Mary Robinette Kowal is back in our current issue with her new story “Artisanal Trucking, LLC,” which she says started as a “gee whiz” idea and expanded from there. She also talks past jobs and future books.
For more about her process, see this companion post, but be warned: spoilers reside within.
Asimov’s Editors: What is the story behind this piece?
Mary Robinette Kowal: I was at a conference in a round table discussion talking about automation and privilege. At some point, we were talking about how knitting, which used to be a necessary thing, became automated with knitting machines and now it is a luxury art. It’s expensive to buy wool. It takes time and leisure to make a garment. I said, “I imagine the hipsters of the future will totally do artisanal trucking.” I had more of a point but stopped talking as Story stampeded through my brain.
AE: How did this story germinate? Was there a spark of inspiration, or did it come to you slowly?
MRK: The conference gave me the “gee whiz” idea. But I wound up developing it as part of a Short Story Intensive that I was teaching. In the class, I always take a gee whiz idea and demonstrate how you can explore it to find a story. I worked through that and liked what I was coming up with. Interestingly, the character’s name, “Dude,” was originally a placeholder in my notes. But I thought it worked for him so I kept it.
AE: What made you think of Asimov’s for this story?
MRK: I always love the SF that Sheila chooses for Asimov’s because it explores an SFnal concept but always centers on character. The story of a dude, his dog, and an AI truck just seemed like a natural fit.
AE: How much or little do current events impact your writing?
MRK: They impact me quite a lot, sometimes by shaping the things I’m thinking about while I’m writing and sometimes by distracting me from writing. I think this happens with most fiction, but science fiction makes it very easy to spot the effects of current events from the Atomic era science fiction to Cyberpunk. I enjoy the fact that our field allows us to extrapolate and imagine futures.