Science Fiction & Fantasy



Author Spotlight: Rich Larson

Can you tell us what inspired “Let’s Take This Viral”?

I’ve got a document loaded with tiny snippets of text and images, titled “idearrhea” because I created it two years ago when I was young and immature, and it was while scrolling through it this October that I rediscovered: “Insomniac society, cosmetic viruses, wet street, fast awake.” That fragment then became “Let’s Take This Viral” over the course of a weekend.

Is that typical for you: Getting excited about an idea and then knocking out the story in a short period of time? Tell us a little about your writing process.

Generally if it rains words, it pours. I’m either stuck on the first paragraph or I bang out an entire story over the course of a day or two. After that, I share it around and try to get some critiques, and usually end up doing edits about a week later. My dropbox is littered with the beginnings of stories that I’d like to finish eventually, but it tends to be a lot easier for me to write the whole thing in one go.

The world for this story is fascinating and well developed, with a great cyberpunk feel. What can you tell us about the creation of this world?

The cyberpunk aesthetic was my first love in speculative fiction, and that shows in a lot of my work, but the idea of the nocturns, a sort of 24/7 downtown party central, came from my own experiences with the party scene. Particularly, from a year I spent in Providence. The cycle of getting drunk, going out, wandering through a dazed half-day of hangover and then starting again, ran me through a meat grinder. Just exhausted me. The nocturns is that, amped to eleven in all respects.

It was interesting to watch the characters develop as they chased new experiences and quickly changing fads. As I read, I found myself wondering what a person would do once they had experienced everything. Is change and the need for new experiences a common theme in your writing?

Absolutely. Change is central to anything worthwhile I’ve managed to write, and definitely to this story. “Let’s Take This Viral” points to the possible pitfalls of immortality, everything becoming so recycled and so stagnant that the only change left is death. I’ve always been scared of dying, but just as scared of an afterlife, heaven or hell, that never ends.

You’ve got a background in poetry with several published poems. How do you feel your poetry influences your prose?

I’m a sucker for beautiful prose, occasionally to the point of detriment. I keep trying to sneak this one line into my stories, about a raindrop detonating softly on someone’s lips, and people keep telling me to axe it because it’s ridiculously purple. The poetic tendency is one I have to rein in.

What’s next for you?

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to worry less about writing this year, actually, and spend more time living. I’m young and there’s no rush. In the meanwhile, I’ve got publications upcoming in Futuredaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and a few others. I’m still just thrilled to be appearing in Lightspeed for the first time, so thanks for having me!

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Kevin McNeil

Kevin McNeil is a physical therapist, sports fanatic, and volunteer coach for the Special Olympics. He is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop and The Center for the Study of Science Fiction’s Intensive Novel Workshop, led by Kij Johnson. His fiction has appeared in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Every Day Fiction, and The Dark. His short story, “The Ghost of You Lingers,” earned an honorable mention in The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Eight, edited by Ellen Datlow. Kevin is a New Englander currently living in California. Find him on Twitter @realkevinmcneil.