In this Author Spotlight, we asked author Adam-Troy Castro to tell us a bit about the background of his story for Lightspeed, “Her Husband’s Hands.”
Reading “Her Husband’s Hands” made me think of John Irving’s novel The Fourth Hand, as well as recent strides made in transplants, such as face transplants. Can you tell us about what elements brought this story forward?
I will confess that I had absolutely no medical realities in mind when I conceived this story, just the dark emotions that drive it. The silver interfaces are just there to provide a nod to plausibility, but what’s in them, and how they work, are secondary. I could have just as easily made this a form of zombie story, and focused on the plight of a woman whose husband’s hands return dark and rotting, from the grave; that would have made the scene at the support group difficult, so I got steered to hypothetical trauma medicine.
This story appears to be about survivors and surviving, but the bar for survival has been changed from what we’re typically familiar with. What prompted this? How do you see survival after a traumatic event?
There are already people today who live with less than what Bob and Rebecca are given here: The spouses who must care for loved ones who are unresponsive, who are vegetative, who are nothing but sacks of brain-dead meat that must be cared for and that cannot appreciate being cared for. There are even people with locked-in syndrome who are entirely aware of what’s happening around them, but cannot speak or interact with others except with great difficulty. Medical advances actually make such situations more common, and to those among the families who cannot move on with their lives, more interminable. Reducing the returning soldiers of this story to actual amputated body parts is just a way of particularizing their situation, and illustrating its horror in a manner that might permit jaded readers to feel the wound.
It was interesting to see how Bob and Rebecca reacted differently to the tragedy; Rebecca isolating herself and fighting despair, while Bob was in denial—even being dishonest about how much he remembered. They seemed to find each other again when he confessed. Why did he keep his memories a secret?
There are any number of reasons that would contribute to that, among them the alienation he feels upon returning in such an unnatural condition, shame over whatever he had to do to stay alive in the war, and a misplaced belief that he was protecting his wife from the horrors he endured. None of these are alien motivations to disabled veterans.
What would you like readers to take away from “Her Husband’s Hands”?
Aside from any wishes that they remember it as a really good story? Probably just the reminder that love is a mysterious thing that can survive any number of traumatic wounds.
What’s next for you?
I have a series of middle grade novels coming out, starting in 2012; the adventures of Gustav Gloom, the first of which is Gustav Gloom and the People Taker.