PW: The narrator in “The Decline of the Swan” asks: “Why can’t he will this ridiculous urge away? Is the curse of lust eternal?” Well, is it?
JP: Men today may not call sexual attraction lust, but the reaction to a pretty face or well proportioned body seems to last throughout life, regardless of age or whether or not the one who lusts has a shot. Is sex part of our animal nature? Is the idea of sex at any age a result of our cultural conditioning? Z doesn’t care to ponder these questions, but I think they’re inherent in the narrator’s description of Z’s silly pursuit of Lulu.
And because Z, stuck in his juiced little world, can’t stop and look inside himself for very long, these pursuits become a curse, almost an affliction. He only knows he’s required to take that shot in response to the eternal challenge of manhood. I used the word curse deliberately, to describe what happens when we choose obsession over thought.
Which makes Z (or Zeus, if the reader prefers) a perfect choice for the protagonist. My first idea for the story was based on a simple question: what if the gods were still among us? As I envisioned the narrative, I realized something about the nature of a god—in reading Greek mythology I don’t ever recall an instance of a god taking part in self-examination. The gods acted. Selfishly. They did not stop to think who might be hurt by their choices. Interesting, I think, that creatures representing our base emotions were created as objects of worship at the beginning of western civilization. Have we changed much since? How much do those values guide us today?