Hey there, folks. So my latest novel just came out, and I thought I might talk about it a little bit. Of course, I've mentioned it in the past, and I even gave a brief synopsis of how it came to be. But let me go in a little more detail today, and dig into some of the thematic elements that went into writing it.
Children of the Mechanism might be a little bit startling to people who have only read my Mary of the Aether series. Why do I say that? Well, because at times it is profoundly bleak and bloody. It is not a Young Adult novel.
On the other hand, if you've read Shadows of Tockland, then you probably know what you're in for. It's not the same sort of story as Shadows of Tockland, but it exists on a similar plane, in a manner of speaking. If you can handle one, you can handle the other.
Children of the Mechanism is an adaptation of a short story I wrote way back in 1995 as a creative writing assignment for a college class. For some reason, I had watched a documentary on CNN about children in the Holocaust, and the thing that disturbed me was the thought that there were kids who basically grew up in concentration camps. The evil and awful things they experienced on a daily basis were their only version of "normal," because they didn't know any other way of life.
And that led me to consider the condition of workers and child laborers in third world sweatshops. While my own children spend their days at school, at sports, playing video games, jumping on the trampoline, there are child laborers who endure long, miserable days of drudgery, hard work and pain, all for subsistence wages. It is the only life they know.
The thought of some kid working twelve to fourteen hours a day making soccer balls so that kids in wealthy countries can run around and play disturbs me greatly. But I can't tell their story. I haven't lived their story.
Science fiction gives me the opportunity to deal with the same things thematically in an artificial environment of my own creation. So in Children of the Mechanism, we are introduced to a series of young people who live and work in various room inside a massive, mysterious factory. They are guarded by cruel robots called Watchers. Life is full of daily misery and pain, but it is the only version of "normal" that these workers know.
Of course, at heart I am a hopeful person. I can't bear to leave people in that bleakness without the possibility of redemption or deliverance, so in the course of the story, strange things begin to unfold, and some of the workers escape from their rooms into the corridors. That is the gist of the story.
Writing Children of the Mechanism was emotional and cathartic, and I hope it is as impactful to readers as it was to the writer.