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Interview: Robert Reed on “The City of Your Soul”

– Tell us a bit about “The City of Your Soul.”

Sometimes I make a bet with myself.  “Bob,” I say, “I bet you can’t figure out a story hanging this crazy-ass premise.”  And then I work the story until it hums.  Or I fail.  The failures get dumped in a digital drawer, and the others get sold.  Either way, I win the bet.


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

The Malaysian airliner went missing over the Indian Ocean.  Or Central Asia.  Or it and its hundreds of passengers were carried off to Proxima Centauri.  Whatever the true story, I was fascinated, investing far too much time studying the minimal evidence.  But crazy as my own stories might be, I crave the ordinary, the prosaic.  Paranoid fantasies have little chance with me.  For instance, my guess is that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, and in the same spirit, the missing airliner suffered a catastrophic decompression or fire, flying as a ghost plane until the fuel ran out.

But my emotional enthusiasm…that was remarkable.  I might answer the current mystery to my satisfaction, but I still wanted that buzz.  Was there an even larger mystery that would galvanize the world?

How about an entire city going missing?


– Was “The City of your Soul” personal to you in any way?

Some readers would like to think so.  It’s appealing, the idea that every piece of fiction is meshed with the author, unmasking some element of his or her personality.

But that’s another fantastic idea.

Fiction is fiction.  At least in this case.


– What would you want a reader to take away from this story?

The quantum nature of the universe.  I’ve used that science before and I have no intention of stopping.  But then again, I believe in the Many Worlds scenario.  Yes, I am a doubter of paranoid plots and fantastic nonsense.  Yet the infinity of the universe is one of my keystone opinions, pragmatic through and through.


– Anything else you’d like to add?


“The City of Your Soul” appears in the November/December 2015 issue of F&SF.  You can buy it here:

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