Sunday, April 12, 2020

"The Companions"

Katie M. Flynn is a writer, editor, and educator based in San Francisco. Her short fiction has appeared in Colorado Review, Indiana Review, The Masters Review, Ninth Letter, Tin House, Witness Magazine, and many other publications. Flynn has been awarded Colorado Review’s Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction, a fellowship from the Writers Grotto, and the Steinbeck Fellowship in Creative Writing. She holds an MFA from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Geography from UCLA.

Flynn applied the Page 69 Test to The Companions, her debut novel about love, revenge, and uploaded consciousness, and reported the following:
The Companions opens amid an outbreak, California under quarantine. People can’t go out, but the dead can come in, their consciousness uploaded to machines. Companions are intended to serve the living, and most importantly, to keep them company during this prolonged isolation. While the novel trails the journey of Lilac, a companion who was sixteen years old when she was murdered and uploaded, it is told from eight different points of view, some human, some companion.

On page 69, Jakob Sonne, a fledgling actor desperate to get his career back on track, finds himself in Siberia for a publicity stunt involving the largest population of polar bears on earth. The town he visits is an isolated place, left to die after the local nickel mine closed. It sits abandoned, bleeding poison into the soil, the groundwater. But in this setting, life is coming back, the animals taking over. On page 69, Jakob sees his first sign of life since arrival:
Out the window I scanned the snowfields for what felt like miles. It wasn’t until I saw an animal—a dog, or maybe a fox—darting through the snow that I realized how empty this place was. I’d seen no one, not a single living person, in the whole of the city.
In this world, direct, human-to-human contact is rare and charged, as if people have forgotten how to connect with one another. On this page in particular, Jakob has an uncomfortable exchange with his Russian driver, Bo, a documentarian who focuses on reindeer. When Jakob asks her about the film, she says, “It was tired,” but what she really means is it was boring.

In the novel, the characters grasp for lost things, past wrongs and misunderstandings, past loves; these journeys don’t always end well, of course, the past never being exactly as we remember it.
Visit Katie M. Flynn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue