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The story behind the story: The monster and the child

This week, Futures is delighted to welcome Dolly Garland with her story The monster and the child. Dolly is a writer based in London, and you can find out more about her work at her website or by following her on Twitter. Here she reveals what sparked her interest in monsters and what led her to her latest tale — as ever, it pays to read the story first.

Writing The monster and the child

For most people, the word ‘monster’ evokes an image of some scary, non-human monster; the word ‘child’ evokes an image of youth, innocence, and a human child — whether a happy one or one in need of affection.

But as we know from school bullies, not all children are nice and innocent. I don’t know exactly where the idea for this story began, but it came with the assumption that what if the child is the monster, and the monster is the child? There are plenty of stories where humans are the bad guys, and I wanted to merge that idea with the innocence of childhood.

Of course, the famous example of that sort of exploration is Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, in which children are fighting a real war, thinking they are playing on a simulator.

I wanted to touch upon the idea of childhood — regardless of species — and combine that with morality that adults and society teach children.

Adam is told that what he is doing will protect his world, protect humanity. He has been taught what is good and bad, and he has been taught to do the right thing. But that moral compass is biased. Do we teach our children to do the right thing, or do we teach them to do what is right in our opinion? What if absolute morality has a negative impact on us? Who do we put first? What if it is ‘them’ and ‘us’” but ‘them’ are not the enemy, nor have they done anything wrong?

Humans, I think, are selfish creatures and it is that selfishness that has helped us thrive as a species. But as we continue to grow, without much care for the world around us, how far can we go? How far should we go? These are some of the questions that inspired this story.

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