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K.M. Szpara Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Docile (2020) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

K.M. Szpara is an award-winning trans and queer novelist from Baltimore Maryland best known for his debut novel “Docile.” His debut novel that was published by Tor in 2020 is an exploration of themes of privilege, consent, and the snowballing debt crisis. He is also the author of the novelette “Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time” that explored the life of a trans gay man that was bitten by a vampire. The novel made the shortlist for both a Nebula and Hugo award. His essays and short fiction have been published in magazines such as “Strange Horizons,” “Lightspeed,” and “Uncanny.” K.M. went to Harvard Divinity School from where he got a Masters in Theological Studies though he currently works as a paralegal.

Before Szpara knew he was trans, he wrote to occupy male head and body space and when he was asked why he never wrote about female protagonists he never knew what to answer. However, he identified as a feminist and was always fighting to smash the patriarchy. Nevertheless, he did not write about such issues and always felt bad at not being himself. Before his big break out, he was writing about male gay cisgender protagonists since that is how he imagined himself to be. Nonetheless, he still was not aware of the implications of being trans and gay until he started facing up to his identity. It is only after he got his first success with short fiction that he began to write trans characters. He found it harder than he thought he would be though for the most part, he has made peace with his body. However, he would take a new one if the technology for something kinetic became a reality. Still, he is starting to think of his body as desirable as most of his work features romance/bodies/sex alongside his fantasy and science fiction.

K.M. Szpara’s debut novel “Docile” came about when he was talking with one of his friends about choice. The friend was just about to get married and asked if a woman should take the name of her husband. The question was whether it was a choice even when it was expected that one would say yes to taking the last name of their spouse. This then evolved into a conversation about how real choices are in contemporary society where biases tend to be too deeply set, particularly against the marginalized. From there it was all about coming up with the scenes and plot as he combined the sexy aspects and fun characters with serious themes of privilege, consent, and choice. Szpara did research on brainwashing for the most part with regard to Stockholm Syndrome, which is prominent in several scenes involving Elisha and Alex. He also did some research on science fiction and development in technologies that he then made cooler and magical in the novel. He believes that “Docile” is a dystopian novel since the contemporary world is dystopian in every sense given that people sign social contracts and negotiate their rights just like in the novel. However, despite the giving of consent which makes one feel good, there is a horrific, more nefarious and darker side of the contract that no one sees.

In the novel “Docile,” Szpara imagines a United States of the future that is slightly more dystopian than what we have at present. The wealth gap between the rich and the poor is so huge that the country is more or less split into debtors and trillionaires. Debtors are forced to pay the debts of their family and it increases exponentially over time. This has made many resort to selling themselves into slavery where they have a choice to inject themselves with Dociline, a zombie drug that erases their agency, pain, and memory for the entire term of their enslavement. It is not an exact science but the drug should wear off within two weeks of the term ending. However, Elisha Wilder’s mother is left docile indefinitely as the drug does not seem to wear off. To pay off the rest of the family debt, Elisha sells himself to the CEO of “Dociline,” the company that makes the drug that had made his mother a zombie. Everyone is expected to take the drug when they enslave themselves but Elisha becomes the first to refuse it when he presents himself to Alex Bishop his new owner. Alex puts in place a program of horrifying brainwashing to ensure that Elisha’s behavior becomes like that of someone on the Docile medication. The resulting relationship makes for some disturbing reading as Alex ultimately comes to the realization that he is part of a broken system. He is some kind of Dr. Frankenstein and he has totally fallen in love with the craft and monster he has become. As Elisha endures abuse, rape, and brainwashing he becomes even more dependent on Alex and is fixated on him. This poses a very important question about consent. Why should opportunities for a better life bring so much pain and suffering?

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