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Interview: Robert Reed on “Who Carries the World”

My daughter loves art, eats history, and works the Internet like a champ. Donatello’s wooden statue of Mary Magdalene was spellbinding for her, and when she showed/shared the image with me, I knew that I had to write about a prophet consumed by her cause.

But what kind of story?

The Great Ship seemed like the perfect venue. Aliens and high-technology. And I have several durable characters who might happily do the job. Perri and Quee Lee, for example. They’re always up for adventure. So sure, why not them? Except I soon decided to focus on Perri alone, shifting the usual dynamic.

About the story’s broad history … well, the machinations of why I decided on this and not that doesn’t particularly interest me. And I’m so rarely in the mood to wander back through the original attempts in Google Docs. What I do recall is that Perri was very cooperative. Which is only reasonable, since I know him and his wife better than I know any of my neighbors. But how to handle the mind-holding-an-entire-world business? How could such a thing be managed, in fiction and in reality? And most importantly, how would the afflicted think and speak?

Before I could settle into the writing, I had to “believe” my what-if.

Once that was accomplished, everything else was relatively easy. Perri as a detective trying to solve a crime … that was a very pleasant business, and I’m wondering now what else I might coax him into investigating in the future.

I originally intended to write a different ending for “Who Carries the World.” Which is not that unusual in my business, and I can’t recall what it might have been.

And here is some distracting trivia: I suspect that the flying organism at the beginning of the novelette is not what it seems to be. The Great Ship is inhabited by secrets, you see. And these secrets have taken an interest in the small motions and mammoth lives of certan people. My people.

Or maybe the critter is just a fancy bird.

I’m just the writer here. I’m not allowed to know all that much.


“Who Carries the World” appears in the May/June issue of F&SF.

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