In our new author series, we’ll be offering a clairvoyant peek behind the veil of who and what makes up TRANSCENDENT. Here’s a glimpse at Nathaniel W. Phillips and his story “Skinner Box.”
ABOUT THE STORY
What inspired your story?
Two things I love and am fascinated by: Lovecraftian, cosmic horror and psychological learning theory. What if a prophet of the Old Ones didn’t directly preach to gain followers, but instead that person shaped other people’s behaviors to do the gods’ bidding? And even worse, what if no one even realized it was happening to them? This story is the intersection of these two loves.
Did you have to do any research? If so, what kind? What did you learn?
I was a psychology major back in college, so I did plenty of research back then. It was a profound moment for me when I realized these concepts didn’t just apply to lab rats.
Can you tell me a little bit about your protagonist?
Leanne is a typical overachieving college student. She is completely harmless. Or is she? It depends on what you think her next step will be after the last sentence of the story.
Tell me about the setting you chose and how it influences your work.
The main point behind the story is that people can be molded in terrible ways without them realizing how they are being manipulated. The professor’s office, a mundane setting, is crucial to backing up that idea.
What would you like readers to take away from your story?
Think about your interactions and relationships with others. Do you do things for some people you would never consider doing otherwise? Maybe you’re being used. Maybe you’d never realize it, even if you looked closely.
Which phrase are you most proud of in this story?
“She took a moment, looked around the room. Realized. ” This is the moment everything clicks for Leanne, but I also wanted it to be more minimalist rather than an exaggerated revelation.
If your story was front-page news, what would the headline be?
The front-page headline would come after the story ends. “Valedictorian Gives Moving Speech, Calls to Action.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
If you had to put your name on someone else’s book/story, which would it be and why?
Gateways to Abomination, by Matthew Bartlett. This is a short story collection, but all the stories are loosely intertwined. They are set in the same small Massachusetts town in which a pirate radio station sends eerie broadcasts, and progressively terrible things happen. The world building is extraordinary.
When did you decide to take writing seriously?
I took a fiction writing class my senior year of college, but it wasn’t until I was out of grad school and working that I really started spending time writing fiction.
If you could choose a single superpower, what would it be and why?
I would want to breathe underwater, so I could explore the depths.
Nathaniel W. Phillips (@EldritchNate) writes into the night and homebrews into the night, often at the same time. He lives, works, and has nightmares just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina.