I don't remember what exactly inspired this story. I know the basic idea of virtual pets getting bodies came to me while I was driving and that I was taken enough by the concept to pull over to write it down. I suspect there was a radio program behind it but who knows. While writing the first draft I came across the concept of yuru-charas: in Japan, some municipalities create mascots to promote civic pride. That gave me Tama’s basic personality and outlook and the rest fell into place quickly.
One basic theme of "The Yuru-chara of Hector, NY," is responsibility. To what do we owe responsibility? What qualifies as deserving our attention and care? We owe this to other human beings, certainly. To pets, of course. Property and nature should be respected. Even certain intangible things like ideas need to be cherished. But what about virtual pets, digital assistants or online companions? Should we feel guilty when we eventually abandon a tamaguchi or pokemon? Should we be cavalier in our treatment of Siri?
But, you protest, those things are ephemera. They are designed to be discarded, programmed for disregard. And maybe that's true but somehow the question I kept circling around was not whether Tama suffers from her experiences but how Sam seeks a way to give that part of her childhood the dignity it deserves. If something is important to us at one point in our life than maybe it warrants attention and respect.
The other theme is, of course, dealing with the various losses involved in growing up. Of all of the protagonists in my stories, she's one of my favorites. I'm sympathetic to her impatience for the future to start even as I understand the regret she experiences. What I don't think she's fully dealt with are the consequences of placing one of her friends (no matter how artificial) into a box and walking away. In gaining a solid form, Tama makes Sam confront that abandonment.
Fascinating! Thanks, Morgan!