What does the future of dating look like? In Will McIntosh's Love Minus Eighty, courtship takes on different forms. First, there's the standard electronic dating profile that people can view when wearing "skins," technological suits that allow them to constantly stay connected via a special shared network. Then, there are bridesicles — beautiful women who are frozen only to be revived for affluent men looking for love. Sound intriguing? We asked the author about his futuristic version of love and dating, his new release and what it was like turning a short story into a full-length novel.
Love Minus Eighty focuses on the "bridesicle" industry — beautiful women who are preserved after death to be revived by wealthy suitors. How'd you dream up this idea?
Almost literally, I dreamed it up. Sometimes ideas come as a response to something I’m reading or talking about or thinking; some just pop into my mind, often while I’m in the shower; a few come in dreams. The idea for bridesicles came just as I was waking one morning, as a single image of a woman being waked from cryogenic sleep-death, looking absolutely terrified, and I knew she was in a dating center. It didn’t come out of the blue, exactly, because at the time I was working on a research paper related to Internet dating, so thoughts of dating centers were bouncing around in my head.
One of the most enjoyable parts of this novel is all the plausible technology. Society has been infiltrated by all kinds of everyday gadgets, from communication "skins" to interesting modes of transport. Which is your favorite?
I’m glad you found the technology plausible! I’m not a tech person, and this was the first time I’d written a long work set far enough in the future that I had to create a world that differed markedly from our current one, and couldn’t gloss over the details. I was nervous about that when I started out.
I think my favorite is the maglev delivery tubes that wind all around the city and shoot out into what’s left of the suburbs. There are probably a dozen SF novels out there with similar technology, but I’m poorly-read enough to be aware of none of them, so for me it felt fresh. I like the image they evoke, tubes of varying colors winding everywhere, with human transport vehicles clinging to the outside of them.
The technology in your book also provides a bit of social commentary because it creates class divides and conflict between your characters. Can you talk a little bit more about this?
I’m keenly interested in issues of economic and social justice, and felt they should be reflected in the future I envisioned. As technology advances, not everyone gets equal access to it, so the rich and poor of the world begin to live in what appear to be different times. The poorest in our world today still live, technologically, in the 1800s. I wanted to bring that sort of stark disparity to the United States, reflecting the growing levels of inequality we’ve been experiencing since the 1980s, to see what extreme disparities between rich and poor might look like, juxtaposed with advances in technology. I created High Town and Low Town to emphasize that contrast.
Although your story is filled with interesting technology, your characters are average humans. You have three interwoven plots, each of which follows a central character. Why did you think this format best fit your story?
I was seeking a way to create a novel out of what was a very constricted, claustrophobic short story. I didn’t want to lose Mira, the protagonist of “Bridesicle”, but I also didn’t want to inflict on readers a novel that took place entirely from the point of view of a person who can only move her face. My original idea was to have six interwoven plots, along the lines of Love, Actually, a film I just love. The original proposal I submitted to Orbit Books contained those six plot lines. After the agreement was signed, the wise people at Orbit passed along a piece of advice that had come out of an internal meeting: You might want to simplify the story. Soon after I started writing, I realized they were right. So I kept what I thought were the three central stories and jettisoned the rest.
Your book started out as a short story, what was the process of expanding your tale to a full-length novel like? Were there challenges?
It actually helped to have the short story to lean on. I wasn’t constrained by it, because I had two other story lines I could take in utterly new directions, but Mira was there at the center, like an old friend, holding it all together.
That being said, I ran into trouble near the end. I clung to the ending of the short story with both hands. I felt like it had worked well in the short story, so, by god, it should work well in the novel. It didn’t. The two writers who critiqued the first draft — Rachel Swirsky and Ian Creasey — told me it didn’t work, as did my editor, Tom Bauman, and all three are people whose judgment I trust pretty much more than my own. I mourned my broken ending for a few days, then deleted the final 1/6 of my novel and wrote a vastly different ending.
Can you tell us about what readers can expect from you next?
Yes — Defenders! Orbit will be releasing Defenders next year. It’s based on a short story of the same name, published in Lightspeed. Humanity engineers a race of seventeen foot tall super-warriors to battle telepathic alien invaders, but didn’t give much thought to what you do with millions of highly intelligent but emotionally stunted super-warriors once the war is over.