How did this story originate? What inspirations did you draw on?
In the months before drafting “SyncALife,” I experienced a loss that made me think about how easy it is to fondly remember a loved one, but miles more difficult to discuss the harm they might have caused in their lifetimes. This felt especially true of men—and paternal figures—who seem to receive more grace when it comes to their shortcomings. This story was a way of exploring the long-term effects of hypermasculinity, which led me to create the father-son dynamic in the story, which is an extreme, made-up situation that let me work through these themes.
What is your writing process like? Did this story fit the pattern?
It depends on the story, but I usually write an unnecessarily long draft that I can then tighten. This was my experience with this story, though the general plot remained the same throughout. After workshopping the story during my MFA, I tweaked some of the details to give the story more tension and quicker pacing. It would have been a far worse story without my classmates’ careful and thoughtful feedback, so a massive thank you to them.
Is there anything you want to make sure readers noticed?
Even though the narrator is in a relationship with a man, I thought it was important that he be bisexual. In part, I made the choice because bisexual representation is so rare in popular media, but also because I wanted the story to work against easy binaries. It’s also why his gender expression remains dynamic throughout the story and as he works as a camboy. Ultimately, the story is about the dangers of forcing someone to fit into a stereotypical role when it comes to their gender or sexuality, so it was important that the narrator remained true to his own identity, regardless of what his father desired from him.
What have you been reading lately?
My reading life spans a lot of different genres. Recently, I’ve loved Valleyesque by Fernando A. Flores, How Not Drown in a Glass of Water by Angie Cruz, and Diaries of a Terrorist by Christopher Soto.
What trends in speculative fiction would you like to see gain popularity in the next few years?
For much of its history, speculative fiction has upheld some really dangerous ideologies—white supremacy, patriarchy, the police state. I’m most excited by authors who use genre fiction to critique systems that continue to hurt the most vulnerable people; writers like Octavia Butler, Nana Kwame Adeji-Brenyah, Nafissa Thompson-Spires, and Brenda Peynado, among others. I hope that critical, socially conscious speculative fiction continues to be published. We’ll need it to survive the perilous times we’re currently living through.
What are you working on lately? Where else can fans look for your work?
I recently completed a short story collection and novel that I’m shopping around. If readers liked the robot in this story, they can check out a story I published about migrant cyborgs from Central America. They can find it and other recent publications at my website, rubenreyesjr.com.
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