Reality and Contagion: the author's review
To celebrate the publishing of my book, Reality and Contagion, I thought I could give everyone a little spoiler-free review of the short stories inside. Hopefully, this is a win-win situation. You, Dear Reader, will be able to understand if you're interested in the book without actually buying it, and I probably to stand to gain some insight on my creative process by ranting about it.
AND SO GOD SAID
Apparently, as the saying goes, it's better not to talk about politics or religion over dinner. Maybe it's due to my background or my tendency to do the exact opposite of what I'm told, but of course I had to do that.
AND SO GOD SAID, previously named THE INTERVIEW (yea, way to go on titling my stories) is a conversation with God in a setting where he/she/it/they decided to run a corporation. A very successful one, mind you.
I really don't remember how I got the idea, but I have a fond memory of writing it down. It was one of those blessed times when writing just felt right and I was able to finish the first draft in two or three sessions. The story had to go through several revisions, but even at that early stage I knew I was dealing with good material.
I still consider it one of the shiniest examples of my writing, so of course it had to be the opening story.
At the start of 2021 I was published in a short story anthology in my native language. The book was plagued with a lot of issues (first and foremost the lack of any editing) and I remember there were at least 4 COVID-related stories in a row. I promised myself that I wouldn't make the same mistake.
So, despite the title containing the world contagion, COGNITIVE INTRUSION is the only story that deals with an actual infection. It's a horror that nods towards some niche aspects of internet culture: I'm sure you will get the reference.
A PATH TO SINNAMARA
Lovecraft often got his ideas while dreaming, and I remember waking up in the middle of the night to scribble down a couple of notes that eventually grew to become this short story. When the idea wakes you up, you know it's good.
I love the new weird genre and this was my first foray into it. Alas, Sinnamara is not Ambergris or Carcosa, but it is a strange city and it's strange for its own sake.
I honestly love the city, and I'd like to write more about it. For now my mind can't quite wrap around it. A sign that i need to delve deeper in the genre.
SPINAL COUNT is a slipstream, post-apoc horror, if that makes sense to you. To be fair, the idea came up as a semi-serious joke that I brought to my writing group.
It was 2020 and I was still stuck in a poorly managed consulting job that ate away most of my waking hours; and I already said too much. You'll get where the inspiration came from.
To be fair, I think the story outlived and surpassed its humble origins and became worthy of standing tall and proud, hence its presence in the collection. Little fun tidbit, it's also settled in Milan, near an overgrown version of the Bosco Verticale, a couple of skyscrapers that feature extensive, green-filled balconies.
Yet another horror piece and one that was born out of spite. I'm not afraid to tell that I was in a very bad place, mentally, when I wrote this. Writing always reveals something of the writer; ACCEPTANCE takes my blood-soaked innards and stamps them on the page.
It's a slow, yet inevitable, descent into madness and things better left unsaid. The main character struggles with an uneasy treaty at the start of the story and puts up a fight when it's probably already too late. I tried to capture the feeling of fading away, slowly crumbing to be replaced by something you quite don't like.
MADE IN MY IMAGE
Six stories in and we finally come to the first proper science fiction piece of the collection (even though SPINAL COUNT and AND SO GOD SAID both have some garden variety of scifi in them). Also, you'll notice that the title has a religious reference. I'm sorry, I can't help myself.
It's a post-apoc loosely inspired by the one-shot manhwa Hotel: since 2079 by Boichi, although the themes are vastly different and his work is surely more uplifting. In both stories Earth gets to be an inhabitable wasteland and humanity is forced to a last-ditch effort to save itself. To be fair, they manage.
Another piece of science fiction! And to be fair, if you go around and tell that this works as a sequel to MADE IN MY IMAGE, I won't contradict you. To be fair, this is far into the future when humanity has already mastered space travel to the point of it being a non-issue.
And yet, even when the technology available can solve 99% of our problems, we are still left with interpersonal relationships to deal with and the ever present shadow of society looming over our lives. I should have probably expanded more on this point, but then again I wanted to write a short story, not an essay.
WHAT ABOUT EARTH?
Science fiction meets horror and disguises itself in a non-fiction piece, namely one of those super positive-sounding travel reviews that an Instragram. Without telling too much, aliens are involved, and they are bad. In fact, they are so bad that they really resemble humans in their way of dealing with lifeforms perceived as "inferior".
Now that I mention it this was probably a theme I picked up from Gantz, where the aliens where meaner the more human they looked.
BIG BEAUTIFUL BONOBO
I was always fascinated with the sentence "carrying a monkey on one's back". I used to listen to Sing in Silence by Sonata Arctica on repeat when I was a teenager and I recently had the chance to read Nelson Algren's The man with the golden arm. In both cases the monkey is synonym with addiction. BBB doesn't break ties with that tradition, but it's not more of the same, either.
It is a story about being careful of what we pick up as kids, thought.
DEATH LIVES IN THE BRONX
In a way this is a companion piece or a counterpoint to AND SO GOD SAID, because it takes the same interview-like format. Two characters speaking, one of them a supernatural being or a concept given human form.
DEATH LIVES features a more warm, almost intimist nature, and a little more surrounding context. The main character is a wannabe trying to write the Next Big Book and miserably failing to make end meets. I assure you the irony isn't lost on me, I thrive on it. I didn't think much about the figure of Death in this short, it just made sense to make it a soft spoken, amicable man instead of the usual robed skeleton of my youth.
Revisiting the story I think there is potential for romance between the two characters. I did not intend it, but it is a nice touch.
NO CLOTHES IN HEAVEN
Trust me I know. I've bored you enough already with religion, but just this one, this one more, and then you'll be spared until the next collection. NO CLOTHES IN HEAVEN, terribly descriptive title, is a horror piece about a bunch of souls freshly departed. To help them during the transition we have a priest, well used to his new role as soul-usher.
This is no Dante's Paradise, but it does feature biblically correct angels.
Science fiction set in Seoul with a really simple premise: digital reality really took off and now people are using it on a daily basis. Full day, actually. If you're thinking that this is bound to create some issues, you're correct: it does. As an internet dweller myself I know the ins and out of dealing with people while using avatars, or digital personas.
Funnily enough this was written well before Zuckenberg announced the Metaverse, so I hope he will be kind enough to share part of the sweet, sweet profits with me.
We're back in an alien's viewpoint to witness an ongoing invasion. Little known fact, the invaders are related to one of my long-running science fiction projects, Wormworld: a highly advanced, highly automatized setting.
Sadly, robots looking for natural resources are not really interested in having good PR with the locals, and let's leave it at that.
THE WESTERN DEMON
Melancholic piece about a horned demon visiting Tokyo, and later on, Inari's mountain in Kyoto. It almost reads as a diary of my own trip to Japan, but let's not take it too literally (and please never take what I say too seriously). It's a weird story, and maybe a little introspective, a little too much concerned with its own feelings and imagery.
I cite magical realism as inspiration here, mostly because I was busy consuming Murakami's 19Q4, The wind-up bird chronicles and Kafka on the shore when I wrote it. I like those settings where everything can be literal and figurative at the same time.
This is pretty much all the book has to offer. If you read thus far, you should have a clearer idea on what you'll find - maybe a little too clear; I hope I didn't spoil the surprise factor. Then again, I'm the author, anything I say can be used against me in a meta-textual analysis of my own work.
Jokes aside, feel free to reach out if you end up grabbing the book. I'd love to hear your thoughts.