Tomas Marcantonio is a novelist and prize-winning travel writer from Brighton, England. His short fiction has appeared in over a dozen journals and anthologies, including STORGY, The Fiction Pool, and Ellipsis Zine. Tomas is currently based in Busan, South Korea, where he teaches English and writes whenever he can escape the classroom. You can connect with Tomas on Twitter @TJMarcantonio.
His story “Plastic Lives” appeared in Issue Two.
What inspired your story?
This is a really unique one for me in that I actually didn’t come up with the idea for the story myself. My brother-in-law woke up one morning and sent me an essay of an email detailing the dream he had just had. I couldn’t believe the level of detail he’d created within his subconscious, and he just said something like: “There’s a story for you if you fancy it.” In the end I had to simplify the story and I just created a couple of characters to focus on, because the world he had imagined was so vast, it was like an entire novel. Of course, recent news about genetically-modified babies actually makes the story even more relevant right now; it’s almost at the stage where this isn’t science fiction any more, it’s just fiction.
Why do you write speculative fiction?
I love exploring new worlds and coming up with new concepts, and then finding the story within. It’s great to create a future society, for example, and then to wonder who the most interesting character is in that world, who doesn’t play by the rules, or what flaws can bring this society down. I’m currently based in Korea, where things often seem a lot more futuristic than they do where I grew up in England, so that provides a lot of inspiration, and the differences between eastern and western cultures always gives me ideas for speculative stories too.
What was the last book that blew your mind?
So far this year I’ve already read a few books that have stayed with me. The Point by Charles D’Ambrosio is an incredible collection of short stories; they’re so gritty and depressing and real, but laced with touching moments and brilliantly observed detail. Then on a completely different note, A Rose for Winter by Laurie Lee, who is one of my absolute favourite writers. Every time I read a paragraph of Lee’s writing I feel like I’m studying a masterclass in literature; his writing is so poetic and I can’t get enough of it. I also read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath for the first time last month, and it was haunting. I love coming of age stories, particularly when they deal with anxiety and depression. These topics are more common in literature these days, but when the book was published I imagine it must have been all the more difficult to speak and write about.
If you could offer one piece of advice to your past self, what would it be?
Read more fiction. Actually, when I was growing up I mostly read fantasy through my teens, and then travel writing as a young adult, as I mainly focused on travel writing myself. When I started writing more fiction, I realised how much more I needed to read. Even now, in between reading books in the genres that particularly interest me, I’ll pick up classics that I probably should have read fifteen years ago.
What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a novel based on a series of short stories that I wrote for STORGY Magazine. It’s a dystopian novel set in a neon-drenched island city located between Japan and Korea, where the government has introduced a host of policies to combat the ageing population. The main character is a one-eared ex-con who is forced to deform himself and go on the run after being framed for murder. It’s been a joy to write and it’s kept me busy for a while, but I also find time for short stories and travel writing between drafts.