Interview with Floor Kist, author of science fiction Can Machines Bring Peace?
Can a machine bring peace? Or are humans built for war?
450 years after Earth was bombed back to the Stone Age, a young diplomat searches for lost human settlements. Kazimir Sakhalinsk narrowly escapes an exploration mission gone wrong and searches for ways to make future missions safer for his people. A festival introduces him to the Marvelous Thinking Machine.
A machine Kazimir believes can change everything
For his admiral it’s nothing more than a silly fairground gimmick. But Kazimir is convinced. Convinced enough to go against orders and build one of his own. Convinced enough to think he can bring peace. Convinced enough to think humanity is worth saving. What if he’s wrong?
He asks his hikikomori sister, a retired professor filling her empty days, the owner of the festival machine and the admiral’s daughter for help. Will that be enough?
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Kazimir hears the beep-beep response to his beacon. The plane is overhead! His breath shortens as he peers through the night. Standard protocol states the plane will land at a safe landing zone within a kilometer radius of ground zero. If Kazimir can find the right direction, he may actually have a chance. There! The shape of the plane against a clouded moon is a beautiful sight. He is afraid to smile, but can’t help himself.
He follows it, stumbling over the thick roots of the trees. Quickly, he looks up.
There she is again. No. ‘That’s… that’s… black flag.’ That means the others are dead.
Standing against the tree, he retches. Cold sweat forms on his forehead and his back. He shouldn’t have left the settlement. He could have saved them. No. He would be dead too. Kazimir gags and coughs. He spits out the sour taste, and wipes his chin. ‘Yuck.’
He looks up, trying to control his breath. The twin rudders and the nose turret machine gun nozzle give the Ki-2 light bomber away. Kazimir has only seen it in the hangar of the Ryūjō. He remembers the pilot telling him about the 500-kilogram maximum bomb load. All headed towards the settlement.
The ground trembles with the explosion. Kazimir sees the red and yellow clouds grow against the dark sky. Seconds later, he hears the wheezing sound of the dropping bombs, followed by the roar of a thousand dragons. Sound travels at three hundred meters per second, so he must be about 300 meters away.
The hot blast wave that follows knocks him down. He hits his head on the root of the tree. ‘Stupid tree.’ He feels a sharp pain. Warm blood dribbles into his hair. Its metallic scent reaches his nose.
Sounds of the explosion die down.
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An Interview with Floor Kist
-What inspired you to become a writer?
Mary, thank you so much the interview. It’s really cool to meet a story whisperer that chats with manuscripts. It really shows your dedication to books. So, it’s really an honor to be hosted by you.
All people are storytellers at heart, I believe. And some actually take the step to write it all down in a full grown novel. 100 000 people a year publishing books. So, there is an enormous desire to tell a story.
My first stories were superhero comic ‘books’ (a folded page filled on all four side) when I was eleven or twelve. I think I wrote six or seven of them. When I was fifteen, I wrote my first movie script.
And my novel “Can Machines Bring Peace? Hope in a Post-Apocalyptic Age” is the first one I ever wrote. It’s part One in The Thinking Machine Trilogy.
For the moment, I wouldn’t consider myself a writer just yet. After finishing the Trilogy, I’ll start believing it myself.
-If you could visit your book’s world for a day, what one thing would you do?
Kazimir, the protagonist in my novel, is inspired by The Marvelous Thinking Machine at the Tanabata fair, in Japan in the 25th century. There is a 1930s vibe in the story, because of the loss of modern technology after the Final War.
And while researching my novel, I found old pictures about the fair. So, If I could visit my book’s world, I would definitely go to the Tanabata fair. Then, I would go up to The Marvelous Thinking Machine and ask “what is 42 an answer to.”
Its one of my favorite parts in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, when they build a huge supercomputer to answer the question about Life, the Universe and Everything. The supercomputer takes millions of years to answer the question. And at a festive moment celebrating the moment the answer is due, the super computer says: “42”. So, they build a new supercomputer to ask what 42 is the answer to.
-It’s two in the morning. What does your protagonist reveal in confidence? (Don’t worry, we won’t tell.)
Protagonist Mizuki is the daughter of an admiral in a very traditionalistic household. She thinks her mother is too submissive to her father. Because of the situation with her father, Lady Saigō, the confidante of the Japanese Empress, asks Mizuki to meet regularly. The meetings are awkward at first. But then Mizuki discovers the wisdom of the Imperial advisor. What Mizuki hardly dares admit to herself is that she loves her ‘Great-aunt’ (There is a quick smile. “Please, call me Great-Aunt Oai.”) more that she loves her mother.
-Which of your characters would you go out for drinks with?
Aisake Tūmatarau is the inventor of The Marvelous Thinking Machine. It works with steam and whistles, then ejects the answer to the question of the paying fairgoers. As a young man, he discovered an old book about the adventures of Baron Munchhausen. That and a talent for magic tricks help him survive his orphanage.
I love the stories of Baron Munchausen, so I’d really like to discover the flair in Aisake’s rendition of them.
-You’re in a tavern, and a dwarf challenges you to a duel. What do you do?
Accept the challene, of course, under condition that I decide the contest. Then I would challenge him to an old and traditional Dutch folk game called ‘Koekhappen’.
It’s a version of the apple bobbing game.
But instead of apples there is ‘koek’, a sweet, spiced rye cake. And instead of the apples floating in a pail of water, the pieces cake dangle from a rope. And the rope is set at the height of an average adult.
Let’s see him sink his teeth into that!
-Is there a genre you could never write? Which and why?
Oh yes, definitely ‘horror’.
I’m a real scaredy cat when it comes to that genre. I can’t watch scary movies. I can’t connect to that kind of cruelty. And I can’t even imagine anyone wanting to read horror stories.
So, from a point of view of content, it frightens me. And from the point of view of knowing what my readers would like to read, I have ab-so-lu-te-ly no clue.
About Floor Kist
Floor Kist lives in a Dutch town called Voorburg with his wife, two sons, two cats and their dog Monty. He is currently deputy-mayor for the Green Party and an AI researcher. He’s concerned about current divisive public and political debates. But he’s also interested in how AI can be used to resolve society’s big issues.
This is his first novel. He’s been carrying the idea about a story about AI bringing peace for a long time. The Covid-19 lockdown in the Netherlands suddenly gave him time to actually write it.
Find him online:
Floor Kist will be awarding a $30 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
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