Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Guest Post and Giveaway: Parched by Georgia Clark


Robots, renewable resources, and romance get tangled together in this thrilling futuristic adventure novel about a utopian city struggling to keep its peace.

"A gutsy teen living on an arid, depleted Earth two centuries in the future faces danger and shocking revelations when she covertly joins a subversive group.

Sixteen-year-old Tess lived in Eden, a seemingly idyllic, domed city where access to information and water is regulated by the governing Trust. After a rogue robot killed her scientist mother, Tess fled with a terrible secret to the desperate, arid Badlands, where she’s recruited by Kudzu, explained to her as a “nonviolent collective working to undermine the Trust and free the Badlands.” Learning Kudzu plans to destroy Aevum, the Trust’s latest advanced robot, Tess reluctantly returns to Eden, where she finds the luxurious life morally unconscionable and secretly trains with Kudzu. Living with her uncle, who’s involved with Aevum, Tess is strangely attracted to his sympathetic assistant, Hunter. During a Kudzu raid on the Trust’s lab, Tess discovers that Aevum will be used to eradicate all inhabitants of the Badlands—and that Hunter’s not what he seems to be. 

Tess’ first-person, present-tense voice lends chilling immediacy to her no-nonsense story of mixed loyalty, disturbing secrets, and ethical dilemmas associated with diminishing natural resources and scientific experimentation.

How to Research A Sci-Fi Novel 
(if You Know Nothing About Robots) 

I did a ridiculous amount of research for my second novel, Parched. So much so that when compiling it all for this guest blog post for the Prism book tour, I found myself wondering 1. I am crazy and 2. If knowing it was going to take as much time as it did, if I’d do it all again. (Answers are ‘yes’ and ‘yes’). 

My jumping off point for Parched was this: a girl in love with a robot. What did I know about robots? Well, I’d seen Bladerunner a few dozen times… 

It didn’t take long for me to realize that a robot is a non-sentient being. Unless I wanted to get readers to care about a girl falling for something with the emotional intelligence of a toaster, what I wanted was AI. Artificial Intelligence. I wanted to create something that could feel. Essentially, a cyborg. So I began researching that. 

I subscribed to Popular Science magazine. I read articles online. And I listened to podcasts. A lot of podcasts, specifically, Robots and Singularity 1 on 1. These were super helpful: I love being told information, as opposed to reading it. I watched movies and TV shows: AI, Bladerunner (again), I, Robot, Battlestar Gallatica, Caprica. I read books by Isaac Asimov, the inventor of the Three Laws of Robotics. One film that was particularly inspiring was a documentary called Transcendent Man, which is about the famous future theorist Ray Kurzweil. It introduced me to the idea of neuroscience and intelligence augmentation; how we could use nanotechnology (microscopic robots) to enhance our brains and bodies. (I tried to read Kurzweil’s book The Singularity is Near, but it was just too weird for me.) 

I wanted to create a cyborg that could feasibly have emotions. When talking with one scientist, he bemoaned the fact that often in literature and films, robots just ‘come to life’, and start feeling things, even though they are not programmed to and technically never could. I wanted Parched to be as technically realistic as possible. So I had to understand what emotions are and how we experience them. More research! This time into the nervous system. I learnt about what dopamine does to our brains, how adrenaline makes us feel and why. I was becoming a regular girl scientist, (which is funny, considering I never studied it at school.) 

I was interested in the possible psychology of an AI. I read about autism and sociopaths, two instances where individuals don’t have the same level of empathy as most humans. I watched films like Adam (great film), about a man with Asperger’s Syndrome as inspiration for creating a humanoid cyborg wh was still developing emotions and social skills. 

Parched is also centred around a form of computer warfare, so I ended up reading a lot about that: cyber war, malware, cyber terrorism. I read all about Stuxnet, the computer worm that was written to attack Iran’s nuclear weapons. I interviewed the director of a security agency called Ciaops, a very nice man called Robert, to better understand computer hacking. I interviewed a lot of people actually: I’m a former journalist, so I’m comfortable talking with strangers, and like I mentioned before, I learn best from having things explained to me. 

I was interested in learning more about activism. I was a student activist at unit, so I could draw on those more lo-fi, grungier experiences, but I was curious about how activists could affect large-scale change. I talked to y good friend James Slezak, the co-founder of Purpose, an online activist organization, to find out how campaigns are created and run, why issues were chosen, what success looked like. I read about radical left wing groups of the past like the Weatherman, whose name helped inspire Kudzu. 

To create Malspeak, I collaborated with two friends, John and Nat, who speak seven languages between them! We ate cupcakes and made up a dialect. 

On top of this, I was reading sci-fi themed YA (Cinder, Starters, Hunger Games etc), attending conferences, connecting with other authors and talking about my ideas with people. I even presented a talk in AI right here in Brooklyn! 

That’s it! So, to sum up, here are my top four pieces of advice when it comes to research. 

1. Do it. Some writers (like me) love research, and see it as a chance to learn/procrastinate. Some writers see it as being back at school. But research is essential. Not only does it add uniqueness and authenticity to your work, it’ll jumpstart your imagination in ways you haven’t planned. 

2. Don’t be afraid to reach out. It might seem intimidating to reach out to folks in the fields you’re interested in, but here’s a little secret: people love talking about what they know! You just have to be polite, make it easy, and don’t outstay your welcome. I usually send a short email introducing myself, the project (in brief), and ask if they would mind chatting with me on the phone or answering some short questions over email. Most people say yes! Over the three or four years I was writing Parched, I spoke to about a dozen people, from neuroscientists to cyborg theorists to professors in robotic law. Some of those conversations lasted an hour or more. Fun! 

3. Know when to quit. If, like me, you like researching, it can tempting not to start writing. Give yourself a deadline. Know when to stop and when to get your butt in that chair, and start writing your opus. 

4. You own the research; it doesn’t own you. At the end of the day, your responsibility is to your readers, not the experts you interview. There was a hot minute in my drafting when I was trying to honor all the nerdy specifics I was learning about, at the expense of the action and drive. I realized that was a mistake. Once you’ve finished researching, put it away. Let your fabulous brain take over. If you misrepresent a few things, who cares! Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. 

About the author:
Georgia Clark is an award-winning Australian author and performer currently living in Brooklyn, New York.

While allegedly studying a BA in Communications (Media Arts & Production) at the University of technology, Sydney, she instead became an activist in the student movement and spent too much money making terrible short films.

After graduating, she became a professional hipster as Editor of The Brag, a free, weekly music magazine. This lead to her starting a band, the not-at-all seminal electro pop trio, Dead Dead Girls. This experience formed the basis of her first novel, SHE’S WITH THE BAND, published by Australia’s largest independent publisher, Allen & Unwin in 2008. SHE’S WITH THE BAND was distributed in the U.S. and the U.K. in 2011 and attracted five-star reviews.
In 2007, Georgia won a national pitching competition at SPAA, the Screen Producer Association’s annual conference, for Starts At Sunset, a one-hour drama/comedy about vampires who play in a band.

Georgia has worked as an acclaimed freelance teen and lifestyle journalist for over ten years. She is published in Girl’s Life, Cosmo, CLEO, Daily Life, Sunday Life and more. She has worked as the acting Features Editor and senior contributor for Australia’s number one teen magazine, Girlfriend. She has also attended writers’ residencies in Martha’s Vineyard, California and Portugal, and received grants for her work.

Georgia moved to New York from Sydney in 2009. Here, she performs improv comedy and writes from the New York Writers Room, which involves eating macaroons and drinking many, many cups of tea. A play she co-wrote and performs in, PICKLES & HARGRAVES, AND THE CURSE OF THE TANZANIAN GLIMMERFISH, will be on in the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival.

Author's message
Be curious. Ask ‘why?’. Focus on expanding your point of view rather than defending it. Be generous, with your words, your actions, your time. Don’t look for reward: it will come. Don’t pursue money. Pursue passion. Money will come. Travel as much as possible. Live in a foreign country. Be kind and open and engaged. Then you will live an extraordinary life.


Anita Yancey said...

Yes, I would like to be in a sci-fi story in a futuristic world. I think it would be cool.

Linda Romer said...

Yes I would like to be in a sci-fi story. I think a story about aliens would be cool. Friendly ones though.

Unknown said...

sorry but I don't like to be in a sci-fi story

Unknown said...

Futuristic world, definitely!!

collenga said...

I would like to be a character in a futuristic dytopia run by super intelligent robots!

nurmawati djuhawan said...

i choose alien because i like watching movies about aliens :)

Unknown said...

I think so , what kind, hmmm not sure, but I think any kind leaving this world behind and entering a new exciting world maybe aliens because you could in theroy make friends, but robots would be cool because they could fight for you and I think a futuristic world where there is flying cars would be super cool. thanks so much

Anonymous said...

a robot in the future