First off, I wanted to say that I enjoyed how this story felt like a dialogue, in that both the boy and the liches function as each other’s guides. What do you feel that switching between both framing devices of the boy and the liches add to the story?
Thanks Devin, for your extremely thoughtful questions and thorough read of my story. For this one, I have to give credit to John, who actually rejected this story just before Wendy took over as EIC. Initially, the story didn’t have the liches at all, and John rightfully felt the story needed more nuance. Adding the liches allowed for more uncertainty to resonate within the boy and consequently the reader as well. Though the story was very cathartic for me to write, I don’t want the piece to function as a “statement,” per se. Rather, I want this piece to act as a point of entry into a conversation on how we, as a nation, can collectively process the current state of police brutality as a continuing historical moment.
I noticed that while the boy and the liches are not named, the officers that caused and covered up the boy’s murder are. Why is this?
This was a really hard decision for me, who to name and why. From a historical standpoint, we want to remember the names of the victims who gave their lives to highlight the vast injustices that this country has levied upon them. George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Michael Brown. Rodney King. But from a narrative standpoint, I wanted the boy to act as a monolith, as a figurative stand-in for those murdered at the hands of the police. At the same time, I wanted to draw the reader—especially readers who may not be fully aware of their privilege—into a false sense of security that they know who the heroes are because they are named. In a way, I hoped to turn the reader’s own prejudices against them.
I’ll admit that most of my exposure to liches comes from either Dungeons and Dragons or Adventure Time, where they are typically evil without exception. What made you choose liches for this story, and why did you buck that trend?
I think this question also ties into your previous one. I probably don’t need to summarize here how black and brown bodies have been portrayed historically in the media. We’re criminals, vagrants, drug dealers, and whores. So, I really wanted to play with the idea of villainy in this story by choosing an archetype for the protagonist that was unequivocally represented as evil in other media. This was yet another opportunity to force the reader to confront their own prejudice.
Congratulations on winning the inaugural Ignyte Award for your poem “A Conversation Between the Embalmed Heads of Lampião and Maria Bonita on Public Display at the Baiano State Forensic Institute, Circa Mid-20th Century”! Between that poem and this story, you engage with concepts of death, permanence, and purpose. What draws you to these topics?
Thank you! It was an incredible honor to win this award. I hate to draw everything back to me being adopted, but I think it really explains a lot of things in my life. I was born during one of the worst droughts in Brazilian history in the middle of one of the most widely affected areas. My birth mother had the courage to put me up for adoption, and I was lucky enough to be adopted by a loving and supportive family in the US, but had that courage failed her, I very easily could have died with so many other Brazilians at the time. Because of this, I have always had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I shouldn’t be here, that maybe I should have died with all the others back in the early nineties. It’s survivor’s guilt, for sure, but it also motivates me. I feel that if I have been lucky enough not only to survive such a deadly situation, but to also have to an opportunity to build a budding early career as a writer, then it is my duty to write something meaningful, to write something that in some small way, gives back to the world. I guess it’s only natural that those themes manifest in my writing as well.
What can we expect to see from you next?
There are a few things in the pipeline, but first is another story that will be coming out in PodCastle sometime soon called, “Solace of the Keeper.” It’s got ghosts and sorcery and all that fun stuff too, though I think it’ll be a bit lighter and more fun. You need those kinds of stories as well. But further down the road, I just finished up a semi-autobiographical novel about two Brazilian twins separated at birth that may or may not be gods. The publisher hasn’t announced on that one yet, so that’s all I’ll say for now, but I’ll be sharing more details on social media when they’re available.
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