The killer robot is back! Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Killer Robot Diaries book series, writer Martha Wells, which began with All Systems Red (Tor, 2017), has just unveiled a new novel starring everyone’s beloved rogue android …
“Fugitive Telemetry” (Tor, 2021) acts as a prequel to the full 2020 Killer Robot novel Network Effect (Tor), which is the latest published work in this series. It directly follows the quartet of short stories that culminated in 2018 Exit Strategy (Tor).
Here in this new installment, the venomous killer robot just wants to drink up his favorite soap operas and protect his friends from being killed by the powerful and nefarious corporation they’ve pissed off. But then a human corpse appears at the Conservation Station, and the Assassin Robot rushes into battle with the security forces to help solve the murder.
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That means dodging bullets, going into outer space with poor equipment, mountains of data analysis, and the frustrating experience of re-talking to people.
Space.com recently contacted Wells to learn all about the mysterious Killer Robot murder investigation, while staying inspired by the world, more books on Killer Robots to be released in the future, and the fascination with watching the NASA helicopter Ingenuity Mars…
Space.com: Could you tell us about the fast track Runaway Telemetry and how it fits into the Killer Diaries saga?
Wells: There is a scene in Network Effect where the Killer Robot shows Thiago a video clip of the incident where he stopped the assassination attempt on Dr. Mensah with the help of the security station guard. In the video, Murderbot has a good working relationship with the station’s security personnel.
So I wanted to go back a bit to the timeline and show how the relationship of the killer robot with these characters developed, the hard start when the killer robot was still acclimating to the station, and how the people at the station got accustomed to the killer robot. And I’ve always loved murder riddles, so it seemed like a fun way to do it.
Space.com: What inspires and inspires you as a writer for this cyborg series?
Wells: I really enjoy writing character, and over the past few years, working on short stories and novels has been a great consolation to me. They can be very difficult to write; Murderbot’s perspective through various online systems and drones makes the logistics of the battle scenes very difficult. And managing emotions from Murderbot’s perspective can be tricky.
I usually rewrite a lot, throwing 5,000 to 10,000 words per novella and starting over. The novel was even more difficult and took about 18 months to complete with many false starts. But I’m very passionate about the character and the world.
Space.com: How are current advances in artificial intelligence and robotics driving interest in the Killer Robot books?
Wells: I’m not entirely sure if this is the case. Murderbot is set in the far, distant future and is not based on real artificial intelligence. But readers have always been interested in robots and AI characters, from the very beginning of science fiction. Research on artificial intelligence characters is very popular nowadays, such as “Autonomous” by Annalee Newitz, “Auxiliary Justice” by Anna Lecky, “Machinality” by S.B. Divya and the anthology Made to Order: Robots and Revolution.
Space.com: Do you enjoy doing research? What aspects of space science are you most interested in?
Wells: Much of my research has been done in first-person perspective in database programming and design in the 90s and early 2000s. But right now my favorite aspect of space science is observing rovers and the new Ingenuity helicopter.
Space.com: Are there plans to adapt these killer robot books for TV or a feature film?
Wells: There are plans for the series, but it is still under development.
Space.com: What’s next in your creative dish and where can Murderbot go?
Wells: I’m working on a science fiction novel right now, but I will be writing at least three more Killer Robot books, possibly two novellas and another novel that is likely to take place after Network Effect.
Martha Wells “Fugitive Telemetry” available now.
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