“A Tyranny of Kindness” – Alumni Q&A with Author Matt Sawczyn
December 06, 2023
On a cobblestone street in New London, a desperate man clutches a tiny bundle.
He knows not where to turn, for all around him is shadow and death.
But he knows he must run.
He must save the child in his hands.
Newly published last month, A Tyranny of Kindness is a dystopian novel from alumnus Matt Sawczyn, MBA ‘17, in the vein of 1984 and A Brave New World. In the Q&A below, Sawczyn discusses the novel, inspirations like Aldous Huxley and Dostoevsky, and his own journey as a storyteller.
What is A Tyranny of Kindness about?
The story is set in New London, in the not-so-distant future. It centers around Roger Winston, a “Processor” for a large health company, whose job is to dispose of unwanted Infants. He begins in a very dark and generally calloused state of mind; but after cultivating a relationship with a woman who inspires and challenges him, he slowly starts to see things as they really are, until one day he feels a change within him, and rescues one of the Infants scheduled for disposal. From there he’s on the run to save both the Infant and himself… and you’ll have to read the book to see if he accomplishes that.
What was the inspiration for this story? How long has it been germinating?
The first concept of this story – literally the very first scene – came to me when I was in eighth grade, around twenty years ago, completely out of the blue. And since then the general idea was always in the back of my mind, slowly growing and taking shape over time. The cultural climate I grew up with, as well as real life cases like Alfie Evans and Charlie Gard, provided all too real inspiration. Just this month we heard about the baby Indi Gregory and the UK courts, so it seems this is more relevant than ever.
I set the book in the future to make it more conceivable to readers, but right now around the world we are doing things that sound like they could only happen in a dystopian novel. Mass abortion, fetal organ harvesting, elimination of the unwanted… These are the evils our society shoulders ourselves with, of our own volition.
Which authors have influenced your work the most, and in particular this novel?
I think the C.S. Lewis quote at the beginning of the novel says it best: that we humans can do extremely cruel acts while remaining proper and official and very much within the law. That sentiment permeated the entire work, and formed the society we see the characters living in.
I was heavily influenced by the works of Aldous Huxley, Ray Bradbury, and George Orwell, while always maintaining the kind of hope in the midst of darkness that Dostoevsky clung onto in his novels. There are also specific lines or scenes directly inspired by authors like Arthur Miller, Rudyard Kipling, Lois Lowry, Jean Craighead George, traditional prayers… So even if something is not in the same genre, it always helps to draw from a variety of other artists.
Could you share about the journey of rewrites and reaching publication? Are you part of a writer’s group?
I am part of a group, thanks to fellow alumnus Tyler Carlos! He introduced me to the Inkwells and Anvils community, where I found endless writing aid and support. In addition, my informal circle would include countless friends and family who gave their feedback (basically, anyone I could convince to read a draft!) The revisions were endless, that’s for sure. I always start with Professor Chris Riley’s story structure template, and then little by little chip away at the piece, slowly evolving the story with additions, cuts, revisions, etc.
I think the general timeline, when I really tackled this story as my main project, was about two years. After that, I jumped into the world of publishing, which is a whole journey in itself. So, like every artistic endeavor, it was a matter of patience and perseverance. And even now there are a few words or phrases I’m tempted to tweak. But after a certain point it’s good to put one’s art out into the world and be content with it.
In what ways did your Catholic education at University of Dallas and JPCatholic impact your approach to storytelling?
I have to thank both schools for all they taught me! I’ve benefited infinitely from their formative guidance, whether directly in the field of storytelling and drama, or in the encompassing riches of the Catholic and Western heritage. Reading classical works, watching great films, putting those principles into practice…
And then beyond the practical X’s and O’s, the best gift a university can give to its students is unveiling the incredible cultural inheritance we have received. Both schools helped shape me as a person, and for that I am beyond grateful.
What do you hope readers take away from this novel?
This is actually a tough question for me, because I think every reader is going to take away something different. But I want this novel to highlight these important issues of our day (lest we choose not to simply think about them because it’s easier) and maybe in a small way help shift our world to a better, more selfless place.
Above all, I want the reader to walk away with hope. The world can sometimes seem very dark – and this book doesn't shy away from that – but in the end there is goodness and light. As one character says, “He's the Author of your life, and He does not write tragedies.”
A Tyranny of Kindness can be purchased here.
Editor’s Note: A Tyranny of Kindness contains some mature content and isn’t recommended for children under 15.
Matthew Sawczyn is an author, screenwriter, and producer based in Denver, CO. He received his BA in Drama and Dramatics/Theatre Arts from The University of Dallas in 2016, and his MBA in Film Producing from John Paul the Great Catholic University in 2018. His career in writing and digital media includes Skydance Television, The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Family Theatre Productions, Renovo Media Group, and Spirit Juice Studios. His first novelA Tyranny of Kindness was published in 2023. Follow on Instagram @matthewsawczyn