Nathan Tavares is joining us today to talk about his novel, Welcome to Forever. Here’s the publisher’s description:
A sweeping, psychedelic romance of two men caught in a looping world of artificial realities, edited memories, secretive cabals and conspiracies to push humanity to the next step in its evolution.
For fans of Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, Ubik, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Evangelion.
Fox is a memory editor – one of the best – gifted with the skill to create real life in the digital world. When he wakes up in Field of Reeds Center for Memory Reconstruction with no idea how he got there, the therapists tell him he was a victim in a terrorist bombing by Khadija Banks, the pioneer of memory editing technology turned revolutionary. A bombing which shredded the memory archives of all its victims, including his husband Gabe.
Thrust into reconstructions of his memories exploded from the fragments that survived the blast, Fox tries to rebuild his life, his marriage and himself. But he quickly realises his world is changing, unreliable, and echoing around itself over and over.
As he unearths endless cycles of meeting Gabe, falling in love and breaking up, Fox digs deep into his past, his time in the refugee nation of Aaru, and the exact nature of his relationship with Khadija. Because, in a world tearing itself apart to forget all its sadness, saving the man he loves might be the key to saving us all.
What’s Nathan’s favorite bit?
About eleven years ago, I slapped a big THE END at the bottom of the last page of a draft of a book called Welcome to Forever. I was on a writing fellowship in a small cabin by a lake in the woods in Connecticut. I popped a small bottle of cheap champagne and whooped into the air to celebrate, irking a few birds around the lake. I was following a path I’d hopped on since I was seven and decided I was going to be a writer. The path, taking cues from the “work hard and you can accomplish your dreams” pretty lie kids who grew up in the 90s were told, went something like this: Go to school and study literature, go to grad school, write a book, get an agent, land a publishing deal. Soar to the top of every best-seller list?
That previous Welcome to Forever, of course, has almost zero in common with the Welcome to Forever that comes out on March 5 from Titan Books. Maybe a few lines here and there, an inspiration for a scene or two. That’s because, to borrow a bit of the time-skipping that overflows in my upcoming novel, a lot happened between that lake and my kitchen table where I’m sitting now, and where I wrote most of my book. I landed my first literary agent (both of us too green), moved to Boston, we spent five years on submission but didn’t sell. I stopped writing for a while, I lost a few jobs, I rediscovered a love of writing separate from the act of publishing, I wrote my first published novel called A Fractured Infinityand landed an agent who was as passionate about it as I was. And when it came time to sell A Fractured Infinity to Titan, my agent asked what other projects I had, thinking we could snag a two-book deal. Neat! I thought. Welcome to Forever that had been sitting on my hard drive for years could now be released as my second book, and I could take a couple more years writing a third. Done.
And when it came time to revise Welcome to Forever—easy! I thought, I’d worked on it for so long—a slow, sinking feeling started in my guts as I re-read that book. What? Who wrote this? Who made these plot decisions? Because it certainly wasn’t me.
I shut my laptop. I took my dog on long walks and tried to slow my breathing. I had a book due in a year, and it certainly couldn’t be that one. It was fine—fine as in good enough—but it felt like a giant step backwards from A Fractured Infinity.
My agent told me not to feel attached to anything on the page. So, okay, I thought. Here goes. From THE END to THE BEGINNING.
Which is to say, my favorite part of Welcome to Forever was writing it all over again.
The thing about revising that first version of Welcome to Forever over many years is that it went to dozens of editors. So many were wonderful, and provided feedback that I worked into multiple versions in an attempt to make these editors and the Publishing Gods that Be happy and land a book deal. Which is so very dumb. You can’t write a book by committee. Well, I guess you can, but the end result is that you have something that contains basically zero of your voice. Your spark. The reason you wrote the thing in the first place.
Something about the first inkling of that story—a man trying to save the person he loves from death in a world of technological immortality—stuck with me through the years. I hadn’t been able to sell the novel version, but I wrote novellas and short stories in the same world, circling the same themes. For a novel about a long-term marriage between two men that’s essentially a therapy story in a scifi setting, it was incredibly helpful to, you know, notch another ten years of marriage to another man under my belt. Also, head to therapy. I had to get older, hopefully wiser, and become a better writer.
After all the years and the work, I started to know who these characters could be, instead of who they had been. And a new theme started to rise up, one that I’d only hinted at in that previous version of the novel. One that’s at the heart of one of my favorite scenes, where two men who’ve been together for decades are talking about buying into the services of a tech giant that offers technological immortality to its customers.
“Yeah, but it’s not you,” Zeke had said, after one of the ads first crashed a weekend morning coffee run, six years back. On the sidewalk in front of the coffee shop, he’d winced and batted at the projection of an ageless couple walking on the beach. The image had blinked away.
“What do you mean?”
“When they dump your memories into a new body, it’s some… thing that thinks it’s you, maybe. What makes you you—the real you—is gone.”
Fitting, since what made me—the realme—was missing from that old book. And starting over again was the only way I could rediscover that spark.
Nathan Tavares is a writer from Boston, Massachusetts. He grew up in the Portuguese-American community of southeastern Massachusetts and developed a love for fantastical stories at an early age. He is the author of the queer-focused, multiverse-hopping scifi novel A FRACTURED INFINITY, and his second novel, WELCOME TO FOREVER, comes out on March 5, 2024 from Titan Books.