INTERVIEW: Adam-Troy Castro, Author of “Of a Sweet Slow Dance in the Wake of Temporary Dogs”

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

“Of A Sweet Slow Dance In the Wake of Temporary Dogs” is about a delightful, joyous land called Enysbourg where life is an (almost) nonstop celebration. Alas, the happiness to be found there comes with a price tag most won’t want to pay.

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

I sometimes generate story ideas by altering well-known phrases in bizarre ways, and seeing what unusual concepts pop up. This time I took Joe Haldeman’s novel The Forever War and came up with a contrasting premise, “The Intermittent War.”

For a long time I had no idea what to do with that, until 9/11 struck and, for a while, I encountered people who said that they couldn’t ever imagine going to New York City ever again. (Ten years ago, some people were actually saying that.) I couldn’t understand that kind of thinking, and could only respond that New York was so exciting, so rich, so vibrant, so much a feast for the heart and for the senses, that if anything 9/11 made me want to be there even more.

From there it was a short jump to the well-known phenomenon of homelands torn apart by disasters both natural and man-made, that people love too much to ever want to leave. “Temporary Dogs” was an exercise in upping the contrasts.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

The war-torn middle third was rough — I had to keep horrifying myself — but the actual toughest part to finish was the wrapup, which I considered done until my then-future wife, Judi, insisted that I had not fulfilled all of my obligations to the character of Caralys. The story had to be about her as well as to my male protagonist.

What are some of your favorite examples of dystopian fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

A true dystopia is a world intolerable even if some of the people there have been fooled into believing that they’re happy. The world created in the course of Jack Williamson’s “With Folded Hands” is as nightmarish as any ever created, even though — as he takes pains to point out — it comes complete with a surgical solution that will force you to be happy even if that means you also lose everything special about you. (I’d probably take the operation, but that would be a form of personality suicide). Robert Silverberg’s orgiastic The World Inside is a dystopia that might actually be a blast, for a long weekend, though I understand why further exposure would be soul-destroying. Walter Tevis’s  Mockingbird and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 are nightmares for the inveterate reader. I also have to mention George Orwell’s 1984, where life was not fun for anybody, and Harlan Ellison, ” ‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” for sheer passion.