Friday, March 2, 2012

A Brief Interview with Author Daniel H. Wilson

I had the idea of trying to expanding this blog a little to include not just reviews of the books I read, but if possible, to include some brief interviews with authors that I enjoy. I don't know how often they'll accommodate my requests, but you never know unless you try, right? This is my first - and hopefully not last post of its kind.

Daniel H. Wilson has a Masters Degree in Machine Learning and a PhD in Robotics. He is the author of the novel Robopocalypse, which appeared on the NYT Bestseller List, as well as some non-fiction titles including Where's My Jetpack?: A Guide to the Amazing Science Fiction Future that Never Arrived & How to Build a Robot Army: Tips on Defending Planet Earth Against Alien Invaders, Ninjas, and ZombiesHis next book Amped will be published this summer.

I understand that Robopocalypse is being made into a movie by Dreamworks with Steven Spielberg directing it. That must feel incredibly satisfying as an author to have a story you wrote get that type of attention. As the creator of the story, what type of feelings do you have about turning it over to someone else and letting them take some kind of ownership for it?

I can understand how it would be scary to hand over something that you've had total control over, and then sit on your hands waiting to see what will happen. But Steven Spielberg is directing Robopocalypse. I'm sitting on my hands, sure, but I'm sitting in the front row and I can't wait to see what he comes up with.

The story is told in much the same way as was Dracula and more recently World War Z by Max Brooks, using various accounts and sources to tell the story rather than the typical narrative style. Were either of those books influential in the way you told Robopocalypse?

I enjoyed both of those books, and the incredible success of World War Z certainly helped Robopocalypse get sold. The vignette narrative style is so useful in an epic story because it lets you jump between all the awesome things that are happening and drop most of the boring connective tissue. That said, Robopocalypse does have persistent characters who come together into a single story by the end.

Your PhD in Robotics obviously served you well in writing Robopocalypse and your other works. Do you think you’ll always write books where futuristic technology plays a major role? Or are there other types of stories that you think are inside you that will eventually get written?

I love thinking about the relationship we have with our technology. That will probably always be an underlying theme of whatever I write. It's an ancient relationship that the first humans had and future humans will have, so I don't think I'll run out of stories.

I read in another interview that you gave that you don’t really worry about the possibility of an eventual robot uprising. What realistically do you think the future of Artificial Intelligence in computers could be?

AI is already smarter than we are in many specific domains. This will continue until they're smarter than we are period. As human beings, we will respond by doing what we do best -- adapting.

Your next book, Amped which will be out this summer looks equally entertaining. How was the writing process for that one different from what you did for Robopocalypse?

Amped is near future story in which a massive civil rights movement has been sparked by people with disabilities who are cured by neural implants that make them smarter than regular people. It has a more traditional narrative structure, told chronologically from the perspective of one character. That made it harder to map together, but also let me go into much more detail with our protagonist. And trust me, Owen Gray goes through some serious s***.

Thanks so much for your time and I look forward to reading more of your books in the future.

No worries, Sean. Thanks for your support!

My post on Robopocalypse is here.

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