Interview: Leo Vladimirsky on “Collar”
– Tell us a bit about “Collar.”
Collar is the story of two men whose need for each other will end up destroying one, or possibly both, of them.
– What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?
Actually there were two main inspirations: one was a comment my father made a few summers ago. He was musing on how people complain about how expensive oil is, and yet energy is still so cheap it’s more economically viable to ship cast iron furniture across the globe than to make it at home.
The other came from an article I read (which actually pops up every now again) about the libertarian utopia of the island-city (as popularized in Silicon Valley just last night.) I think this particular article was by Peter Thiel.
So I just connected the dots and threw in a bit of a surfing beach here in NYC and my obsession with street markets.
– Was “Collar” personal for you in any way, and if so, how?
I can’t say I’ve ever been in such an extreme position as any of the characters, but I can see myself in any of their positions. But, like a lot of people, I’ve been out of work before and I know the claustrophobia and panic that set in over time.
– What kind of research, if any, did you do for this story?
So the whole synthfat thing was something that I researched. I remember reading about how the folks who swim the English Channel used to cover themselves in goose fat to keep warm. I thought that was a pretty visceral symbol and decided to write it into the story.
But… when I actually looked it up, it turns out that the fat was used to keep their skin from chafing in the salt water, not to insulate themselves. Apparently it would require some insane amount of fat to actually insulate them.
Luckily this is still fiction, so I’m allowed to take a few liberties…
– Is there anything you’d want a reader to take away from “Collar?”
That is entirely up to the reader. People have very different interpretations of this story and its world, which I love to hear. But I do think there is something optimistic in there, that we find a way to survive no matter what absurd conditions are placed on us.
– What are you working on now?
A director friend of mine and I are exploring whether Collar can live as a film, which is pretty exciting. I’m also working on a few more stories set in this version of NYC (there’s a reference to the Manhattan Bypass Bridge that I’ve been exploring.) And I keep trying to figure out how to turn Das Orbit (a blog fiction project I’ve been writing for years) into a novel.
“Collar” appears in the March/April 2014 issue of F&SF.
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