What was the spark that got this story going for you? Is this a cautionary tale, or does it expose our more irrational fears?
Last year, my sister fell victim to a ransomware virus that caused her to lose a lot of important files, including irreplaceable photos. Some of my recent stories have involved brain implant technology, so I started thinking about what ransomware would look like in a future in which such technology is a part of everyday life. You could look at it as a cautionary tale, but I didn’t write it with that intention. I don’t think the fears are irrational. Internet criminals ruin lives every day and I don’t see that changing in the future. If someone is smart enough to invent something, there will always be someone else smart enough to find a way to break in.
What was the most difficult aspect of writing this story?
The most difficult part was writing in the second person and deciding how much the “you” in the story should be a fleshed-out character versus a blank slate whose shoes the reader could fill. I tried to strike a balance by revealing some details about the “you” but keeping it pretty general.
This story has a not-so-common structure. What prompted you to choose to write it in the log entry format?
We are all familiar with user interfaces and online tutorials, so I thought using that format would ground the story in familiar territory. Most of us also know the dread and panic that comes when an ominous popup appears. I wanted the reader experience to be as direct and realistic as possible.
How did you develop the voice of Phobetor?
There is something especially creepy about ransomware, because the criminal is demanding you cooperate with him before he will leave you alone. It puts you in the position of needing his help. Phobetor’s voice grew out of the creepy, personal dynamic of this type of virus and the closeness it creates between criminal and victim.
What’s next for you?
I just completed a novella about the misadventures of a think-app addict and am starting to shop it around. I also have an SF/F story forthcoming in Ares Magazine.
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