The Big Idea: Nathan Tavares
We all want to be a big success — in life, in our careers, in everything. But what if that’s not actually our best path through the universe? Nathan Tavares is here to consider alternate paths in this Big Idea for A Fractured Infinity.
The multiverse seems pretty big right now, huh?
I’m thoroughly enjoying the big boom of multiverse stories that have popped up over the last few years, from Marvel (shout-out to Spider-Man: No Way Home and Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness) to Everything Everywhere All at Once. Especially that last one, I remember sitting in my seat in the theater alternatively laughing and crying—just so completely moved. What struck me, too, was feeling some kinship with these movies and the book I had coming out, A Fractured Infinity, which is about a failed filmmaker on the run through the multiverse with the man he loves. I get such a kick out of thinking about so many artists working on these multiverse stories independently, years ago, for them to all be coming out around the same time.
Everything Everywhere and A Fractured Infinity echo with a similar big idea. Out of the whole universe, what if you’re the absolute worst version of yourself? What do you do when you’re a big giant failure—or at least think you are?
My main character, Hayes, can’t seem to catch a break. He’s a film-school dropout turned odd job-working documentarian who celebrates the big breaks of his friends, wondering if that’ll ever be him. He’s fresh off a breakup with a jerk and the death of his best friend, and still reeling from the death of his mom. He’s trying to finish up a documentary that means a lot to him when he learns he’s somehow connected to a predictive device from another universe. And here: A spark! Maybe he’s not a big nobody after all? Still, the self-doubt seems to all pile on once he realizes the version of him in the alternate universe is this genius, maybe all-powerful (and certainly megalomaniac-y) scientist and inventor. Who seems to seep into Hayes’s head and mock him for being a dud.
Heckled by self-doubt. Maybe you can relate?
I sure as heck can.
I never really went for the “write what you know” thing before. In my writing—short stories and unpublished novels up until this debut—I liked to do the opposite. Create characters who were definitely not me, because I’m private and mostly because I’m pretty boring. But when I started writing this book, I had pegged myself as a failure with this big annoying internal voice that liked to heckle me. Often. I’d just lost my job at a magazine because it went out of business. I had a novel on submission for five years that didn’t end up getting picked up. Everything I’d seemingly been working for my entire life was just not happening, and I was staring mid-thirties down the barrel and wondering just what the hell I was going to do. Change careers? Give up trying to get a novel published, since I’d already bit it so hard? Everyone has that self-doubt voice in their head. Mind was reminding me, often, “You’re a failure.”
When I was ready, I started working on a story about a man heckled by a seemingly perfect version of himself, and what he had to do to pick up the pieces. I forgot about that tenuous dream of getting published and just set my sight on creating something I really loved, influenced by some of my favorite things like scifi movies, which I was re-watching as a comfort during a rough patch. The story quickly became, “What happens when a guy who thinks he’s a failure finds himself desperate to protect the man he loves?” He starts making a bunch of brash, selfish, and (hopefully) entertaining decisions.
Hayes needed to fail to get where he did. So did I. From all the ideas this book has—deepfakes and a disunited America and theoretical physics—the biggest to me was always this: Sometimes you have to fail to get where you’re going.