Brought to you OBS reviewer Sammy.
- Be sure to read “Love and Sex Invertebrates” here at OBS.
Pat Murphy: It was a tough choice, I’ll admit. What about the giant pacific octopus, the praying mantis, the sea slug, and all the other critters with fascinating reproductive habits?
Like any writer, I settled on the species I chose after much more research than I probably needed to do – because the attributes of those species in some way resonated with the story and the character. In my stories, I’m always seeking emotional resonance – where the facts of the story reinforce the emotions.
Sammy: Do you watch Animal Planet?
Pat Murphy: Of course! Doesn’t everyone?
I am also an enormous fan of the Planet Earth series, which focused as much on the environment as on the animals. As a biologist, I’m fascinated by the ways that plants and animals have adapted to extreme environments.
Sammy: Favorite Animal?
Pat Murphy: I’m sorry – that’s an impossible question. Too many choices and too many criteria for making those choices. I like the octopus for its alien and wily ways. In one research lab, an octopus slipped out of its aquarium at night, devoured fish in a nearby aquarium, then returned to its own aquarium before morning. Now that’s sneaky!
I’m fond of wolves and spent some time at Wolf Park in Indiana where a group of animal behaviorists have maintained a pack of captive wolves for a few decades now. I like foxes and bears and the wild parrots that live here in San Francisco — laughing wildly as they fly overhead, usually when you are trudging up the stairs to Coit Tower. I can’t say I like scorpions, but I think it’s wonderful that they glow under ultraviolet light (and I wonder why). I’m interested in the mantis shrimp because their eyes have twelve different kinds of color receptors. (Most people have just three.) I admire the emperor penguin for its persistence in the face of a ridiculous climate. I am entertained by the meercat because it stands on its hind legs and keeps watch. I think I’ll stop there or we’ll be here all night.
Sammy: You described the making of the Robots in wonderful detail. They reminded me of some of those creative garden decorations made out of different kinds of odds and ends. Where did you get the idea for them?
Pat Murphy: For more than 20 years, I worked as a writer at the Exploratorium, San Francisco’s museum of science, art, and human perception. Along the way, I met many artists and scientists who built with odds and ends – in fact, that’s a description that applies to just about everyone who worked there. Some of the artists who did work akin to the robots in this story include Clayton Bailey and Chico McMurtrie.
You didn’t ask where I got the notion that evolution would continue beyond humanity, but I can’t resist telling you. That comes from reading the essays of Loren Eiseley, an anthropologist and an amazingly lyrical science writer. I really recommend his book, The Immense Journey. For me, every essay in that book was an exercise in time travel, a wonderful experience.
Sammy: Katie was a great character, is she based on someone you know that has done some self searching? One of the questions Katie was asking herself, was what is love…did you purposefully make her answers naive?
Pat Murphy: In the end, I think I create all my characters – from Katie to the robot gnashing his metallic teeth –by considering aspects of myself. I suspect most people go through a period when they are trying to understand how the emotional world of relationships works. Unlike most people, Katie never had the opportunity to reach that understanding. Her naiveté reflects that lack of experience.
Sammy: Thank you for the opportunity of reading such a great short story. I am looking forward to reading more of your books.
Pat Murphy: Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed the story.
Thank you to author Pat Murphy for another great interview!