I love Cat Sparks’ stories because they have a powerful narrative flow, with a deep heart of inspiration. She writes about stuff that angers her, or breaks her heart, or brings back memories. I love that passion. She knows how to write a page-turner, too.
” ‘All the Love in the World’ was first published in Twelve Planet’s Press’s anthology Sprawl. The story won a Ditmar award and was selected for reprint in Hartwell and Kramer’s Year’s Best SF 16. It’s a post-apocalypse story, but not the usual kind. What if society didn’t automatically default to cannibalistic savagery once the cities and infrastructure were gone? What if fractured segments branched out organically into new, more intimate forms? Utopia was never on my agenda. As a fantasist, I’m capable of imagining many things, but utopia on Earth isn’t one of them.
The landscape of my story is inspired by elements of the social and cultural climate of the New South Wales south coast region. I’m from Sydney originally and I recall how vividly Sydney’s CBD was still a major part of my life for years after I moved down here. I seemed to be up there every weekend, but over time, it has become less and less interesting and personally relevant. When I return there now I feel like a tourist. The natives seem rich and distant. The buildings too tall, the lights too bright.
I used to commute between Wollongong and Sydney to a pointless office job. First thing I did once I scored myself a job down here was throw out all my suits because I knew then and there that even if the new job sucked, I wasn’t going back to my old life. Six years on and I’m a graphic designer for a small publishing house (quite literally – we work out of my boss’s home) in a tiny seaside suburb nestled snugly below the looming escarpment.
Surfing culture is big down here. There are folks bobbing up and down in search of waves no matter how fierce the weather. We used to live in a unit full of young guys who surfed and smoked pot endlessly and it occurred to me one day that they’d probably keep on doing just that even if the rest of the world exploded. Surfin’ the apocalypse and why the hell wouldn’t you if there was no one else calling the shots?
‘All the Love in the World’ incorporates many small moments and observations, one element being Jon, a guy I used to hang out with when we were teenagers. We were part of a group based around a suburban Sydney garage band and in that environment he had all the power and I didn’t. I adored him but I was just another girl at a time when girls much prettier than me were plentiful.
Our tribe grew up a little, lived in share houses and eventually went our separate ways. Twenty years later, after a reunion with some other old friends from that time, I decided to try and find Jon via the internet, fully anticipating the arrogant, misogynistic lothario of my memory. To my utter astonishment, he was nothing of the sort. In his place stood a gentleman and a scholar, mature, witty and kind as, of course, one might expect a well-traveled adult to be. That’s when I realised I’d been carrying a ghost all these years. I’d trapped Jon in a snow globe of memory, a prisoner of my own young adult failings and limitations. The story grew from that moment of understanding. What if in an alternate world, he was still that guy and I that girl? A woman so selfish that Armageddon didn’t bother her so long as it delivered the man she thought she wanted.
If Jon recognised himself in my story, he’s kept it to himself. It’s a question I’m never going to ask. And no in case you’re asking, his name’s not Jon.”