I was recently asked to put together a Q & A by a digital magazine about my long writing journey to create my latest book, science fiction novella ROBOT TROUBLES for a potential podcast. The podcast opportunity has yet to materialize, but I wanted to share the Q & A anyway to provide more insight into my writing process and background.
Tell us about your 38-year writing journey in creating your novella Robot Troubles?
Science fiction books and films intrigued me during my youth.
One author, the brilliant Isaac Asimov, so captivated and inspired me, that I decided as an ambitious 18-year-old, to write a robot story of my own in the late 1970s. That initial story titled, TROUBLES, is the basis for my new science fiction novella and tenth book, ROBOT TROUBLES, which is available on Amazon and Smashwords . It is also available in a paperback version on Amazon in the same format as the books that originally inspired me.
This novella, which is my first published science fiction work, has only been 38 years in the making. The original story focused on the awakening of a robot assembly line worker model called AL-357 who eventually escapes the factory to discover a human world beyond the factory confines. After the robot returns to the factory and is inspired by what it saw, AL-357 begins to question its purpose further and has an altercation with a company foreman. The robot’s creators Luther Allison and Dr. Elaine Corkran are forced to take it off the line and put it to sleep by the end of the story.
Now, as an audacious youth, I was so taken with my story I boldly sent it to Isaac Asimov’s science fiction magazine in Philadelphia dreaming of my story being published by one of my science fiction heroes.
You can imagine my disappointment when the rejection note arrived a couple months later. However, the note from the publication’s assistant editor John Ashmead was hardly encouraging, but it seemed to make sense to me at the time. I have included the rejection note in my novella’s introduction and below.
However, looking at the editor’s note many years later, I have to disagree with his main premise that a robot couldn’t have an awakening or feelings just as another appliance or machine such as a lawnmower wouldn’t. It is strange his lack of imagination considering his magazine featured science fiction stories about fantastical worlds, etc.
Unfortunately, I shelved my short story for many years and moved on to other writing projects. However, in late 2009 I returned to the story and updated it. Yet when revised my original short story, I added an explanation and motivation of why AL-357 experienced its awakening. Once, I had updated the original short story and retitled it ROBOT TROUBLES, I was so impressed with the results I decided that one day I would expand it into a three-part novella using the first story as a launching point. I was also inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2010 and wanted to use my story as a means to comment on the growing economic inequality in our country and world and as an ominous warning of what can happen if this economic divide continues to go unchecked.
For years, I avoided tackling this novella idea as I worked on other novels and poetry collections. I believe it was out of fear, which is truly the worst enemy of a writer, and this has kept me from pursuing my writing dreams more times than I would care to recount.
Not too long ago, I was laid off from my public relations job and decided to finally tackle my science fiction novella idea. This coincided with my recent discovery of the liberating benefits of indie publishing. There was nothing to stop me now except my own fear, but the first draft came quickly, and I never looked back.
Tell us more about the story of ROBOT TROUBLES?
ROBOT TROUBLES is a science fiction novella set in a dystopian future where a ruthless authoritarian global elite government runs a corporate society driven by robot labor while most of humanity lives in squalor outside sleek cities in tent camps. ROBOT TROUBLES takes place in New Los Angeles, a future version of the famed city. The story’s protagonist and unlikely hero is Luther, a former infamous hacker and robot technician at a robot factory located in New Los Angeles. Once imprisoned by the government for his hacking activities, Luther is released from prison to work at the factory under the watchful eye of famous robot inventor Dr. Corkran. Unbeknownst to Dr. Corkran and the rest of the factory’s executive management, Luther has been quietly conducting a sabotage campaign at the factory for years, creating small “robot troubles” that slowed down the factory’s robot project. Driven by guilt for playing a part in the government’s robot labor initiative and feeling as if he has let his fellow humans down, Luther hatches an audacious plan to ignite a robot and human revolution against the ruthless authorities. Luther begins creating a series of robots, each more advanced than the next, to escape the factory and to reach his brother Ezekiel, an activist who has been banished to the tent cities, with his rebellion plan. One of Luther’s robots, AL-457, does escape and contacts Ezekiel with his plan but is captured by authorities. Luther knows time is running short for him as he is temporarily suspended from his duties by Dr. Corkran. After things begin to fall apart at the factory without Luther’s expertise, Dr. Corkran is forced to bring back Luther to set things right again.
Yet knowing it was probably his last chance, Luther developed an advanced robot model, AL-BR88TOR, which proved a kind of “robot whisperer,” to advance the final phase of his plan.
Unlike many science fiction stories, the robots in my story are benevolent and work closely with the human characters to create a more just world for everyone through rebelling against an unfair system. The robots are also being exploited, which is explored in my book as well.
My novel’s main protagonist, Luther, is also the conscience of the story, discreetly creating the robots to be a kinder version of himself and to help him launch his dream of a robot-human revolution.
My novella is also a dark commentary on the current economic inequality in our country and world and a warning of what can happen when such policies run amok. However, my story remains hopeful as well.
What inspired you to return to science fiction writing?
I was greatly inspired by science fiction novels and short stories during my youth in the 1970s and 1980s. The works of authors Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Frank Herbert, Richard Matheson, Harlan Ellison, Ursula K. LeGuin, Robert Heinlein, Phillip K. Dick, to name a few, beguiled and fascinated me beyond description. I knew one day I would try to attempt my own stories.
With ROBOT TROUBLES, I feel I have finally come home as a writer, tapping into my youthful love for science fiction and its endless possibilities.
Also, please note that this book is adult with complex themes, but it is not an adult erotica work as with my recent novels. In these pages, you find no depictions of raw sex and erotica and the only mention of sex is just an aside of how robots were being used for sex and in brothels in the world the book is set in. Also, there is some cursing in the story but not too much. This is not a repudiation of my earlier erotica books and past writing of which I am very proud. However, this time, I wanted to go in a different direction and write a book that is more accessible to a wider range of readers in dealing with adult themes.
What can we expect next from you? More science fiction?
I am currently editing a collection of short stories, also based on work I had created in my teens and college years, that I am planning to bring out in early 2019. This will be a mix of literary stories about my childhood, including a new one addressing racism and a racist incident that occurred during my youth to end the book, and updated science fiction and fantasy/sword and sorcery tales. I am editing another poetry collection based on my lyrics that I will publish later this year.
At some point, I will write a sequel to ROBOT TROUBLES picking up where this story ends.
Tell us how indie publishing has impacted your writing career?
Indie publishing has opened a whole new world of writing possibilities for me.
Indie publishing has truly proved a liberating revelation for me as an author. In past couple of years, I have written and published novels MONOGAMY SUCKS, RELATIONSHIPS SUCK, DEAR HEF, YOUNG, HORNY & MORMON, SWINGING WITH THE SUPERNATURAL, and the poetry collections BACKYARD POETRY, THE HOLLYWOOD HOMELESS and MIMI’S DILEMMA AND OTHER POEMS ABOUT SEX, WOMEN AND MODERN ROMANCE.
Where can we find out more about you and get your books?
You can find me on Twitter tweeting about my books or posting blogs about my work on book and poetry blogs at the links below or check out all of my books on my Amazon author’s page.
Amazon author’s page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004FBKNHA