The dystopian story “The Adoption” grew from my wondering about the growing importance pets have in the lives of humans. The particular seed of the story sprang from witnessing a friend struggle to pay for her cat’s care after it developed cancer.
On a less lofty scale, I’m sure Petunia, the half Persian cat who ruled our house for 23 years, was the model for the adopted cat, Zohra, a Persian—and the name of an actual Persian Princess.
I’m not sure how the piece became futuristic, or landed in Queens exactly. A writing workshop in Diversity Square led by Nancy Agabian during one of Queens Writes Weekends got me to focus on the Square, which became the opening setting; a trip to St. Michael’s Cemetery for the annual Scott Joplin tribute prompted a walk through their amazing crypts and statues and it became the home for some of the characters.
Dealing with cataclysmic factors that created the story’s futuristic world led to research on dangers for the New York metropolitan area which revealed, among other things: the presence of an earthquake fault that runs along 125th Street in Manhattan; that Indian Point nuclear plant can only withstand a quake of 6.1, which is less than what is predicted for the area’s next quake; and that New York City could be flooded by 2050, sooner if we don’t get more proactive about our energy uses.
I read about the consequences of earthquakes, hurricanes, and tidal waves. For months my night table had a stack of sleep-deterring books, with names like Disasters: Natural and Manmade!
Pictures of disaster zones were key in constructing the setting of the story, as were Jackson Heights and Elmhurst neighborhood spots where I took notes and photos.
When the central character, Lovell, popped into my head, I was surprised but ended up becoming quite fond of him. He’s one of the reasons “Adoption” is becoming a series of stories. Also, I enjoyed creating the walk-on characters, which gave me an opportunity to highlight the amazing diversity of Queens.
Speculative fiction is not a genre I’ve read deeply in, or thought I would write. We live in such traumatic times, I suspect it’s no wonder many writers are drawn to it. It occurs to me, too, that writing speculative fiction gives a way to address ideas that might seem heavy-handed, or over-whelming if set in the present. We like to kid ourselves that disastrous times are way far away in the future.