We’re excited to share the cover for Victor LaValle’s The Changeling, the wildly imaginative story of one man’s thrilling odyssey through an enchanted world to find his wife, who has disappeared after having seemingly committed an unforgivable act of violence—available this June from Spiegel & Grau. Below, LaValle shares the experience and creeping dread that inspired the story, plus Yuko Shimizu’s quietly haunting cover illustration…
My son looked like a turtle when he was born. He had a smooth bald little head and a receding lower jaw. All he needed was a cap and a turtleneck and he’d be Tippy the Turtle from those old ads for the Art Instruction School, the ones that used to run in magazines and comics back in the day. Without question he was the most beautiful human being I’d ever seen.
I loved him so much that I started snapping pictures right away. I’d like to say it took at least a day before I started doing this but I can’t promise that. Quickly I had all these pictures of our newborn, what should I do with them? Post them to Facebook you say? Well of course.
I became the new parent everybody hates, the one posting 15 pictures of the same little lump swaddled in a blanket. There might as well have been a side of ham inside those layers for all that you could see. Hundreds of my friends were charmed and congratulatory. People were kind and I abused their generosity. I’m sure more than a few muted me so they wouldn’t have to see all the damn posts about my kid and I can’t blame them.
But after a few days it occurred to me that I didn’t really know who I was sharing these pictures with. Nothing new about that of course. Articles about the perils of Internet privacy are as old as the Internet itself. But this seemed different because it wasn’t me whose privacy I was violating, it was a week old baby. I knew that this was troubling and yet I also knew that everyone needed to see the marvelous creature my wife and I had made. Fueled by vanity, willful ignorance, and the pleas of friends and family to post more shots I did exactly that.
People left sweet messages under each post and more than a few of them were people I couldn’t ever remember meeting and yet here they were, in a sense they’d turned up right inside my house. I thought of the old folklore about vampires. A vampire can’t enter your home unless you invite it in. At least in the old stories you actually had to open a door before the monster found you. Online I only had to be a bit lax with my privacy settings.
My mind wandered to the worst places after that. Suppose, among all those friends, there were lurkers with more malevolent intent? Here I was supplying vital info like which parks we regularly visited and shots that made it damn easy to track down our home address. What if, some afternoon, one of these friends showed up and they weren’t all that friendly? What might they do to my wife and child? What might they do to me? And how I had played foolish accomplish to our own ordeal?
All this stuff scared the hell out of me. When something scares me that badly I know I’ve got a good story on my hands. Now I’m happy to say I’m about to put that story into your hands on June 13, 2017. It’s called The Changeling.
You can see the cover here, illustrated by the astoundingly talented Yuko Shimizu. The image is beautiful and creepy as hell. You want to look away, but you can’t. I’m grateful to her for creating something that so perfectly captures the feel of the novel. And to Tor.com for offering to share it with you.