We recently published Taylor Card’s dreamy “Stochastic Prompt No. 9: (n) Sci-fi Worlds.”

Here, we ask her two questions about her story:

1) I love all the different worlds you create here! One of my favorites is L8EE27, with “the hand of Jeremy” instead of the hand of God. Oh! And BB6781, with the cold people in refrigerators. And X4S2SQ, where animals are unaffected by dreams. And…! I’m sure there are more worlds out there — how did you select these worlds for this story?

A bit of background: As the title of the piece hints, this piece was created from a prompt – one created by a writing friend, Max, in one of Adam McOmber’s workshops. The prompts were based in concepts about stochastic writing from authors Matt Bell and Édouard Levé.
Answering your question: There are many, many more worlds of course – because each one is a story-that-could-be. I contain so many story beginnings, middles, ends – but few of them are connected, and even fewer complete. It was kind of a revolutionary concept to me – the idea of a stochastic prompt – because with stochastic prompts, I’m given permission to take fragments as a whole, as done. So all these little pieces, once collected, become something greater – their connective tissue is created by the absence, and imagination does some patching between what exists on the page and what’s implied, referenced.
Most of the artistic choices in terms of including and ordering the worlds were all meant to make that connective, imaginative tissue – what is not on the page – more compelling. I spent more time ordering than adding or removing worlds.

2) Even with all these fantastic worlds, there’s still a touch of our reality here (for instance, in the flooded world U00327, the narrator thinks humans probably caused the devastation). How do you walk that boundary between the fantastical and the mundane/true?

Well, it’s all “true” in the sense that these worlds are true in my head. The flooded world is from a dream I once had. Deep melancholy and soaring joy co-existed in the dream – melancholy because of the absence of land, the implied devastation, and joy because of the presence of the giant, majestic birds and their beautiful, symbiotic relationship with the humans. I think when it comes to emotion, complexity is truer than simplicity. Rarely do we ever feel just one thing – which is why, when I’m writing, my goal is also to evoke messy emotions. Juxtaposing the strange and familiar (the fantastical and reality) is part of how I tried to do that in this piece.Here’s something I won’t say: Every tragedy has beauty in it. Imagine telling that to someone who has lost a loved one. They don’t want to hear it. But I think deep down we want to counter, somehow, the knowledge that the opposite – a perfect utopia – is impossible. How can there be pure evil, if we’ve all become so cynical to the existence of pure good? I don’t have an answer. So when it comes to the boundary between the fantastical and the mundane, I just try to write what feels true.

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