The Mechanic: an Interview via Facebook Messenger ***Spoiler [ REDACTED] Edition***

skeletal crow I left in a
parking space for no reason

Thoughtful questions are the best, and they aren't easy to come by. These Thoughtful Questions came to me via Facebook, proving social media doesn't have to be evil. This interrogator has read The Mechanic in its entirety. He's a friend of my guitar player, and now a friend of mine.

All three of us read the short story Exhalation by ****ing Ted Chiang, and you should, too. His book by the same title is exponentially mind-blowing. I have to keep putting it down because I can't take the heavy doses of reality.

On the side, I'm editing Mel's amazing story Sum. I've been writing letters to her main character, and sometimes he writes me back. Her character and I discussed similarities between my little story and his.

I have yet to meet Melinda Smith face-to-face, but we are friends and team members.  She fires my dopamine and oxytocin, too. This is not an endorsement of Facebook but a pulling-back of the curtain. I think it's important to understand how the technology of social media impacts connection to our people.

Reader: Deb, I loved your story! And I love experiencing the worlds that writers like you and Mel create. Your story helped answer a question I discussed with Mel about her robot story: why would humans invent an AI that required sleep? You didn't address this directly, but the factory dynamic suggested to me that humans might invent machines to augment/replace human capability, but not to the point of total replacement. In other words, humans would not intentionally render themselves obsolete through technology.

deb: Humans anthropomorphize everything as a first reaction. I think in today's technological age we are self-programming that out of our systems, probably to make sure we know the difference between machine and human. I think my next story will be about the civilization of dogs, whom humans believe to be domesticated.

Reader: Did you start this story independently of reading Chiang? You share some of his firmness of tone; though, as I discussed with Mel, you don't share his steely inapproachability that I suspect has been leavened with a good editor. The coincidence in setup with Exhalation is stunning. What made you write this story? 

deb: I don't think I can point to a gelled thought here. Inhalation was the first reading for its own sake I've done in a long time. Most of my days are taken up with editing the work of others or writing poetry, which I've said is a mechanism to "keep the faucet on a little" when time or real estate is limited. I'd wanted this to be a fairy-tale; hence I guess the stiff language. Probably some conversation with Mel was still rattling around as I was reading. When I got to a point where Chiang's person was building tools for his experiment I knew I had to stop and write. The robot in my mind was already working a mundane job and planning to run away. As I put down the book and moved to my workstation I realized this robot was a metaphor for myself--off in the woods contemplating the meaning of my existence. So my robot, too, contemplated the value of his existence, and in fact disassembled himself to find out exactly what he's made of. I grew up with Da Vinci's notebook and anatomical drawings - so the idea that the robot would chance upon a "manual" had to be a stop along his journey. The Wizard of Oz was a surprise to me, as was much of the story. I claim responsibility for making the robot give away his own parts to keep his colleagues running. I think we can all relate to that, yeah?

 Start reading The Mechanic here

Further Exploration: 

Exhalation - Ted Chiang  Get this book, and then write me and tell me what moved you most.

Science Geek Mel - Blog  Read some of Mel's own writing here, and start with FUN BOOK EXTRAS to get a feel for the incredible creativity she's got going. It's fun, but don't forget to check the rest of the blog. Short stories, interviews, our favorite joke: A scientist, an artist, and a musician walk into a bar and the bartender says, "Hey, Mel! What's up?"

Melinda Smith: Dream Dopamine on All Channels  I hate her so hard. Mel needs to write my banjo music. I'ma get her a banjo. Also, hang around and listen to Soul on 10 when it starts playing after Mel's tracks.

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