In this Author Spotlight, we asked author Corey Mariani to tell us a bit about the background of his story for Lightspeed, “Postings from an Amorous Tomorrow.”
Empathy, as well as love, makes the world go around in this story. What gave you this idea?
I got the idea from arguments I’ve had with friends and family about altruism. I believe there is no such thing as an unselfish act, but most people I’ve talked to disagree. They try to prove I’m wrong with examples, but they can’t (if you’ve ever been on this side of this argument then you know how frustrating it can be to try). And then they turn on me. They say how depressing it must be for me to live in a world where altruism doesn’t exist. But I don’t find it depressing. Everyone acts out of selfishness, yet there are still laws, morality, love, charity, and everything else you can think of that’s good. Almost everything we do or feel is for our own survival as a species. Even the self-destructive elements of our nature are survival mechanisms. They’re just ones we have trouble controlling, like fear!
Empathy is one of our more benign survival mechanisms. It connects us all. Without it, we would not be the social, cooperative creatures that we are (and I’m not being sarcastic). It’s the reason I am not depressed when I look around and see only selfish behavior. I don’t want to hurt you or anyone else because it would hurt me to do so. When I help people I do it because it makes me feel good. I think it’s better than altruism.
The narrator of this story is a ten-year-old boy. Why did you choose to tell this story from his perspective, rather than someone older?
I read an article in The Atlantic called “Orchid Children” that compared children to dandelions and orchids. Some children can flourish in just about any environment, but in the end just grow up to be a plain dandelion. Other children are like orchids, they need constant care and attention. If they get this they bloom into a beautiful and unique flower; if they don’t they wither and die, or, in the case of the children, grow up to be drug addicts and schizophrenics. It was in this article that I read about the Dunbar number for the first time. So when I was thinking about writing “Postings from an Amorous Tomorrow,” I was thinking about children and how they are raised; a child’s perspective was easier. This child is thrust into the world just as a reader is thrust into a story. With a child protagonist, the reader and the protagonist learn about the world together.
The Dunbar number, as well as the network our narrator talks about, bring to mind current social networks like Facebook and MySpace, only more significantly evolved. Do you see the future of social networking headed in a direction like this?
Yes, I could see it. But then again, my paranoid fantasies see a lot of things heading in a lot of directions, like the loose alliance forming between the Chinese and the lizard people that live underground, or the renewed effort by aliens to splice their DNA with cows, thereby supplanting humans as the dominant species on earth, or the 2013 apocalypse, otherwise known as the “Forgotten Apocalypse,” based on the drunken ramblings of a modern-day Nostradamus named Todd…I honestly have no idea where social networking is heading. What little I know about technology I learned from watching Nova on PBS. When I wrote the story I was thinking of Facebook and MySpace, though, and wondering what life would be like if social networking was taken to the extreme, and used as some sort of government mandated vehicle to create and control a utopian society.
Because Nick stops loving himself, he’s classified as a sociopath. It’s seems almost like persecution, to eliminate someone because of a possibility of who they might turn out to be. Nick doesn’t even have a chance to defend himself or try to change. Do you think too much empathy can be a bad thing, then?
No, I don’t. Jain monks might be the most empathetic people in the world, and they aren’t bad. They travel on foot everywhere because they’re afraid of harming bugs and other living things. They don’t use cars, boats or planes. They don’t even use buggies. Even the Amish use buggies. I don’t think too much empathy is a bad thing, I think too much fear is.
There’s no question that having a hand in Nick’s death damaged something in our narrator and affected his innocence. Was that a price the adults in charge were willing to pay? A ‘for the greater good’ kind of deal? Or was that just an unexpected side effect of our narrator’s character?
The adults were scared, and they wanted what was making them scared to go away. They weren’t thinking much about the consequences their decisions would have on their children. Countries have sent their children to war because of threats, perceived or real, throughout history. The children who survive are never the same again. The narrator at the end of the story is disillusioned, and suffering from PTSD.
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