Unmortal: Behind The Scenes With 'Unmortal', Pt. 7: The Themes

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2022-02-10 12:00:00 No comments


In the time leading up to the release of my new novel Unmortal, I'll be making a series of posts to serve as an extended introduction to the book — its origins, its influences, its themes, its setting and characters. Enjoy.

(See all entries in this series here.)

Last time I posted in this series, I talked about the characters, major and supporting. This time around, I'll run down some of the major themes in the story as I saw them.

The (in)human condition

I liked this conceit so much I made it part of the book's blurb! In this case, the "inhumans" are not AIs or aliens, but spirits from another realm that we, the human race, fixed into the form of physical objects to serve our needs. The implications were endless, but I focused on a few key ones: the whole problem of being born, never asked; the eternal divide between human and non-human; and the question of how such summoned beings might try to direct their own evolution apart from us.

Slavery, decolonization, and personal liberation

The minute I conceived of the sua in the form I did, it seemed impossible not to talk about these issues. It also seemed plain I had to do more than just say that slavery was an abomination and decolonization was a process; all the ways we avoid those issues and shift their focus seemed like what mattered more. It's easy for any of us to say that we deserve freedom and agency; it's harder to decide how, and to what end, and in what form.

The problem of power

There's no way to talk about any of the above without also touching on the problem of power. Power explicitly acknowledged and shared is always better than power ignored and permitted to become vertically autocratic in the guise of horizontal equality. I'm nowhere nearly smart enough to suggest an absolute Answer, but I do like to play with possibilities. And so every time I explore the idea of the problem of power in one of my books, I suggest a scenario for how to work with it — not a utopia, but just a possible starting point for further development, an example of power-sharing in a constructive way.

To that end, there's a few such things in Unmortal too, mainly towards the conclusion, but they are not the axis on which the whole books turns. They're just something I know I have to confront along the way as part of what's inevitably stirred up by the book's contents, and I tried to confront those things in a reasonably thoughtful way. They are further complicated by being problems of power amongst those who are trying to come into their own power, the power of the powerless (to use Vaclav Havel's wonderful term). Given enough time and effort, such substitute power eventually turns into the real thing, and must be cared for lest it curdles over into a new boss that's the same as the old boss.

In the next and final installment, I'll share some music that inspired and drove this project.


Tags: Behind The Scenes: Unmortal Infinimata Press Unmortal themes