It’s a pleasure to join you once more in Robot Country’s terra incognita. Let’s start at the border with a cloud of wasps: What was your inspiration in returning to Robot Country? In particular, what drew you to take Javi from an off-screen presence to the focal character?
I always like writing from multiple perspectives; I think it’s fun. It’s something I did for a series of stories that appeared in Asimov’s in 2016, the Project Cycle. I’m doing it again here in Robot Country. The next story in this series will be told from Zayn’s perspective.
I like how Javi and Isla complement each other. She’s full of self-righteous fury. She’s so fed up but not entirely certain of what she wants to do next. Javi, on the other hand, feels shame and is determined to do whatever it takes to be better.
You mentioned in the author spotlight for “One Thousand Beetles” that the inspiration for the spider drones came from the artist Louise Bourgeois. Was there any fine art inspiration for this one?
Yes, I was inspired by the artist Kohei Nawa. He does these amazing deer sculptures that are covered in plastic bubbles. The effect makes them look pixelated and it also confuses the boundary of where the deer ends and its surroundings begin.
I was also thinking about the aesthetics of sadism and immigration. Our president says he wants to build a “big, beautiful wall” at our border with Mexico because he thinks he will always be on the right side of it. But what will happen to human beings if artificial superintelligence decides to continue the USian project of colonization and displacement? If humanity lasts long enough, then an ASI will eventually emerge, one trained on observations made from human behavior. If we want our future robot overlords to be kind to us, we can start being kind to each other.
I wanted the border into Robot Country to be both terrifying and ambiguous. And I wanted it to be aesthetically beautiful. Wasps are perfect for this because they are these elegant and efficient killing machines.
I’ve written three more Robot Country stories that will appear in an upcoming apocalypse-themed anthology trilogy edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey. It’s supposed to come out in early 2020.
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