Interviewer: In “Universe of Ghosts”, Esther understands that “Without a friend, the joy I’ve tried to rebuild slips farther and farther away.” Why did you choose the peculiar (yet fascinating!) friendship between an AI and a ghost to articulate the meaning of joy?
Samuel Chapman: I’ve always been partial to stories of friendships between outsiders, and these two are about as outsider as it gets: most people, like the family in the house, wouldn’t believe Esther even exists, and while everyone knows Alison exists, few if any consider her human. In a way, they’ve both awoken into new situations, and the only way they can understand it is to reach out to each other. In a way, I think we’re all doing that–stumbling around asking “where are we?” “what’s going on?” Occasionally, we’re lucky enough to bump into someone who points us toward something important. That feeling of figuring out something about who you are and where you belong is the purest form of joy I know, and it comes, most often, from strong friendship.
Interviewer: Would the meaning of joy and friendship shift if the characters had bodies to express their emotions?
Samuel Chapman: Yes and no. I think the expression of joy has a lot to do with the experience of joy, but you can definitely feel joy without expressing it outwardly. It was really interesting to inhabit a character like Esther who can’t feel or express things the way we can, partly because it allowed me to think about what joy means when you can’t feel it or express it through your body. Would you try to feel joy via reason? Could you rationally induce yourself to feel joy? Or is there something at the source of joy that transcends both our mental and physical faculties? I wrote this story to argue that there is, but I’d be excited to know if anyone reading feels differently.
Interviewer: After finishing your story, what was the single most valuable take-away from the experience?
Samuel Chapman: I learned a lot about pacing in writing this story. Originally, I let things go a lot longer before Esther and Alison begin talking. After several patient rounds of editing by Morris, I think it starts off into a more interesting place, and those are skills I can carry forward into the next story.
Interviewer: Given that this is a “score” anthology, what representative piece of music would you connect to “Universe of Ghosts”?
Samuel Chapman: Appropriately enough, “Forbidden Friendship” by John Powell from the How to Train Your Dragon soundtrack, all of which features heavily in my writing playlist.
Samuel Chapman’s personal blog is www.samuelpchapman.wordpress.com, and he writes a web serial novel at www.glassthief.wordpress.com. He also accepts freelance writing and editing jobs of all kinds at samuelchapman.net. Follow Chapman on Twitter @SamuelChapman93.
Buy the Score anthology, which includes Samuel Chapman’s story “Universe of Ghosts” focused on Joy and Friendship!