How did “The Boy and the Box” start for you?
I could say, but that would be telling.
What, you need a more helpful answer? Okay; it springs from certain questions that have always bothered me: Namely, why an omnipotent being would want to be praised all the time, how profoundly empty that experience had to be, how omnipotence would almost certainly go along with sadism. The story puts these questions on the head of a boy instead of a deity, but let us be honest: Most definitions of a supreme being describe a very lonely and petulant creature whose only entertainment is watching an ant farm and occasionally poking it with a stick.
The Boy’s power extends from putting everything in his box, to potentially building Hell himself. Why does he use his power in such a reductive way? Do you think he had the potential to use his gift for good?
I think the boy is like the rest of us: trying to comprehend that which cannot be comprehended. He’s just a faster learner. I dunno whether he could have been benevolent, but chances are that would not have produced an interesting story.
Why do you think The Boy was interested in whether Lyle/Stupid-Face was a good man?
He needed a self-described good man to pit against his self-described evil one, for the fight that he hoped would provide him with a few seconds of entertainment. Alas, he picked a less-than-satisfactory champion and it really wasn’t much fun. It’s like playing Desktop Tower Defense. The gameplay is pretty much always the same.
You’re an award-winning author of short stories. Do you have any hints for the uninitiated?
Writers are best off eschewing gimmick stories of the sort where so-and-so turns out to be (gasp!) A VAMPIRE! It’s much better to begin with something in life that angers you, or entrances you, or frustrates you, or even simply amuses you, and figure out a way for a story that bring it into sharp relief. A vampire might well figure in that illustration. But if you start from life, then even a fantastic treatment will echo the human heart, and not other stories.