Adam-Troy Castro is back in our pages and back on the blog to discuss “The Unnecessary Parts of the Story,” an ironic horror tale that appears in our September/October issue on sale now!
Analog Editor: What is the story behind “The Unnecessary Parts of the Story”?
AC: It has always occurred to me that many science-fictional plagues—the zombie plague in particular—fail to meet the criteria that would mark an unstoppable contagion. Honestly, the really bad ones are contagious before the symptoms show. Ditto with most rampaging monsters that take over cinematic spaceships, from ALIEN on down (much as I admire the first couple of films in that series); there must be some kind of evolutionary advantage to being so fearsome, and so it struck me that the advantage might lie in steering a terrorized crew in the direction of the desired behavior.
AE: How did the title for this come to you?
AC: It comes up in the text, which is always the best way to generate a title.
AE: What is your process?
AC: There is only one process. Sit in your chair (or stand at your writing-desk, whatever) and put one word in front of the other until you reach THE END. Then go back to the beginning and make sure you left no howlers, a part of the process I’m only middling at.
AE: What inspired you to start writing?
AC: I no longer remember the moment, mostly because I was writing little stories by age five and by then already knew that this was what I was going to do. I guess it would be cool to isolate the moment, but I suspect it was no highly dramatic moment of epiphany so much as knowledge that congealed.
AE: If you could choose one SFnal universe to live in, what universe would it be, and why?
AC: The sad truth is that in almost any fictional universe worth envying, the amount of fun you would have once you got there entirely depends on whether you got to be a main character, or one of the background cogs. Sure, it would be nice to be on the starship Enterprise, but you could just as easily be some accountant on one of the planets the Doomsday Machine destroys because Matt Decker and James T. Kirk start having symphonically-scored battles with it. You might think it fun to be one of the Avengers, but it’s much more likely you’d be a participant in the panicked crowds as buildings get knocked off. Tolkien, you’d likely be some farmer behind a plow, or the fifteenth Orc from the right. This is something many, many people fail to account for, when they talk about what fictional universes they’d like to live in; everybody assumes they’ll be king (or queen) and not the fly-specked peasant who mucks out the stables, or the vampire hunter and not the frightened villager. I have honestly heard people enthusiastically nominate the Game of Thrones universe, and I scratch my head there, because except for a few aristocrats living in times of peace, nobody’s having a great time in that ficton. Who are these people eagerly wishing they could be Reek? I suppose that if I had to make a choice I would say Varley’s Nine Worlds, but again: only if I could choose my address, and status, before I got there.
AE: What are you reading right now?
AC: Currently reading an advance reader copy of I Am Behind You by John Ajivide Lindqvist, which will be out in October 2018. It’s a very strange Swedish novel about four families vacationing at a campsite, who one fine morning peer out the windows of their respective caravans and discover that they’re . . . somewhere, not on Earth.
AE: What is something we should know about you that we haven’t thought to ask?
AC: I would tell you, but then I would have to silence you.
AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?
AC: There’s a regularly updated bibliography on www.adamtroycastro.com.