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Interview: Steven Popkes on “Breathe”

– Tell us a bit about “Breathe.”

“Breathe” is the story of a vampire that views himself as a parasite. I took some liberties with the idea of a vampire for purposes of the story. Vampires are those creatures that can absorb qualities from other people.


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

Some stories are comments on other things. This is one. I found myself irritated with the romanticization of vampires. I find nothing attractive or sexy about an individual who’s only source of strength is stealing from other people. I had been annoyed for a while but the pedophilic characteristics in some recent work is probably what pushed me over the edge.


– What kind of research, if any, did you do for “Breathe?”

A little. I’m well acquainted with biotech and biological research—my wife is a biochemist and I used to be a physiologist. Mass General Hospital is right down the road. I worked in hospitals for most of my time in college and in the Boston area. Most of the material was just outside the window.


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

The choices of asthma and emphysema were personal. I used to suffer from what had been misdiagnosed as asthma and I had several smoking relatives that died of emphysema.


– What are you working on now?

I just finished a novel version of my novella Jackie’s Boy. Now I’m working on a novel that takes place in a fictional Missouri location called Nuthatch County.


– Anything else you’d like to add?

I have no good judgment on how stories are going to be received. It’s nice to see this one get some traction.

“Breathe” appears in the Nov./Dec. 2012 issue of F&SF.


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