I’m sharing with you today the story that won second prize in the contest. It comes from Rev Orion, a teacher who is aspiring to be a full time writer.
Susan Elliott Sim (SES): Tell me a bit about yourself.
Rev Orion (RO): I am a math/science teacher. I am currently without a teaching job, so I work as a teaching assistant at a mental health hospital. I wish I had more time to write. I am working on my second master’s degree and my energies go to that during the semester, although I take notes on stories all the time. I have always liked to write and written. I don’t really consider myself a writer until I earn a living from it.
SES: What got you into writing science fiction?
RO: I read a lot of it. I love the possibilities of science and imagination.
SES: The original solicitation for the contest asked for stories about future programming. It seems to me that in “Autobiography of an Automatic Mind” future programming is more about choosing experiences for machines. Can you say some more about this?
RO: When I first read the flyer, the whole story appeared in my head. After I wrote the story, I reread the request and saw that I may not have created exactly what was requested. With AOAAM, I was exploring the possibility of programming technology in ways similar to the way human personalities and emotional responses are programmed. I also wanted to explore the role of abuse in programming the obsessive drive to please and succeed in some. Is the abuse necessary? Is the abuse worth it? Should the survivor be thankful for it? What if it is just a “synthbrain” that perceives the abuse, rather than an actual human experiencing it? Does that make a difference? Do the ends justify the means?
SES: At the end of the story, the main character “Robin” writes “Tell dad that I am sorry…” What was that about?
RO: It is supposed to allude to the fact that Robin also has personal experiences that drive her to please or seek to please. If the story was longer, she would probably discover that her own memories are just electronic programs and that she is a product of what she thought was under her control.
SES: What do you hope to achieve with “Autobiography of an Automatic Mind”? And with your writing in general?
RO: I’m writing a novel on modern humans invading Europe and killing off all the neanderthals, and I wanted to work on something else for a break. I also wanted to get some response to my work. I let some friends read some of my stories, including AOAAM, and they gave me notes that were very helpful. The problem with friends is, I never really know if something is good or if the reader is just being nice. I wanted an authentic response from something like this contest. My goal is to write for a living.