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Nonfiction

Author Spotlight: Wil McCarthy

Can you tell us how you came up with “The Necromancer in Love?”

Actually, the story kind of tells its own history: I was researching the actual process of brain death, and realized what a mushy concept it really is. Basically, the body goes through a shutdown sequence, and “death” is the point at which medicine can no longer reverse the process. But that point has been moving; with CPR, defibrillators, and ventilators, legal “death” stopped being about the heart and now takes place in the brain. But there are researchers out there today who are working on ways to extend the time the brain can survive without oxygen, by doing things like injecting large amounts of insulin. This is all well and good, but it seemed to me that some of the early “successes” in this area could be rather unsettling.

Why did you choose love and passion as the motivating feelings for the necromancer? Is it really love the necromancer feels?

Fundamentally this is a story about not letting go—not being able or willing to let go. Love is one of the strongest emotions people can experience, and particularly in the first six months it behaves a lot like an addiction. Combine that with grief—another emotion that can truly overwhelm—and it’s a volatile mixture. If the worst possible person experiences that loss at the worst possible time, these emotions could literally change the world.

Can you tell us more about the world of your story?

The Age of Horrors is something I worry about from time to time. With smart phones and personal computers, we’ve begun to see how technology can leverage the talents of ordinary people to do things that used to take a whole office staff. Today we fit the whole office in our pocket, along with a library, TV studio, and after-work hangout. This empowers all of us, good and bad alike, so it’s now possible for someone on the other side of the world to insert a virus on your phone, read your personal data, and steal your identity. Our laws and institutions have been slow to adapt, so right now we’re living in the Age of Identity Theft.

If you extend that same concept to biotechnology, then it would be very naive to think that human cloning, genetic engineering, and life extension hacks will be far behind. Hackers don’t feel the sort of ethical restraint that tenured experts do, so it seems inevitable to me that these trails will be blazed by people who don’t really know—or in some cases care—what sort of world they’re ushering in. I expect things will settle down in a generation or two, as people clearly learn what not to do, but in the mean time a lot of weird shit could go down.

Why did you choose the lecture format for this story?

Just lazy, I guess. The science is key to this particular story, and a lot of it came from talking to doctors, so it just seemed logical to have a doctor regurgitate the information. If you strip away the lecture, the story is really only a couple of pages long, and not very meaty.

What’s next for you?

Heh. Ain’t tellin’.

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Robyn Lupo

Robyn Lupo lives in Southwestern Ontario with her not-that-kind-of-doctor partner and three cats. She enjoys tiny things, and has wrangled flash for Women Destroy Science Fiction! as well as selected poetry for Queers Destroy Horror! She aspires to one day write many things.