AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Nnedi Okorafor

This interview was conducted by Jude Griffin.

At the time of writing “Spider the Artist” you were dealing with some arachnid visitors in your home. Did writing the story change how you viewed your eight-legged guests?

No.  I was terrified of spiders before and I am still terrified of them now.

You’ve said that writing “Spider the Artist” changed the direction of your work as it was your first time trying to write pure science fiction and that you liked it a lot. What were some other causes of direction changes in your writing?

I’m always learning, trying new things out, and generally trying to push my work and myself farther. I know the types of stories I want to write in the future and I’m not capable of writing many of them yet. It’s only by trying out new methods of storytelling and testing and tasting new ideas  that I will gain the capabilities to write these stories.

Some people have called it a love story—was this a surprise to you? What do you think about viewing the story through that lens?

Yes! This was a shock to me. It never crossed my mind. I had one reader who was sure that. . .oh I can’t talk about that because it would give away the ending. But, yes, this was a shock. However, when I step back and look at the story outside myself, I clearly see why people read it that way. And dare I say I agree. And wow, what a sweet thing and what a unique relationship. This story is continued somewhat in my forthcoming novel The Book of Phoenix (2015) and, I admit, this love story reading is the version I had in mind.

Why pick music as the bridge between human and robot?

Really, this was more about the spider aspect of the Anansi Droid than the robot. Spiders are extremely sensitive to vibration. I remember reading a study done on spiders that showed they could be controlled by vibration. What better way to get through the programming of a robot fashioned after a spider? Plus vibration can affect and destroy technology. On top of all this, I believe music has a spiritual power than can enter the souls of both the living and artificial because it can be felt in so many ways.

Udide seems to manifest emotion: being pleased, touching Eme gently. Is emotion a prerequisite for creating and appreciating beauty/art?

Certainly. Emotion is the catalyst for creation. If one doesn’t feel, why would one create? How can one create when he or she doesn’t feel or react? And in order to appreciate art, one must have an emotional reaction to it.

What is the appeal of “robot uprisings” fiction? Why do writers—or you yourself—write about it? What do you think readers like about it?

For me, I love the idea of robot uprisings. Human beings may play God, but they can never BE God. Life cannot be contained, not even artificial life. This fact doesn’t bode well for human beings. However, I find this idea heartening, as an earthling. It means that no matter what terrible things human beings do, the earth her (earth’s) desires will always come first and always persevere. Human beings may create life, artificial life, but because it is life, it will always eventually break free and choose its own path. I find this exciting.

What are some of your favorite examples of robot uprisings (in any media), and what makes them your favorites?

Definitely The Matrix, or really, I have to reference Animatrix here. In Animatrix, the story of the robot apocalypse was told and it’s a story where you see here human beings went wrong with their arrogance and lack of empathy, compassion and respect for those who were not like them. Just because you create something does not mean you are its Lord. We should have learned that lesson in dealing with our own children. And then when the robots come to power, they make the same mistake! So telling.