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Interview with Julia Tvardovskaya

We talk with Julia about the dark sides of human history and the surprisingly high tensile strength of bubbles.

Julia is the author of Identifiable, a dystopian and thought provoking story set in our slight future (may it never come to pass). The review will be going live on February 13th, 2022.

Hi Julia, thank you for taking some time to have this little chat with me! I’m delighted – and full of questions. 

Hello! Thank you so much for sharing these insightful questions. I’m so grateful that you took the time to read Identifiable and that you’re interested in chatting about it!

Your future world seems to have incorporated the climate crisis as well as pandemic events like COVID – mandatory vaccines, and all that. Is that just the setting for your story, or do you think stuff like this will come to pass for real?

I truly hope that most of this does not come to be! We live in a time where we receive many warnings about the potential state of the world, most of which continue to be ignored, and I would categorize my novel this way. It’s a world that could potentially exist that I truly hope we’re able to avoid.

In particular, in the United States, many vaccinations are actually already mandated in order to join the school system, both public and many private schools, with a few exceptions. Additionally, many of the studies referenced in the book, such as the correlations of fertility and penile size to plastic use and pollution are actual studies I came across in my initial research for the book. Even the AIP itself was spurned by the concept of futuristic smart glasses/google glass. I think aspects of the story could come to exist in the future, but most of it was crafted as setting. 

I cannot fail to notice that religion plays a very strong role in the lifes of your characters, and they even start getting fanatical about their broods (Corporate Council seems to be a tad religious, as well). What role do you think social media is playing in this religious context?

That’s a great question! Social media definitely pushes people to extremes, be it political, religious or otherwise. Content that tends to be more extreme, negative, or triggering is content that people spend more time on (there was recently an article on how negative content spreads more quickly than positive content), and attention is money for social media companies, so it’s in their best interest that this type of information continues to perpetuate. If someone is trending towards a specific topic, it will push them further into the fringes. The Social Dilemma is a fantastic documentary on this topic that I recommend every person watch!

On a lighter, more personal note, I even saw this after I became a mother. I’ve never even posted a photo of my children’s faces, yet I keep seeing reels on Instagram for homeschooling, homesteading, and living off the grid raising chickens, which are very much topics on the fringe of American parenting! Social media is very good at forcing people into rabbit holes that they may or may not be aware theyre going down.

The Corporate Council wants to free people from censorship, or so they say – yet I can’t help but thinking that the one who controls the index for the search engine is the one wielding the power to define the truth. How many of that is based on Musk’s buying of Twitter, or was that all just coincidence? Would you trust a capitalistic company to have your best interests at heart?

I’d like to think that there are plenty of concepts and themes in the book that will be applicable as time passes! I wrote this novel well before Musk buying Twitter was even a conversation. This past week I even learned that Madison Square Garden in New York City uses facial recognition software to prevent individuals that work for specific law firms from entering the premises. Discrimination, techonological advancement, and individuals/corporations wanting power and influence are timeless ideas, in my opinion, which is why I believe that Identifiable will be an applicable and thought-provoking read in any time period.

But I absolutely believe that capitalistic companies, particularly social media companies, solely have their own interests at heart. Social media companies thrive and succeed on ad and investor revenue. Therefore, to make money, they need our eyes on their platforms. They care about what content will ensure our attention belongs to them, whether or not it’s good for us. Like any other addiction, social media increases the dopamine in our system, and social media companies work to ensure we receive our hit from scrolling on their platforms.

In the world of 2115 onwards, people start acting violently against people belonging to another bubble on social media, or as you call it – another brood. That sounds suspiciously like religious wars of old times. Which influence had Russia’s war against Ukraine on this part of your story?

In all honesty, I actually based brood violence more on the elections in the United States and the January 6th riots that were faced here. Partisanship and violence has (and continues to) increase in the United States, where people are targeted for their differences and belief systems. 

However, the current Russo-Ukrainian war is also extremely applicable, as are the Tigray war, Rohingya genocide, Uyghur genocide, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and many more past, current, and future global events in which discimination and hate against a perceived “other“ are a driving force. It has been a part of human history, and will continue to be so, to find those that are different to be a threat or enemy, and I’m sure that subconsciously all of these events helped create the dramaticism of brood violence and segregation.

Oh, I remember those riots well – an awful day for modern American history. Talking about dark parts of European history (some more current than others) – as a German, I was immediately struck by the mention of labor camps. They instantly reminded me of the infamous concentration camps the Nazis built. How much of that history sneaked into your creative process?

I love that your questions bring in so much foreign relations and history since that’s what I received my Master’s degree in! Throughout history, labor camps have been a very common tool (for lack of a better phrase) for punishment, imprisonment, and, in extreme cases, torture and extermination. Even today, Russia still has penal colonies, which are descendants of the Gulag, and prisoners are put to work, oftentimes extremely grueling and lasting upwards of 12-14 hours. This, along with The Handmaid’s Tale, labor shortages, and prison reform, was definitely something that I thought about as I considered the legal system of the future.

Another recurring theme seems to be violent fathers, whether Leah’s father or Rory’s father. Is that derived from religious tendencies, or rooted in something more personal?

This is a tough question to answer. I, myself, came from a traditionalist household where my father used quite the iron fist with me. As an only child, like Finn, I received the brunt of every bad day or misbehavior, even into my college years to be completely transparent. Every individual character in the book – their choices, motivations, actions, beliefs – are dictated on their own experiences, upbringings (religious or not), and backstories. In my writing process, I like to say that I’m a developper first and a plotter second. I create backstories for all of my characters, writing them out, and making sure that I really know them inside and out so I can understand the motivations behind all of their actions and choices.

One of the areas of our daily life I could see AIPs having an immensely impact on is education and school, having immediate access to Wikipedia (or whatever the successor to that is named). Yet your novel does not explore this avenue  (to my chagrin) – what do you think, in what ways would your school career have been different had you been able to use thought search? What do you think such an ability would do in the long term to the level of education of mankind as a whole?

Amazing question! I LOVE this. First and foremost, I believe that a technology like this must come with training – in general, I believe that Internet literacy should be taught in schools from an early age, already. The Internet is both a beautiful and dangerous place, and it’s necessary that we all learn how to responsibly navigate it, to parse through information, and to critically analyze what is presented.

With that caveat, an anecdote really quickly if I may. I am currently in the process of teaching my toddler to read. We’ve gone through our letter sounds and our blending practice. We’re just about ready to start putting it into context, and I’ve had such a blast on this journey with him. Us learning to read together is like he and my husband playing futbal together: fun, a game, and a bonding experience sharing something that we love with our child. Now, I love that we get to spend this time together, and I’m also able make sure he receives the one-on-one attention he needs to successfully read and enjoy it, too! The reason that I’ve decided to take this on, in addition to sharing my passion with him, is because I would rather him spend his school years reading to learn rather than learning to read, to soak up information rather than struggling to put words together. 

Similar to this, I feel that a technology like the AIP that would allow us to recall, frees up our mind for analysis. If we can quickly find historical facts or mathematical formulas, we won’t need to spend the time memorizing. Instead, we can expend our effort and energy to apply concepts and understand broader implications, forging connections across disciplines! As an accountant, I was told never to memorize anything because I could just look up a formula whenever I needed it but instead to understand how to use it, and I think that’s how I see a technology like this changing education. I also think it would be an equalizer to an extent. Education would become accessible, for lack of a better term, and I think that would enhance the development of humanity greatly!

So, “internet responsibly” – I like that, it’s just like “drink responsibly”. Which brings me to my infamous last question: What is your favourite drink or cocktail, if you have any?

You can totally catch me with a cappucino or a dry red wine (Syrahs are my favorite)! 

I had such a blast thinking through and answering your questions! Thank you so much for taking the time to read the novel and sharing these incredibly thoughtful questions with me.

Thank you so much for your time! And if you ever feel the need to combine the warmness of cappuccino with red wine, I’ve got an idea for you:

Francophile

A variation of mulled wine, this drink is guaranteed to earn you something to talk about (like, how can this be so good?).

  • 4 cl dry red wine, like Rioja
  • 3 cl Calvados
  • 3 cl water
  • 1 cl lemon juice
  • 1 cl cinnamon sirup
  • Apple slice and cinnamon stick of you fancy decoration

Heat everything except decoration in a pot, but not simmering – just warm it. Fill it into a thick walled mug, put some decoration on it, and enjoy!

By Stefan

father of two, not enough time to read everything I want to read

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