Nature Future Conditional

The story behind the story: All, alone

Tim Cassford makes his debut in Futures this week with his story All, alone. The story tackles isolation — and the possible medical remedy for that situation. Tim is a doctor by day, but he managed to find time between patients to provide an insight into the roots of his tale. As ever, it pays to read the story first.

Writing All, alone

I don’t really remember exactly when or how I came up with the idea for All, alone; I’ve a feeling it’s been simmering away gently somewhere inside of me for some time. I work as a doctor, and throughout my career I have come into contact with many people with mental health problems, from depression to bipolar to schizophrenia, and one of the things that always strikes me is just how isolated people can feel. Life can be hard enough to deal with at the best of times, but I can’t imagine how much harder it is if there’s a voice only you can hear giving a running commentary on what you’re doing, or telling you that you’re worthless. If someone else is giving you a hard time, at least you can try to get away from them. But if you couldn’t get away, what then?

Then I had a thought: what if the voices were a positive thing? What if they were the only positive thing? What if, rather than causing feelings of isolation, they were there to support you, to prop you up when you were down? This was the germ of my story, and the questions that it threw up shaped the rest. Why would we need to hear voices telling us of our worth? What would be so lacking from our society that the void would need filling in such a way? And so isolation became the theme, with undercurrents of paranoia; a heart-warming tale if ever there was one!

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