Friday, August 08, 2008
FEATURED AUTHOR: Dr. Howard S. Smith
Dr. Howard S. Smith is an MIT-trained engineer with an interest in artificial intelligence – the supermarket self-checkout machines are all based on his work – and natural intelligence – evolution of the brain.
Set a few years into the future, nuclear North Korea is extorting financial concessions from Japan, while terrorist rockets from Lebanon rain down on Israel. The main character of the novel, Tokyo Police Inspector Suzuki Haruto, stumbles upon an incredible arms deal. The rigid, by-the-rules-only Haruto is thrown from his murder investigation into love and happiness. Will the love one man has for a woman save our world or destroy it?
The title of the book is intentionally similar to Isaac Asimov's classic I, Robot but of different meaning. In Asimov's stories, the robot-based plots develop interesting twists because the robots must follow their rigid rules known as the three laws of robotics. Some sixty years later, this book updates Asimov's work with a realistic technology for the robots, as well as a realistic driving force – military need – for their emergence. This is one reason the title is used, but the other one is that the main character of this book, Haruto, is in fact a human 'robot' who must follow his own internal rigid rules. And by following these rules an interesting twist in the plot arises, and ultimately leads to the emergence of vast numbers of robots in our world, thereby bringing Asimov's vision to fruition.
What would you like your readers to take away from your book?
I intentionally wrote I,robot to be read at different levels. At the top level there is an action-packed story – lots of karate, nuclear explosions, robots with bullets firing out of their mouths, and finally falling in love with that special person. At the next level there is a reflection of the many rules we all follow, what happens when some of us follow these rules too rigidly, and so on, in tight association, of course, with Asimov's original ideas. At a deeper level there is a realization of how fast time passes us by, as the first paragraph of the book states in a Japanese haiku (with an English translation of course) and without realizing it, what we are doing to our world, and that despite our cultural and emotional differences we need to learn to get along with each other.
What did you learn while writing this book?
That if we're not nicer to each other, maybe things won't finish off so well.
What is the hardest part about the writing business?
Editing… and re-editing… and re-editing… and…
What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
Editing… and re-editing… (oops… you wanted to know "one thing")
What marketing have you found that particularly works well for you?
Online blogs and interviews, just like this one.
What are three things you wish you'd known before you reached where you are now?
For every minute of writing, be prepared to do an hour of editing and re-editing.
This month our theme is Getting Out Of The Slush Pile. Do you have any advice for getting an editor/agent to request your manuscript?
I couldn't find an agent in Toronto. No rejections, but no reads either. But feedback from friends and colleagues was good, so I took the next step and set up as an independent publisher (not a self-publisher, but as a bona fide indie… yup, there are other authors' works in the pipeline).
What was the last conference you attended and what did you like about it?
Polaris – the Toronto sci fi convention. It's sci fi, so automatically I liked it… well… lots of creative persons, lots of interesting discussions… that sort of thing.
What do you do to make time for yourself?
Set time aside. Say that I will work until this time, and then I'm going for a walk or whatever. Does it work? Nahh… usually not.
What was the last book to keep you up at night reading it?
I just finished an ARC I got at BEA… "The Tourist" – a spy thriller. Quite exciting.
How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)
My personal e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org I love hearing from readers… please write. :)
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