Following the release of each issue of Aftershock's Lonely Receiver by writer Zac Thompson and artist Jen Hickman, Bleeding Cool will host conversations with Thompson about this sci-fi breakup story turned psychological horror. This time, Zac Thompson talks about his vision of the future and his take on spicy chicken sandwiches.
Theo Dwyer: One thing that stuck out to me about this issue of Lonely Receiver is Catrin's shame at her needs. Her need for others, financially and emotionally, and sexually. In general, her need. What is it about desire? Do you think engenders shame in people?
Zac Thompson: I think when we're at our most vulnerable, we're reduced to a base creature. When you have your entire life stripped away from you (like what happens after a breakup), you have this choice to sort of descend into reckless abandon or to pick up the pieces and create a new life for yourself. But in the wake of a giant disaster, we're often flirting with things about ourselves that we hate or don't normally acknowledge. I feel like it's easy to be ashamed of your needs in that scenario because so many of them come down to carnal desires or wants that otherwise don't seem important when we're happy and well adjusted in our lives. There's also a lot that society does to encourage us to behave in a certain way or "want" in a certain way without much acknowledgment for anything outside the spectrum of what's considered normal. I feel like we live in a society that is often presented as just and fair. The simple act of "wanting more" can be deemed as unnecessary or greedy in the face of what is happening elsewhere in the world. But moreover, Catrin is a needy character, she's possessive and awful, and her "needs" are what got her into this mess in the first place. She can't let go of control… no matter how much it may destroy her.
Theo Dwyer: There's a scene where Catrin orders a spicy chicken sandwich. Do you fuck with the Popeye's Spicy Chicken Sandwich?
Zac Thompson: I wish I could say that I do, but I've been on a plant-based diet for two years now. There's a variety of reasons for that… but I still miss spicy chicken sandwiches so much! The KFC plant-based sandwich is super fucking tasty, though!
Theo Dwyer: The future portrayed here is unique and makes me wonder what predictions you may have for our world to come. Between your Black Mask series Come Into Me and this, you're playing with a lot of the marriage of organic tissue and technology, it seems. Other things that stuck out to me was the way Catrin was shamed for using a plastic card, which, as I drink from a paper straw that has essentially become a spitball ten seconds after I started using it, seems imminent. Also, while Catrin does call it an "insane story," it stuck out to me that Xander, the professional "Anointed Healer," told a story where he talks about his partner's ass and cumming to a stranger. What do you predict will become taboo and shameful in our own world, and what will become acceptable that isn't currently?
Zac Thompson: So this is a multi-pronged thing that I'll try to keep succinct. I think the marriage of organic tissue and technology is imminent and will certainly be seen in our lifetime. It's a natural evolution to have living tech that interfaces with our biology. In a sense, we're already there with Fitbit's or apple watches, but I imagine things will continue to become more interfaced as time marches forward. The idea that our technology has a set lifespan and tells us things about ourselves is already ingrained into the way we use it, so I can't imagine it won't become more akin to "living tech" as things with biotechnology progress.
The admonishing of plastic use was a subtle way for me to imagine a better future in this book. I'm tired of sci-fi books that don't have characters that address climate change. Even in a small way, it's a huge problem with catastrophic consequences for the human race, and with a little aside like that, we can say so much about this world. It was a way to give a nod to a cause I find incredibly important without being too preachy about it.
It's interesting you picked up on Xander's story like that because my first idea for this book sort of came through this idea of oversharing… especially when it came to sexuality. There is something inherently vulgar about someone telling a detailed story about their sex life, but how vulgar is it when the other party is essentially a non-person? It's like using your phone to masturbate to Xander… or at least that's the connection he's trying to share with Catrin. There are other reasons that he's leading her in that direction with the story, which we'll see in issue #4. But I wanted to have it exist as a singular moment of oversharing. Which is a thing I think we're all guilty of to some degree. Social media makes it easy for us to basically lay bare the intimate details of our lives without really thinking too much about it. Xander is definitely being unprofessional in this environment and certainly not really respecting Catrin. I think a lot of the ways we use technology lead us to disrespect one another without thinking because what may be acceptable speech in our online circles may be incredibly offensive the moment we step outside our bubble.
Theo Dwyer: Thank you, Zac.
You can catch Zac Thompson speaking on Lonely Receiver #1 right here.