Interview: Seth Chambers on “In Her Eyes”
- Tell us a bit about “In Her Eyes.”
I think this story had been brewing inside me a long time, but when it was ready to be born, it rushed out in a manic burst of creativity. Immediately after finishing it I wrote a novelette, “We Happy Few,” with the same white-hot fury. I must confess, I love these creative blasts. They seem to be the occasional reward of diligent writing whether the Muse strikes or not.
- What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?
The most immediate incentive to write “Eyes” was Song’s voice in my head, clear and strong and insistent.
In looking back, I can sort of trace the genesis of the story here and there. For instance, I’ve long been fascinated with the fact that we’re literally different people at different times in our lives. The logical extension here is, “What if the speed of this process were multiplied?”
Another concept that sends my mind spinning is that humans are able to reconfigure their own brains. When you learn a new skill, neural pathways are forged. We are self-programming computers, able to change the hardware as well as the software. From where does this volition arise? Song just happens to be somebody who learns to take it to the next step and do it directly.
And yet another thing I wanted to play with is the idea that people have varying experiences depending on their looks. Is the world a friendlier and more accommodating place for a physically beautiful person than for a plain one? Song is in a position to have a unique viewpoint on this matter.
Also, one scene was inspired by a spirited discussion I had with a Detroit rap artist concerning sizable derrieres (we were both very much pro big butts).
- Was “In Her Eyes” personal to you in any way, and if so, how?
Yes, it is personal. Not to give any spoilers, but in one scene Song tells her priest that her inner saboteur is trying to break out and ruin everything. The Inner Saboteur is something that has cropped up in my own life repeatedly. Things start to go well and suddenly it plots to bring everything crashing down. What is the motive of the Saboteur? Maybe it’s a part of me that doesn’t believe I’m worthy of success and so plans my downfall to keep me where I belong. Or maybe he sees that I’m becoming too comfortable and therefore decides to shake things up to spur me onto the next stage of my personal evolution. I’d like to think that. But I suspect that my Inner Saboteur is actually a trickster that delights in seeing me fall flat on my face.
- What kind of research, if any, did you do for this story?
Research, yeah. <tugs collar uncomfortably> Sometimes research gets swept aside when I’m caught up in the whirlwind of getting a story down. I’m endeavoring to improve in that department. Fortunately, I live with someone who excels at research.
- What might you want a reader to take away from “In Her Eyes?”
For this particular story, an emotional experience. Song is at once supremely confident and oh-so-vulnerable. I’d like people to empathize with her.
- What are you working on now?
I have a slew of incomplete stories. One is a time-travel murder mystery set in the Edwardian England of Wooster and Jeeves, and starring those two wonderful P.G. Wodehouse creations. I have no idea where it’s going but that’s half the fun.
I’ve also begun a novel-length version of “In Her Eyes.” Actually, I’ve written a lot but then trashed it all. I kid myself it’s because the text wasn’t up to par, but in truth suspect it’s my Inner Saboteur, scheming against me. Fortunately, my wife frequently reminds me that my Inner Saboteur is full of shit.
- Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m grateful to F&SF for giving my story an audience. Nothing is more disheartening for a writer than to have his work go unnoticed. Conversely, nothing is more uplifting than to have readers. Speaking of which, my story collection, What Rough Beasts, is available from Amazon. My Inner Saboteur didn’t want me to mention that. “It’s blatant, shameless self-promotion!” screams my Saboteur. But you know what? Fuck him.
I can be found on Facebook: Seth Chambers Notorious Author.
“In Her Eyes” appears in the Jan/Feb. 2014 issue of F&SF.
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