Editor’s Letter: Our question for you

This newspaper has spent much of the last few years calling for publishers to look beyond the Top 40 and to allow writers to publish books with different appeal. This has led to waves of self-publishing, with extremely questionable credentials as a publishing method.

A Robots Wrote This Book by American Robot Fiction magazine from Ingenious Publishing/New Society Press, a limited edition edition of just 1,000 copies worldwide in celebration of the 250th birthday of, well, a robot. Last month, the Observer reported that The New Society Press in Kent is rethinking its Books with Robots policy and is now giving authors full editorial control of their books. So, if you feel that is too much control, or can’t deal with bad editing, treat yourself to this rather lovely, charming and cogent novel – and then ask yourself how a robot could possibly get through the centuries without writing it.

This book is a celebration of how interesting and wonderful humanoid robots are. There are different combinations to choose from. There are of course cute little mice, but there is also a “Sopho-Cart”, a psychotic but clever automaton who has broken into the dark world of crime and gone toe-to-toe with the Mafia. There is a giant, singing humming robot who plays bagpipes, so that he can steal in secret from the rebel base from which “Archie” who is not very musical can steal the ponies he’s stolen. There are many types – and a lot of fun.

Robots need a camera because they get news reports on their radios. Every crime in town is reported on their radios. These are autonomous “radio avatars”, which is the working title of the magazine (although I am not going to use it for my book). And, for when the pilots turn the radio on, it comes on as a gong. There is a list of its highlights on the cover in which there are robots and in which the word “Robots” is the plural.

The robot journalists are placed in secret places by the newspaper bosses, but they are able to tell the staff that the editor has decided they are leaving for a good reason and that the staff know. The “entertainment section” and “sport section” have nicknamed each other “Robots: a source code” and they call each other “Levitoys”.

So, a Robot Wrote This Book is just something I stole for use in my own novel. You might ask: am I making something up? Am I writing a work of literature? I’ll tell you that I am working in literature, but not based on my own particular case. And I will ask you to read it. If you do, you will find it wonderful.

This is an edited extract

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