How did this story come about?
The idea for “The Men Who Change the World” kicked around in my head for a couple of decades before I finally wrote it. Originally I just wanted to write something set in an evil megacorporation that felt like a collaboration between John le Carré and David Lynch. Around the time of 9/11, I was working my first full-time job in an information services company similar (physically, not metaphysically!) to the one I’ve depicted in the story. The political turmoil of that time was a rude awakening at a formative age; it really got me thinking about diversion points and the ways the world could (and should) be different. So the speculative conceit and the weird ambience of the story were born back then, but it took years of stewing and a few attempts—including a stalled novel and, believe it or not, a TV pilot—before I found the right take. I think the intervening years provided the anger and life experience I needed to make it work.
You leave a lot of questions unanswered: Does this imply more stories from this world and/or that you like to create a lot of space for reader interpretation?
While there are a number of unexplored turns branching off the path of this one’s narrative, I consider it a standalone. It seemed right to imply unseen possibilities for this universe, leaving the deeper details to the reader’s imagination, but by and large I said what I wanted to say with this idea. That said, the speculative concepts and political themes here will probably crop up in future work. And I wouldn’t rule out exploring this universe again if the right idea came along, or perhaps toying with it again in a different format. This project has obviously been pestering me for a while; who knows, maybe it won’t stop!
Your work has appeared in Asimov’s SF, Cosmos, Interzone, Lightspeed, Talebones, and The Third Alternative: Any other publications on your target list?
Like most writers, I have a bucket list of professional markets I would love to crack! But right now I’m trying to focus more on process than result, because the process is the part I can control. So I keep my head down, focus on the work at hand, and keep dreaming up new projects. The marketing will either sort itself out, or it won’t. It’s a tough business! Might as well try to find joy in the work itself; the rest is gravy.
You write reviews across a number of genres, formats, and art forms: Is there anything you’ve taken away from your reviewing that influences how you write?
I don’t think I’ve seen much direct cross-pollination between review writing and fiction writing, but analyzing my reactions to things has definitely helped me learn how to assess and shape my own work over the years. Reviewing is a huge part of my writer DNA, going back to my teen years, when I had an entertainment column in the high school newspaper. I’ve been writing up thoughts about stuff in one medium or another ever since then, and I’m kind of addicted. One major effect is that it’s made me more open-minded and omnivorous in my watching, listening, and viewing habits, which I like to think has broadened my perspective and informed my creativity.
Any news or projects you want to tell us about?
A couple of months from now, I’ve got a weird new science fiction story coming out in the Underland Press anthology XVIII, which I’m pretty excited about. And I’ve always got piles of fiction projects in the works. Right now they involve conspiracies, demons, prog metal musicians, superheroes, industrial hygienists, augmented reality, climate change, alternate realities, and—as usual—spies.
Thanks for the questions!
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