In your story, “The Cristóbal Effect,” Jason Blackstone, a brane slicer, leaps to alternate realities, profiting from valuable artifacts that don’t exist in his own reality. One of his targets is James Dean paraphernalia. How did you decide to focus on Dean out of all the potential targets?
Years ago, I saw Giant late at night when Ted Turner began broadcasting classic films on cable. I found Dean’s performance captivating. Until that time my impression of him was based on melodramatic clips from “Rebel Without a Cause” and the iconography of the early Fifties. I began reading about his short life, which wasn’t easy—the Internet didn’t exist and people stole his biographies from public libraries—and eventually saw his other two feature films. There was a haunted quality to his life and unfulfilled promise as actor. It stuck in my imagination. If he had taken a different route to the races that day or stopped for a sandwich, what movies might he have starred in as Hollywood shed its post-war formulaic storytelling and embraced more innovative and experimental filmmaking in the 1960s?
Blackstone profits from these artifacts, but where does he store them, and in what time? Do the constrictions of using the Device make this difficult?
Because he can never visit the same timespace coordinate on an alternate Earth and he cannot visit the “future” based on his native timeline, he is forced to hide his contraband on his home Earth. He has multiple “seller” identities and, one assumes, safe-deposit boxes scattered around the globe.
In the end, every action has a consequence, and Blackstone is not immune to this. Do you believe his crimes are deserving of his punishment?
“Blackstone” believes so, and draws the parallel with Columbus and other European explorers who caused such misery and ruination in the New World. They sailed in the name of exploration and to expand the known borders of the world, but they ransacked entire cultures in their quest for glory, prestige and wealth. “Blackstone” becomes a slicer to accumulate enormous wealth, but he develops a conscience along the way.
As the scientific community produces new theories about quantum mechanics, does this make it easier or more difficult to construct a story about parallel universes?
I think it adds fresh ideas and interesting bits for writers to speculate about and expand upon. Hopefully it engages more readers who haven’t grown up reading science fiction and helps them suspend disbelief. Writers have to draw the right balance between establishing an intriguing premise with the right level of detail and drowning readers in complex physics.
If you came across the Device, would you use it? Where would you go?
Could any of us resist using it in some manner? I would probably pop across to an adjacent Earth so I could visit my parents and grandparents, or maybe buy Alfred Bester a drink. I collect vintage die-cast cars; could I resist visiting FAO Schwarz Toy Store on Fifth Avenue in 1967 to buy a case or two of gleaming new Batmobiles? Or would I become obsessed with using it to avert some disaster or personal pitfall? Even if it were nearly impossible to alter events on most Earths, it would be a wondrous tool for historians and scientists, but might be a very dangerous technology for any government to possess.
Finally, do you have any new projects you’d like to announce?
I’m completing a science fiction/horror novel I successfully pitched to a respected independent publisher (fingers crossed), and I have a new “hard” science fiction story out in a UK anthology, Rocket Science, edited by Ian Sales. Other stories and a novella are due later this year in several anthologies and a shared-author, Corman-inspired undead novel LIVING DEATH RACE 2000. You can drop by my blog for news: simonmccafferyfiction.blogspot.com.