendant of the witch Isabella Lorenzana, wo was active during the Mexican colonial era in California.
The police are unable to find any trace of the missing Bella. After nights of driving around through the desert, the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains to the North of the San Fernando Valley, and the stony sprawl of Los Angeles, shouting Bella's name into the wind to no avail, Victor and Tom decide to turn to a paranormal detective called Malayney Melkzuur. And so the narrative is set in motion.