How did “Deathmatch” originate? What inspirations did you draw on?
This story originated mid-morning in the Crown & Anchor parking lot, on a particularly potent cocktail of weed, shrooms, coffee, and booze. A friend had come through town to say goodbye before heading off to join the Navy, and he was talking to me about meth-head drywallers and ants being the earliest machine intelligence and how he hopes we eat the rich, and I was too high for it. I kept seeing flashes and texting them to myself so as not to forget:
A poisonous yellow-black swamp whirling through space, churning up vacuum. Humans as pain neurons for wind creatures, functioning like rogue receptors in their molecular minds, minds built of zephyrs intertwined, a collection of breezes shooting the breeze. Social technology represented by a carnal red omnimachine, cartoonified for logos. A man screaming no at the moment of orgasm. Rake-like automaton soldiers dressed in drab oversized fatigues, enshrined by murals, part of the resistance.
And then, most vividly:
Driverless taxi service occasionally drives two randomly selected customers to a deathmatch, deviating from their original destination to meet in a halfway point alley or bathroom or anywhere private enough for a brief struggle to the death. Black ride-tracking icons snaking toward each other through the Uber map.
What is your writing process like? Did this story fit the pattern?
The process varies; this story was one of the nice ones that comes out all at once. About a month after the parking lot, I woke up and wrote it in one long sitting. Often, it’s more painful. I’ve been chipping away at some stories for years now, and that doesn’t mean they’ll be any better—that’s just how they’re coming out.
What is your writing space like? What do you like to have around for optimal creativity?
The only important thing is that I don’t have Wi-Fi. When I move into a new place, I do not set up Wi-Fi. A few months ago, here in Montreal, I made an unfortunate discovery: by leaning out the window with my laptop muscled into the crook of my arm, I could coax one bar of the public Wi-Fi—enough to check emails, socials, forums, basketball scores, and even rip YouTube videos. Productivity plummeted.
Then, last week, salvation: some workers showed up and installed a moustiquaire across the window. Without that slight lean, I cannot get the bar, and just like that I am back in my healthy prison.
Other than writing, do you have any other creative pursuits? What do you do to relax?
This year I’m getting back into art. I go to a weekly life drawing session, watch Proko videos and read anatomy books and practice lots at home. It can be incredibly relaxing, one of those flow-state time-loss activities, or incredibly frustrating when you hit plateaus.
It’s a lot like the gym that way, actually. That’s my other big focus for the year, and the two things have begun to bleed into each other. All the anatomy study has made me much more aware of my own body parts; sometimes I’m not sure if I’m seeing the muscles grow or just noticing them properly for the first time.
What are you working on lately? Where else can fans look for your work?
My novel Ymir came out just recently; if you liked the dark humor and algorithmic nastiness in “Deathmatch,” you’ll probably enjoy it. For short fiction, you can always pick up my collection Tomorrow Factory, or read a bunch of free stuff via richwlarson.tumblr.com. Right now I’m working on more short stories, like always.
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