What inspired you to tackle the Turing Test?
I got the idea for the short story after talking with my husband about a novel idea I had involving a lot of elements on androids. I had been thinking of Philip K. Dick—I always felt that the androids in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? were fascinating, and the Blade Runner interpretations of them were equally intriguing. All these elements combined to spark the story—and another story, a book which I recently sold to Penguin/Razorbill. The short story is in no way similar to the novel I’m writing, but both were written with the same spark of inspiration.
Do any other stories (in any format) about the Turing Test stand out for you?
I saw Blade Runner before I read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and one thing I think the movie missed the mark on was exploring their version of a Turing Test in more depth. In the original novel, Dick emphasizes empathy so much more, and draws a much harder line between human and machine than the movie does. But the whole idea of empathy being the key to humanity really struck a chord with me and made me want to explore the same questions Dick raised.
What were the challenges for you in deciding the arc and flavor of each participant’s contributions to the conversation? Did you go down any dead ends and have to rethink your approach?
This story flowed out of me—it’s one of the fastest short stories I’ve ever written. The character who changed the most was absolutely the doctor; it took me a few edits to understand what kind of person would be so willing to create something like Elektra. But the character who surprised me the most was Rory. When I started the story, I thought Elektra was the subject, but it wasn’t until the last pages that I realized the point of the story really was within Rory’s character.
Can you talk about the choices you made for Elektra: the sexualization, the lone female, and the subject of manipulation by men?
Elektra herself is interesting because of her ego—she has sentience, and within her own mind (albeit a manufactured one), a purpose. The ego is the part of the mind that tells us what’s real and not, what’s important and not. But to the men around her, Elektra is a representation of the id: our basic human desires. The id is where our dreams come from—and Elektra, ultimately, is nothing but a dream of man, and embodies those dreams, as varied as they may be.
I spent some time reading through descriptions of the Oresteia trilogy and the O’Neill adaptation to look for any echoes in your story, just in case the unusual Elektra name was a reference. Did I miss anything?
I love hiding Easter eggs in stories, and there absolutely are references to other works in this story, but my source of inspiration was a little different! Elektra Shepherd’s name came from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?—and the names of many of the other characters come from there as well, including Andy Deckard (a mix of the nickname for androids in the novel and the last name of the main character) and Dr. Richard K. Philip (my way of switching around the original author’s name, Philip K. Dick). Rory Rivers’s name came from two of the companions on Doctor Who when I wrote the story, and Elektra’s model number, ES42, is a small allusion to the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.
What’s next for you? Any projects you’d like to tell us about?
I am working on a new YA science fiction trilogy that will be coming out in 2015. The details haven’t been announced yet, but I think it’s something that fans of my original trilogy will like. Keep an eye at bethrevis.com for more details!