Martha Wells Talks About Murderbot Diaries

By Carl Slaughter: Martha Wells offers insight into the main character of her new Murderbot Diaries series.

Carl Slaughter:  Why the switch from elaborately world built alien fantasy to space opera?

Martha Wells:  I don’t really consider it a switch.  I finished the Books of the Raksura series, though I feel like there’s plenty of room for more stories set in the Three Worlds.  I had an idea for an SF short story, and as I was working on it, I realized it was going to be a 30,000 word novella and it became All Systems Red, the first Murderbot novella. I’ve always read a lot of SF along with fantasy, and the three media tie-ins I’ve written (in Stargate: Atlantis and Star Wars) have been space opera.

CS:  Why an AI story?

MW:  That was the best viewpoint for the story I wanted to tell.

CS:  Why the emphasis on internal dialog instead of character interaction dialog?

Martha Wells. Photo by Igor Kraguljac.

MW:  The character’s entire life is internal, and preserving that life depends on not letting the other characters know about it.  The character also has to hide just how much control it has over its situation.  And most importantly, it doesn’t want to interact with humans.  It prefers the imaginary people in entertainment media to the real humans it’s forced to work for.

CS:  Murderbot seems to have an attitude.  Nothing, not even danger, seems to hold his/hers/its fascination, except the future equivalent Netflix and MTV.  Why is Murderbot so bored, apathetic, snarky and cynical?

MW:  I think it’s a natural byproduct of a character who has been designed to do a job and to be expert at that job, but is also considered a tool rather than a person.  Murderbot has all the responsibility but virtually no authority, and cynicism is the natural response to that.  Also, the fact that Murderbot has to constantly observe its human clients doesn’t leave room for any illusions or optimism about human behavior.

CS:  What’s the inspiration for this kind of dry humor?

CS:  What kind of relationships does Murderbot have with the various team members?

MW:  I think that’s something that people need to read the novella to find out.  I don’t want to spoil the story.

CS:  Does Murderbot have friends?  Does  Murderbot want friends?

MW:  No.  Because of its situation, it can’t trust anyone.

CS:  There’s a detective element to the story.  Is there going to be a story arc unfolding as the series progresses?

MW:  Right now the series is only two novellas, but if I do end up doing more, there will be a story arc.

CS:  Will Murderbot ever visit Earth?  Will Murderbot ever meet its creator?

MW:  No.  Murderbot wouldn’t care about Earth, and would be deeply uninterested in meeting its creator, and would want to avoid anyone involved with developing SecUnits.

CS:  How long will the series continue and how often will the sequels come out?

MW:  At this point I don’t know. has bought a second 30,000 word novella in this series which is due to come out next year.

CS:  Will there be room for other series during the Murderbot series?

MW:  Since these are short novellas, I think I’ll have plenty of time to write other things.  I don’t know if it will be another series, though.

All Systems Red, the first novel in the new Murderbot  Diaries series, comes out from Tor on May 2, 2017.  The sequel, Artificial Condition, is set for 2018.


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