The story of Adam-Troy Castro “Arvies,” first published in the August 2010 issue of Speed of light magazine, imagines a society that believes that only fetuses have souls. One consequence of this is that it is normal for people to use advanced technology to never leave the uterus.
“There are two kinds of people in that story – fetuses and ‘arvies’ that they ride around and have fun with and replace regularly,” Castro says in section 519 of The nerd’s guide to the galaxy podcast. “[The story] jumps back and forth between the point of view of one of these fetuses and those where you go to the fundamentally weak-minded woman – according to plan – whose fate is to carry her around. ”
“Arvies” was a huge hit for Castro, who won the 2011 Million Writers Award for best short story and appeared in books such as Nebula Awards Showcase: 2012 and Best science fiction and fantasy of the year: 2011. “It was a big story in my career,” Castro says. “I wrote it with an unusual style and it got a lot of attention. It got a lot of international attention, which was gratifying. I’m very, very happy about it. I still think it’s one of the top five stories I ever made. “
But not everyone loved “Arvies.” Many readers were turned off by the macabre premise or chose to read the story as a commentary on abortion, an idea Castro rejects. “Many people thought that particular story was cold; many thought it was too dark, ”he says. “Fine. You don’t like this one; you might like the next one.”
Castro is notorious for pushing the envelope when it comes to horror fiction. It’s a talent he’s honed over 30 years writing stories like “Of a sweet slow dance in the wake of temporary dogs,” about a tourist paradise suffering from a genocidal invasion every 10 days, or “The shallow end of the basin,” about a toxic married couple who have raised their children to fight each other to the death.
“You have to feel what emotional response the story is going to give the reader,” Castro says. “If it’s a funny story, giggle like crazy when you write it. If it’s an exciting story, be on the edge of your seat without knowing how things are going to go. If it must be horrible, you must be wondering, ‘Oh my god, is it okay for this thing to come out of me?’ ‘
Listen to the full interview with Adam-Troy Castro in episode 519 of The nerd’s guide to the galaxy (over). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Adam-Troy Castro on his story “The author’s wife vs. the giant robot”:
[My wife Judi] read almost all of my stories before submitting them. This particular story, about a giant robot living in the middle of basic Manhattan and randomly killing one person every day, was an exercise in writing about mortality. Judi found lots of logical problems with this and my conversations with her were so amazing that I pretty much reported them verbatim when I wrote the story and they helped guide the story… It is very ironic to me that this story with Judi’s death is a bit like a commentary on that because she was taken by chance by the giant robot. This is happening to all of us; such a story we all have. And it’s a shame, but that’s what life is, and that’s what the story is about.
Adam-Troy Castro on fandom:
I went to a few scattered [science-fiction] conventions already at the age of 10 or 12. When I was around that age, there was a convention called Lunacon, which was usually held at the Commodore Hotel, I think, in New York City. The only thing that interested me about the convention – literally everything – was that at 2 o’clock on Saturday, Isaac Asimov held a speech. So I would buy a membership and go to that convention just to listen to that talk. I did not participate in other panels. I showed up and sat down for that speech, so that speech, said hello to Asimov – who I could feel might have felt like I was a sore ass – and then I might have appeared in the dealer’s room a little bit. But then I went.
Adam-Troy Castro continues Harlan Ellison:
I recognize that people have their reasons for not liking him or disapproving of him or – forgive me the sentence, I do not agree with the sentence – trying to “cancel” him, but my answer to that is that you do not pour out 30 years of friendship or 50 years of literary admiration. You can not do that. It’s very easy for younger people to do when he meant nothing to them… I guarantee everyone who listens to this – and it’s not me who comes up with an apology for Harlan, it’s me who tells them one thing about life which is that if your iconic characters live long enough there will come a day when you will have to apologize for them and if you live long enough you will be out of touch and you will lose respect in people younger than you. This happens. It’s part of being alive.
Adam-Troy Castro on his story “The old horror writer”:
When the Frankenstein monster first appeared on screen as the game of Boris Karloff, the first sight of his face was enough to make people faint in the theater. It does not have that effect on anyone right now. We see many more horrible monsters in CGI every day. In fact, the Frankenstein monster hunted within 15 years Lou Costello around. Monsters are captured by horror fiction. It’s very, very hard to write a scary vampire story now. To hell with a zombie movie called Fido in which [the zombie] is a child’s pet. It’s been a musical. I think that’s one of the things that drives [“The Old Horror Writer”]. That was what the story was about, and that is ultimately the success of the old horror writer in that story.