Joseph A. Lopez

Getting a chance to watch fellow authors grow and improve as writers is inspiring and humbling. It never fails to impress just how dedicated we are to our craft.

That is no exception with today’s featured author. His story, The Memory Monster, explores how memories can be maps to our lives. Once lost, what does that leave us?

Joseph A. Lopez

What inspired you to write a story about a map?

To be honest, what really inspired me was the idea of inclusion in the sffworld.com anthology. I’ve been a fan of the website and a member for a few years now. It has a vibrant community and is run by a dedicated group of admins who love the genre. As discussion forums have gone the way of the dinosaurs, made extinct by rampant social media, sffworld.com has continued to thrive. Previous forum anthologies have been of high quality and I think that’s a testament to the editors, N. E. White and Andrew Leon Hudson, as well as the passionate contributors in the forum community. So I’m honored to be included among such esteemed company regardless of the topic.

Having said that, I think maps have long played a crucial role in speculative fiction. Especially with respect to epic fantasy where a group of companions often go on journeys requiring them to travel long distances. How many times have we read such a story and, in the middle of the text, flipped to the front of the book to use the map as a point of reference? While I find their inclusion to be less common in science fiction (perhaps because the scope of exploration there is often broader and can encompass solar systems or even entire galaxies), obviously the idea of exploration nonetheless plays a large role in many a sci-fi story.

Do you have a special place where you go to recharge your creative muse?

Several, but perhaps the most interesting one is a stairwell! There’s an interesting stain on the floor of this stairwell that takes the shape of a bird. Or at least, that’s what it looks like to me, similarly to how people sometimes spot images in the clouds. This stairwell is remarkably quiet, but for the gentle hum of elevators going up and down on the opposite side of the wall. I can’t recall exactly when it happened, but at some point this stairwell became my “dreaming room” where I could get away from all the noise of a busy city and gather my thoughts. Sometimes that took the form of the personal, or professional, or creative. Often times, those thoughts quickly became intertwined!

Can you tell us about a time when you wished you had a map?

It’s hard to remember a time before cell phones and GPS, isn’t it? I remember an Emilio Estevez movie from 1983 called “Judgement Night” where the story consists of a group of friends getting stranded in a bad neighborhood and having to hide from a gang of drug dealers. These days that premise probably wouldn’t work so well, what with everyone having cell phones with tracking devices and multiple methods of instant communication!

But coupled with this technological convenience comes an over reliance that can handicap us. There have been quite a few instances while traveling across the vastness of California that I’ve lost cell phone or satellite reception. Sometimes this even happens while traveling through the mountains in Los Angeles!

One time in particular, I was driving to a meetup at a “dog mansion” (yes, it’s a mansion for dogs where they hang out and play… these things actually exist in L.A.) and I took a wrong turn. GPS recalculated, but unfortunately we were way up in the mountains and it couldn’t locate any of the roads. A good old fashioned Rand McNally physical map – the type we used for family vacations back in the 1980s – would’ve been useful right about then! Fortunately, I was able to load Google Maps with location turned off and figure out where we were. I got my pooch to the dog mansion in time for him to live a lavish lifestyle for the day.

Your story concentrates on memories as a living map. Where did that idea come from?

I wanted to try a different approach to the traditional inclusion of a map. My short story, The Memory Monster, straddles the line between urban fantasy and horror. It takes place largely in our own reality, or within one person’s representations of that reality. I won’t say more to spoil the story. Nonetheless, the theme of memory should be apparent from the title. I wanted to use maps in both the real and metaphorical sense to guide us on a journey down one man’s memory lane, and use that to explore the larger theme of regret that we may have when reflecting on the totality of our lives.

I want to thank the editors for keeping an open mind and not only accepting stories that went beyond the traditional notion of “maps,” but also encouraging their submission. I hope that readers enjoy The Memory Monster and the anthology as a whole.


Joseph A. Lopez is a practicing attorney in Los Angeles, California. He fell in love with speculative fiction at a young age and has been an avid reader and writer in the genre ever since. His short story “The Memory Monster” included in this anthology is his first published work. Joseph is an active member of the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society (“GLAWS”). Online, he can be found on Facebook.


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