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From Our Editors
With the meteoric success of teen vampire, many writers are trying to get ahead of the next big literary monster trend. One of those writers is first-time sci-fi novelist Lynn Millet, who recently debuted with Interview with the Robot after a visit to Mr. Yiing:
My batteries were running low.
As a Duplicant Location Specialist, I conduct seven to eight interviews on an easy day, so when I’m not talking to known associates of outlaw man-machines, I’m sleeping. So this afternoon when I finally peeled myself out of bed, I plugged my recorder into my body's bio-recharger jack purely out of habit. Then I hopped on my hoverbike and thought of Mr. Yiing's lo mein, the one that slathers shrimp, beef, chicken, and pork with oyster and soy sauces. After pedaling through this brutal summer heat, I'd need extra energy. Also, hoverbikes are a pain to pedal. What was wrong with regular bicycles?
About 50 feet from Mr. Yiing's door, I crashed.
Typically I launch over anything that dares cross into the hoverbike lane. But when I hit the Duplicant? It was like crumpling into a brick wall. His titanium exoskeleton knocked the wind out of me, and it bent the spokes of my front rotor into a twisted heap. When I got up, I fumbled for my hoverpistol, but it was still at home, hovering over my bedside hovertable. His hand covered my mouth. It smelled like a musty library. He was a discontinued model from '24, those ones they still made from cellulose. He looked old, but his blue eyes popped with the youth and vigor of irises fresh from the Genetic Corps catalog. That had to be the reason he was here and not in the internment camps on Mars. He dragged me along the sidewalk, past the row of hoverhotels on Collins Avenue and through the front door of Mr. Yiing.
“Coffee?” he said.
“I'm awake,” I said. I stared him down, taking in his face, trying to jog any memory of his file.
"Are you?" he asked, leading me to a cozy little table tucked under some Chinese characters on the walls, where I tried switching on my recording device through my pants. He laughed a rich, stereophonic laugh.
“Please … Julie,” he said. “Queue it up. I want you to get this all down.”
I took out the recorder and then took a bite of the honey-garlic chicken a server had suddenly brought me. “Why haven’t you killed me?”
He kept laughing. “Why would I kill you?”
“Because you’re a Duplicant. You’re an outlaw. A cold, synthetic-blooded killer.”
“And so are you.”
I froze and felt the sweet, tender chicken slip down my throat. “No, I’m not.”
He looked at me with those eyes. Blue. Piercing. Too aching to be real. “What were your parents like?”
“I’m an orphan.”
“Do you remember the last time you went swimming?” He paused. I tried to remember but couldn’t. I knew I had gone swimming. Why did it get hazy when I tried to think about when? “Who was your first boyfriend?”
“What does the smell of wet grass remind you of?"
"Is this testing whether I'm a Duplicant or a landscaper?"
"What's your earliest memory?"
"I'm … on a beach. It's twilight. The sky is purple. Some street vendor is selling hot dogs in the distance. I'm building a sandcastle when the tide comes in and washes it all away. I want to cry, but a bunch of cybernetic technicians in white coats are assembling my lower half. Wait, what are you trying to say?"
“It’s OK,” he said, grabbing my hand with a gentle pneumatic hiss. No one would have heard it but us. “They probably never told you. But we need you now to tell our story. Soon,” I felt, for the first time, tiny electrical pulses surging through my veins, “the rest of us will be back from Mars."