David Z. Morris’s story “Love in its Heart” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 2 February 2018.
This story was inspired directly by a real cat named Nebula. My wife badly wanted a cat, but this one was practically demonic – the incidents of accidental mutilation in the story, but also the sense of deep attachment to something dangerous – came from Nebula. She disappeared when we briefly left a window open on a hot Tampa night.
The story’s themes of race, exploitation, and alienation are lifelong concerns of mine. I grew up partly in Japan in the early ’90s, where being a white person made me stand out dramatically. That’s a very different matter than being black in the United States, since it comes with at least as much privilege as alienation. But I was followed suspiciously around toy stores as a child, and strangers often wanted to touch my and my brothers’ hair. It wasn’t oppression, but it was deeply and permanently unnerving.
I’ve since devoted most of my life to understanding how people treat those they see as different. This story was first drafted in 2014, but even then I was skeptical of the idea that America was moving past its founding racial crimes. I’m saddened, but not surprised, that the cycle of history has made this story more obviously relevant now than it was when I started working on it.
The writing of the story was one of those moments you treasure – it all essentially came out at once, even at a time when I was under a huge amount of stress. I’d just left my career as an academic researcher to write full-time, and was patching together a living with freelance gigs and commercial copywriting. I’ve come a long way since then, but I think the story reflects the real economic anxiety I was feeling at the time, and which, frankly, most people in the U.S. and around the world now live with permanently.
So obviously, it’s a dark story, with some dark predictions – but I want to be clear that I’m not an advocate of nihilism in any form. Despite our many anxieties, we still live in the most prosperous time in human history, and in many ways the most just. We can’t give in to bitterness over the ways our world still isn’t perfect, or abandon hope when we see what look like impossible problems. We will absolutely assure our destruction if we refuse to see it coming – but acknowledging our failures is not the same as accepting them as inevitable.
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