The first story in my new collection THE FEVERISH STARS is called A STATE OF IMPRISONMENT. The story about a near-future situation extrapolating today’s privatized prisons. Here’s what I said about it in a recent interview:
Frequently I have something I’ve perceived that I feel needs to be dramatized, and I cast about for the way to do that. I choose the best genre for it, in my view, and work out how to entertainingly express the underlying observation. Other times, I feel my way along, and the story tells me what the theme is; it reveals itself to me. In “A State of Imprisonment” I started with my own personal anger—I was smoldering over the insane growth and greed in the privatized prison phenomenon. Prisons for profit. When prisons are run by a corporation for profit, rather than as a publicly funded institution, they are inevitably prone to cutting corners on the most basic needs of the human beings incarcerated; food and medical care are minimized for the sake of maximizing profit. Privatized prisons tend to use convicts as unpaid workers in a vastly more exploitative way than prisons did ever before. And there is an incentive to imprison people—accomplishing this through corruption of local justice systems—so to have more people to bill the state for, and to use as forced labor. There’s also an incentive to invent reasons to keep them in prison past their time. This outrage has been foisted on America broadly, in real life, and in places like Arizona it’s now a major industry. It was spreading so much I imagined a future in which an entire state—most of Arizona!—was converted into one big complex of privatized prisons run by a single corporation. Could this happen in real life—a prison that engulfs a whole US state? Probably not; it’s social satire. But I make it believable enough so that the reader can suspend disbelief, and get caught up in the frightening story of a woman, an investigative reporter, trapped in the system—the symbolism, the metaphor, emerges then quite naturally in the narrative…It’s an Orwellian parable based in real contemporary issues.