INTERVIEW: James Morrow, Author of “Auspicious Eggs”

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

“Auspicious Eggs” is essentially a thought experiment. What if you took a key piece of anti-abortion rhetoric – “the rights of the unborn” – and pushed it to extremes? Hence my dystopia’s collective obsession with “the rights of the unconceived.” Curiously enough, when the story first appeared, most critics and readers took it as largely an attack on the theocratic mentality. But I was in fact intending to cast the abortion debate in a new – albeit satiric – light.

Most authors say all their stories are personal. If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

Although chronically unhappy with my species’s religious impulses, I try to cultivate a certain generosity of spirit toward churchgoers and clerics, both in my fiction and in my life. That’s an important personal goal for me. It’s the reason Father Cornelius Dennis Monaghan is, at one level, a sympathetic character. Atheists and agnostics account for about two-thirds of the fan-messages I receive, but the rest come from believers, so I figure I must be doing something right.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

Most of the technical material in “Auspicious Eggs” partakes of rubber science. One of these days I’ll get around to doing the research for this story.

What is the appeal of dystopian fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers love it so much?

When a dystopianist is on his or her game, the resulting fiction gives us a vocabulary with which to grab hold of an otherwise elusive problem – terms like “Kafkaesque,” “Doctor Moreau’s Island,” “Newspeak,” and “Catch-22.” Kafka, Wells, Orwell, and Heller hit upon new and vital ways to talk about ideological savagery and sacralized insanity.

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

As I write these words, BP and the ghost of Ronald Reagan are staring helplessly at the unimaginable quantities of oil hemorrhaging from the obscene Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico. In light of this monstrous catastrophe, the dystopian work that immediately springs to my mind is The Island of Dr. Moreau. Wells argues that mere morals cannot play God without simultaneously pleasing Lucifer. For several generations, anti-regulation zealots having been playing God with the ecological welfare of our planet, and now there is Hell to pay.