Simon Rich on Friendship and Supervillains

Your story “We’re Not So Different, You and I” is about a supervillain, Death Skull, who wants to make friends. How did the idea for the narrative come to you?

My kids are six and three, and I’m continually amazed by their ability to make friends with strangers. The older I get, the harder I find it to be vulnerable in front of new people and admit to them that I crave their companionship. I feel like this interview has been pretty fun so far, though, and, no pressure, but there’s that Knicks game later and I was sort of thinking it might be fun to watch it somewhere.

Let’s see first if we can sustain the fun level! Aside from his battles with Ultra Man, Death Skull seems to lead a relatively normal life in an apartment with a wife who goes to book clubs and watches “The Bachelor” with her girlfriends. Why does he have so much trouble connecting with others?

Sometimes, when a man devotes his entire youth to a single hyper-specific goal, like stealing diamonds, say, or writing absurdist short stories, it can come at the expense of his relationships.

Like most supervillains, Death Skull should probably be in regular therapy. I imagine he resists, saying he doesn’t have time to fit an hour a week into his busy diamond-stealing schedule. The irony, of course, is that, were he to begin treatment, he’d gradually come to realize that committing crimes is an unhealthy coping mechanism, and that he doesn’t have to steal any diamonds at all, beyond what he needs to cover all that therapy, which is pretty pricey even with insurance.

The television program “Rick and Morty” features prominently in your story. Do you like that show?

Yes. But, obviously, aside from that one detail, I’m nothing like the character of Death Skull.

“We’re Not So Different, You and I” will be included in your collection “Glory Days,” which comes out in July. Does the collection have a theme?

“Glory Days” is a book of stories about millennials struggling to make the leap from childhood to old age. ♦

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