Author Interview: Madeline Ashby, Author of vN and iD

Today we have a special guest here at Working for the Mandroid. Over the last few days, I've reviewed the first two books in Madeline Ashby's The Machine Dynasty series, and Angry Robot was kind enough to hook me up with Madeline to answer a few science fiction and robot questions. You can find my reviews of vN here and iD here.

Note: Thank you to Madeline being kind enough not to call me an idiot for not realizing that The First Machine Dynasty was the subtitle to vN and not the series name. That's what I get for reading an e-ARC of the second book with no real cover. I apologize for the error, Madeline.


Welcome to Working for the Mandroid, Madeline! For those of our readers who are unfamiliar with The First Machine Dynasty, how would you describe the series in two sentences or less?

Thanks for having me! 

To answer your question, I would first say that the series itself is titled "The Machine Dynasty." The first book, vN,  is subtitled The First Machine Dynasty, and the second, iD, is subtitled The Second Machine Dynasty. And so on. It's a series about self-replicating humanoid robots, the feuds between them, and how they decide to solve the human problem. 


It's unlikely that any of our readers are unfamiliar with robots, but in case a stranger wanders in from the summer heat, how would you describe the characters of Amy and Javier to someone unfamiliar with humanoid robots?

Amy and Javier stem from separate clades of self-replicating robots. That means that they each have one parent, who looks exactly like them. And any iterations they produce will look exactly like they do. Sort of like Russian nesting dolls who can walk and talk and think and fuck. Amy can kill humans. Javier can't. That's about it. 


Even though your series is told in the third person, it's from mostly one character's perspective. Why did you choose to tell iD completely from the perspective of Javier after using Amy in vN?

It's less complicated. It's easier for me. Developing one character is hard enough; I don't see the need to try my hand at more within the scope of one novel. As for choosing Javier this time, I really enjoyed him as a character, and I knew he had more to say. Also, I wanted to see what it would be like to be a robot with an intact failsafe -- a robot who was vulnerable to humans. 


Which is the harder perspective to write from, Amy or Javier?

Amy is harder, now, for plot reasons that would give away some endings. But Javier is more difficult emotionally. He's very tough for me to write over prolonged periods of time, because he's had far worse experiences than I have. 


The creation of vN stemmed from a religious group deciding to create companions for those left behind after the impending rapture. Why did you choose that particular origin story for your robot creations?

Well, I had something to say about the power of mega-churches, especially those who preach tribulation theology. And also, I thought that stories about humanoid robots developed for purely military or sexual purposes had been done. If you want to talk about themes like creation and loyalty and free will, you might as well go to the source. 


Do you have any writing routines that get you in the mindset of seeing the world from the perspective of the vN?

I listen to Nine Inch Nails, in a pair of Sony earbuds. Usually it's "The Fragile," or "Ghosts." I have a vN-related playlist, but "The Fragile" always works when I'm stuck. It's my favourite NIN record. 


In a world full of vampires, were-creatures, angels, fae, and assorted other supernatural creatures, what made you choose robots (besides robots obviously being far superior)?

Well, for one thing, everybody else was doing those creatures. I'd be yet another woman in her twenties selling a vampire novel. (Yawn.) Also, I didn't have a vampire story to tell. Vampires are fucking parasites. I found robots more compelling. Robots have thematics attached that are a lot meatier, to my way of thinking. Free will, obedience, autonomy, agency, revolution. That kind of thing. Those are powerful themes to work with. Also, I was an otaku from way back, so I was immersed in media about robots and giant mecha and cyborgs, and so on. So I just found them cooler. Because they are. 


You have a Masters degree in Strategic Foresight and Innovation. What inspired you to seek what sounds like a degree in real world science fiction and did it have any effect on how you approached writing vN and iD?

My friend Karl Schroeder (who writes for Tor) suggested it to me, after I'd finished my first Masters. He thought I would be wasted in traditional academia, or that I'd at least stifle and die creatively there, and he suggested I get another kind of degree and become a consultant. It was the right choice for me, and I'm happy I listened to him. 


What made Angry Robot the perfect publisher to bring The First Machine Dynasty to the world?

They've never been scared by anything I've ever done or suggested. They wind me up and watch me go. They have a pretty free hand with me, but they're incredibly supportive. They give me structure when I need it, and they have the best damn marketing team in the business. Seriously, I tell other writers what it's like to work with them and they're jealous. 


Any hints on what's ahead in The Machine Dynasty series?

Here's one:

"And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new."


And finally will there be a Second Machine Dynasty somewhere in the future?

Technically, that's the subtitle of iD. :-) So it's already here!


Thank you so much for visiting Working for the Mandroid, Madeline! Anything else you'd like to share with our readers about vN, iD and The Machine Dynasty?

Hmm. There should be some news soon, but I'm not at liberty to discuss it. Fingers crossed until then.


About Madeline:

Madeline is a science fiction writer, strategic foresight consultant, anime fan, and immigrant. She is represented by Anne McDermid & Associates, and IAM Sports & Entertainment. She has been a guest on TVO's The Agenda multiple times. Her novels are published by Angry Robot Books. Her fiction has appeared inNature, FLURB, Tesseracts, Imaginarium, and Escape Pod. Her essays and criticism have appeared at BoingBoing, io9, WorldChanging, Creators Project, Arcfinity, and 

Visit Madeline at her website, on Twitter, on Goodreads, at Angry Robot's website, and read more of her writings at Boing Boing.