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Interview: “Cupid’s Compass” by Leah Cypess

Tell us a bit about “Cupid’s Compass.”

Leah CypessCupid’s Compass is set in a near-future world where scientists have developed a way to make people feel romantic love. The technology is marketed to older singles who want to get married, but feel trapped in an endless round of dating. With the new technology, they can make a rational decision about their future partner, then zap themselves into love with that person. The main character does exactly that, and gets everything she always wanted… or does she?


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

I’ve been trying for some time to write a coherent story about romantic love and marriage. What spurred the idea for Cupid’s Compass was an article I read about the Koren helmet, also known as the “God helmet,” which is supposed to induce mystical experiences via stimulation of the temporal lobes. A couple of days after reading the article, I was thinking about it while walking my daughter home from the playground, and the idea for Cupid’s Compass hit me; I turned around, took her right back to the playground, and spent 45 minutes writing the first draft of the story in my notebook while she played. Most of my stories require a prolonged process of building up from an idea to a situation to actual characters and plot, but in this one, the overall structure of the story never changed from that first draft.


Was “Cupid’s Compass” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

Like I said, I have always wanted to write a story about romantic love. As a teen, I was bombarded with popular culture messages about romance, and I wrote several very angsty and absolutely terrible stories on the subject. As a married adult — and a writer of young adult fiction — I have a more nuanced view. The subject is complicated for me… and, like most complicated subjects, ripe for working its way into my fiction.


What kind of research, if any, did you do for this story?

I read up on the Koren helmet and some other research on temporal lobe stimulation. But this was not a very research-intensive story.


What are you working on now?

Death Sworn by Leah CypessAs I’m not under contract for anything at the moment, I’m working on several things at once: mostly YA projects, but also several short stories. I’m also writing a science fiction novella, a length I used to write a lot when I was younger, but trained myself out of because it seemed like there were no markets for it. It seems that might be changing, a shift I’m excited about.


“Cupid’s Compass” appears in the September/October 2016 Special David Gerrold issue of F&SF.

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