In this Author Spotlight, we asked author D. Thomas Minton to tell us a bit about the background of his story for Lightspeed, “Thief of Futures.”
When I started “Thief of Futures,” I didn’t set out to write a dystopian story. In fact, the first draft took place in New York City. This setting didn’t work, however, because I wanted Eshram’s condition at the beginning to be bleak. So I decided to move the setting to somewhere in Southeast Asia that had undergone significant climate change, sea level rise, and unchecked population growth. This provided the dark and exotic (at least by western standards) setting that I wanted.
One of the primary influences for this story was a recent trip to Indonesia. While I experienced nothing like Trenchtown in my travels, the smells, sounds and sights of Indonesia permeate “Thief of Futures.” Reading the text still invokes memories of incense and rice offers left on village streets and the haunting voice of the mullah calling the faithful to the mosque for evening prayer. I hope I have captured some of the essence of that incredible place in my story.
There appears to be a theme of predators and prey in this story, as well as predators becoming prey. Was there something in particular that gave rise to this theme?
This theme rose organically out the story I wanted to tell. When I started “Thief of Futures,” I wanted to write a “last job” story, and what “last job” story would be complete without one or more twists, turns, and double-crosses? Also, what better challenge for Eshram to face? All his life he’s been the predator, so I found it interesting to explore how he would respond to suddenly being the prey.
It seems from Eshram’s perspective that Bao was targeted because of Eshram, which ties into your theme of betrayal. What do you find compelling about this theme?
Eshram believes Bao was targeted in order to get to him. Does it matter if it is true? That’s one of the most interesting things about betrayal and guilt. They are emotions that don’t need to be based in fact to be powerful and real—we only need to believe they are true.
Betrayal is a complex and powerful emotion, because it results from the breaking of trust between individuals. You can really only truly betray people with whom you’ve established personal relationships. Betrayal is also a universal human condition. Everyone has been betrayed, and likely everyone has betrayed. As a writer, I find this compelling because there are so many potential nuances that can be explored.
Mr. Oduya says at one point that he likes Eshram because he has scruples in an immoral business, but it’s still an immoral business. Why do you think we tend to have sympathy for those who do immoral things but hold to some principles in doing so?
I’m an optimist, and I think people want to find good in others. People in immoral businesses who act with no boundaries are more monster than human, and I think that scares people. People with some moral code, however, retain a semblance of humanity, and think people embrace that. This makes it easier for us to see these individuals as humans doing the best they can in a bad situation.
Eshram’s development in this story suggests that not only does he have a future, but a remarkable one. Do you think there are any more stories involving this character?
Eshram undoubtedly has many stories, but at this time I have no plans to write them. I’ve never been fond of sequels. That said, Eshram is one of my favorite characters, so I’ll never say never.