These questions are about the short story “Home/Mercy”, and absolutely contains massive hairy spoilers. For the actual short story itself, please go here.
Okay, so that was pretty horrible. How do you even get an idea for a story like this?
It’s not nice. But it’s cheerier than the original concept. The story behind this one is, I was going through a bout of fairly horrible depression as I sometimes do, when everything seems both empty and vile and my existence on the planet seems like a complete waste of time, and the story just sort of popped into my head as an example of the ultimate meaninglessness of truth and failure of positivity. Perhaps it was the unhelpful chemicals in my brain, perhaps it was the unhelpful emotions I was feeling, but, either way, I liked the idea (ruefully, bitterly, cruelly), and so I jotted the idea down in my phone. I have it here somewhere… ah, here: 23rd of May, 2014 – “Couple in love, guy asks her to swear she will put him out of his misery if he ever loses his physical and mental with-it-ness… they swear upon it. Seriously. No nursing homes, no slow death in a place of strangers. Old age hits, he loses his physical capabilities. He forgets who she even is. And as she’s killing him, he has no idea why, or who she is, or what he’s done to deserve it… Dies in terror at the hands of a stranger.” So, in the original concept, she totally kills him, and it’s pretty unequivocally fucked for both of them – killing your partner who has no idea why, and is just horrendously scared and shocked and upset and fighting you off, while you’re desperately trying to murder the person you love more than anyone in the world… Jesus fuck, what a fucking nightmare. So yeah, when it came to take some of these ideas out of Notes on my phone and turn them into proper stories (I’ve got tonnes of ideas like this in my phone, but most of them just stay there), I was no longer languishing in the trough of existential Doom, and without the Horror of Existence crushing my every atom, I just couldn’t do it to them. No-one deserves that level of horror! Not even fictional people. So yeah, I basically chickened out, and they didn’t have to go through with it. And so the story actually went from being a representation of absolute crushing terror to some kind of expression of “love conquers all” or something. An odd turn around, but a nice one.
You said it!
So you’re kind of for mercy killings, but in the end kind of against them?
I don’t think I’m anything in general – I’m more of a “case by case basis” kind of person. In some cases, euthanasia is probably the best thing, in some cases it’s probably not. That’s totally for other people to decide, based on their specific sets of circumstances. I’m usually pro anything that lets a person decide what they want to do with their own body. In the right circumstances, I’m even pro-suicide, which is a rant I drag out whenever I want to be really unpopular at dinner parties.
No, not serious at all. I don’t go to any dinner parties.
This couple seem to fall in total crazy capital-L love really quickly. How do you expect us to believe that?
Because that stuff is totally real. That’s exactly how me and My Loved One felt after a couple of weeks max, complete and utter head-over-heels soul-mate connection, absolute kindred spirit we-have-to-be-together-forever kinda feelings, intense emotional states of comprehensive certainty that well surpass any other feelings about anything else ever. I think we’re particularly lucky to have had that, and it may be rare (what would I know – we met when I was nineteen, so I’m pretty much inexperienced at the whole “budding romantic partnership” caper) but it’s definitely a real thing. I don’t expect you to believe it necessarily – but it is true. Not only that, but that image of being in a vast blueish-black void with only each other, floating or falling, with nothing else existing in the universe but each other – that is also something we experienced. And it does feel like home.
That’s nice. For you.
Yes. Yes, it is.
Are those quotey bits – the bits where you seem like you’re quoting newspaper articles about old people killing their loved ones – are they legit?
I’m afraid so. While researching the ideas behind the story (ie, googling stuff about old people killing each other – believe me when I say my search history is a frightening place to be), I found heaps of newspaper reports about exactly that, and it’s fucking heartbreaking. Tale after tale of old people killing the person they love, or, even worse, attempting to and failing. Eep. Not a pleasant read, but essential – this shit is real, totally real, people are living this stuff, and we need some kind of “game over” option for people. Assisted suicide, euthanasia, whatever it ends up being, we really need some socially-acceptable way for people to say “I’ve had enough”, and to just make it stop. If someone wants out, that’s their right. We shouldn’t be forcing old ladies to stab their husbands to death, or old grandpas to shoot their dear old wives in the face with a shotgun (or all the other non-gendered permutations of such a situation). There’s got to be a better option. Don’t you think?
I… well, yes, I suppose so.
All your stories are either about arses or genitalia or faeces or people dying. Do you ever plan on moving away from this rather restrictive palette?
Not sure. It’s not like I sit there going “okay, so what foul body process can I write about now?” or “okay, so time to write a short story about old people dying”. I just write what seems like an interesting idea, and, being a fairly ordinary humyn, I’m interested in sex and death. Because we all are, almost universally – and I don’t mean universally like “all humyns”, but “all organisms”. Almost universally, organisms are interested in the broad area of reproduction, and the broad area of survival – you could almost say that the entire hystory of evolution is creatures fucking and/or dying, that’s what evolution is. So it’s an incredibly uninteresting thing to write about, really. There are a lot of goths out there who think they’re incredibly edgy being interested in sex and death, but honestly, it is actually the very most boring thing imaginable to be interested in. So I guess, my work on arses and/or faeces is where I really shine. Evolutionarily-speaking, it’s my anal prose that really stands out. Niche baby, niche!
I’m just… I’m just going to go over there for a while. Got stuff to do, um.
Oh. Okay, sure. I’ll just wait here then, okay?