This week’s story is Corridors, marks the welcome return to Futures of Rahul Kanakia. Rahul’s previous forays in Futures have talked about the dangers of spam, introduced us to the mysterious Driver, offered a somewhat niche way to ride out the economic crash and visited Ted Agonistes. His first book, a contemporary young adult novel called Enter Title Here, is coming out from Disney-Hyperion in August 2016. If you want to know more, you can visit his blog at http://www.blotter-paper.com or follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rahkan. Here, Rahul reveals what inspired his latest Futures tale — as ever, it pays to read the story first.
When I wrote Corridors, I was feeling very, very lonely. It seemed to me that I’d spent my whole life trying to find romantic love, and that there wasn’t a single person in the world who was willing to take a chance on loving me. Intellectually, I knew that wasn’t true. If someone could fall in love with Charles Manson, then someone could fall in love with me. But that intellectual belief didn’t help matters. The whole concept of love seemed so chancy and random: you just pick one person? And they pick you? Really?
At the same time, I’d been asked to write a short story for an anthology called Upside Down Tropes, wherein you picked some well-worn science-fiction conceit and tried to breathe new life into it. For my part, I’d several months earlier picked the concept of the city planet: a world, like Coruscant or Trantor, that’s entirely covered by buildings. The idea of a city planet makes very little rational sense. The surface area of the Earth is immense. Even with seven billion people, most of the Earth is empty. I live in a major metropolitan area and within one hour I’d be in empty space: not farmland or rangeland … just pure empty grassland. A planet that was entirely populated would contain quadrillions of people. As it’s likely that the Earth’s population will cap out at nine billion, it’s absurd to imagine us ever reaching those population levels. Really, the city planet was more a function of 1950s and 1960s fears about overpopulation and the ways that city life was dehumanizing people. But, then again, that’s true of most science fiction. We concretize our fears. That’s what the genre is about.
In any case, I was having a very difficult time writing this city planet story. I went through draft after draft. It took me almost a month, and I ended up completing the story a few days after going out on my second date with the woman who’s now my girlfriend.
But that story went out to a different editor (i.e. it’s not the one you’re reading now). This story came about because a month or two later, though, I went poking through those earlier drafts, looking for a page or two that I remembered writing: a page that felt so pregnant with the sorrow and longing that I’d felt during that now-vanished time in my life. After unearthing those pages, I pondered, for awhile, how to turn them into a real story. But then, after a few days, I realized that the story was already complete. The story was about a man who was wandering through a city of quadrillions of people. When he looks around, he knows that someday one of these people will be with him, but even that knowledge isn’t enough to stop him from feeling completely alone …