Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?
“Transfer of Ownership” is the story of a sentient suit whose human partner is murdered and what happens when the murderer decides to take it.
What was the genesis of the story—what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?
The anthology project itself inspired it. I loved the idea of the suit as a character. I wondered what it was like to be a suit—carrying around this stinking meat sack, monitoring it, taking orders, taking the damage. As I considered the relationship between the armor and its partner, I wondered how hard it would be on the armor to change partners, especially to a new one it didn’t like? It’s almost the setup of a police buddy movie, but they can’t take turns driving, complain to their superior, or go home to their own families at the end of the day. It’s much more intimate. And what if the new occupant—partner—was not just unlikable, but actually a really bad person?
Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?
I don’t often write science fiction, for starters—I’m much more comfortable with fantasy. And I’ve never written something with a specific project in mind. I usually just write what’s interesting to me at the time and hope that some day it will find a home. I also gave myself some constraints: a very short word count and an imposed structure. And of course I had to come up with rules that would limit Exo-5 and make the story internally consistent.
What kind of research did you have to do for the story?
I consulted a couple of lay-experts on military SF. There were a lot of “That would never happen” issues involved if I were writing a near-future story with something even close to existing technology and real-world military structure. The result was that it just couldn’t be that near-future. Ultimately the story was told from such a tight, immediate point of view that a lot of the logistical and plausibility issues I originally sought help with weren’t even necessary—it was enough that Exo-5 was out there and in this situation without having to provide the background of how or why.
What is the appeal of power armor/mecha? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do you think readers/viewers/gamers love it so much?
I think the appeal of being greater than we are must be part of it. The idea that you or I could be enhanced in a way that isn’t invasive, just putting on a suit that makes us bigger, faster, stronger, and then being able to return to our humanity by simply stepping out of it is exciting. It’s like being a part-time super-hero. For the world and characters that I created, though, I didn’t want it to be quite that easy, so I made it both difficult and painful to be partnered with a suit. There is nothing appealing to me about being Carson!
What are some of your favorite examples of power armor/mecha (in any media), and what makes them your favorites?
I would have to say it would be the ultimate part-time super-hero—Iron Man. He appeals to me because he’s so deeply invested in the suit, financially, intellectually, and emotionally.