‘Arvies’ Imagines a World Ruled by Fetuses


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Adam-Troy Castro’s story “Arvies,”First published in August 2010, issue. LightspeedThe magazine imagines a society in which only fetuses possess souls. One consequence of this is that it’s normal for people to use advanced technology to never leave the womb.

“There are two kinds of people in that story—fetuses and the ‘arvies,’ which they ride around in and have fun and replace regularly,” Castro says in Episode 519 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “[The story] bounces back and forth between the point of view of one of these fetuses and those where you go to the basically mindless woman—by design—whose fate is to carry her around.”

“Arvies” was a huge hit for Castro, winning the 2011 Million Writers Award for best short story and appearing in books such as Nebula Awards: Showcase 2012And The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy: 2011. “That was a big story in my career,” Castro says. “I wrote it using an unusual style, and it got a lot of attention. It attracted a lot of attention from around the world, which was quite satisfying. I’m very, very fond of it. I still think it’s one of the five best stories I ever did.”

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. “A lot of people thought that that particular story was cold; a lot of people thought it was too dark,” he says. “Fine. You don’t like this one; you’ll like the next one, maybe.”

Castro is known for pushing the boundaries in horror fiction. It’s a talent he’s honed over 30 years of writing stories like “Of a Sweet Slow Dance in the Wake of Temporary Dogs,”Imagine a tourist paradise where there is a genocidal invasion once every 10 days. “The Shallow End of the Pool,”A toxic marriage leads to their children fighting to the death.

“You need to feel whatever emotional response the story is supposed to provide for the reader,” Castro says. “If it’s a funny story, you need to be giggling like a madman when you’re writing it. If it’s a suspenseful story, you have to be on the edge of your seat, not knowing how things are going to turn out. If it needs to be horrific, you have to wonder, ‘Oh my god, is it OK that this stuff is coming out of me?’”

Listen to the complete interview of Adam-Troy Castro on Episode 519 Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). Check out the highlights of the discussion below.

Adam-Troy Castro shares his story “The Author’s Wife vs. The Giant Robot”:

[My wife Judi]Before I sent my stories in, you had to read most of them. The story about the giant robot that lived in Manhattan killing one person each day was a great exercise in writing about mortality. Judi found lots of logical problems with this, and my conversations with her were so terrific that I pretty much reported them verbatim when I wrote the story, and they helped guide the story … It’s very ironic to me that with Judi’s death, this story is sort of like a commentary on that, because she got taken randomly by the giant robot. It happens to everyone; we all have a similar story. And it’s unfortunate, but that’s what life is, and that’s what the story is about.

Adam-Troy Castro on fandom:

I visited a few scattered locations. [science-fiction]Conventions are possible as early as age 10, or 12. Conventions can be started as early as age 10 or 12. Lunacon, which was typically held at the Commodore Hotel, New York City. All that interested me about that convention—literally all—was that at 2 o’clock on Saturday, Isaac AsimovHe gave a speech. I decided to buy a membership to attend that convention to hear the speech. I did not attend any other panels. I would show up and sit down at that speech, watch that speech, say hello to Asimov—who I could tell maybe felt that I was a pain-in-the-ass kid—and then I might have showed up in the dealer’s room a little bit. Then I went.

Adam-Troy Castro on Harlan Ellison:

I recognize that people have their reasons for disliking him or disapproving of him or—forgive me the phrase, I don’t agree with the phrase—trying to “cancel” him, but my answer to that is that you don’t scoop out 30 years’ worth of friendship or 50 years’ worth of literary admiration. You can’t do that. It’s very easy for younger people to do that when he meant nothing to them … I guarantee to everyone listening to this—and this is not me making an excuse for Harlan, this is me telling them one thing about life, which is that if your iconic figures live long enough, there will come a day when you will have to apologize for them, and if you live long enough, you will become out of touch and you will lose the respect of people younger than you. It happens. It’s part of being alive.

Adam-Troy Castro shares his story “The Old Horror Writer”:

Frankenstein first appeared as a monster on the screen in 1953. Boris KarloffHis face alone was enough for people to faint in the theater at the first sight. It doesn’t have that effect on anybody right now. Every day, we see more CGI-generated monsters. Frankenstein’s monster was even chasing after 15 years. Lou Costello around. Horror fiction has made monsters seem less scary. It’s very, very difficult to write a scary vampire story now. Hell, there’s a zombie movie called FidoIn which [the zombie] is a kid’s pet. It’s been a musical. I think that’s one of the things that drove [“The Old Horror Writer”]. That’s what the story was about, and that eventually is the old horror writer’s success in that story.

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