I is for Isobel—Amy Witting

When the next book on my TBR pile is by an Australian author, female, and set in Australia, I pour the coffee, grab the book and go back to bed. I is for Isobel is such a beautiful classic, a little bit sad, a little bit real, at times funny, and a lot lovely to read. Isobel’s attachment to words is fun and fascinating.

She turned her head to look at him, remote in sleep: delicate sallow oblong face, fluted upper lip, light-brown crimped hair drifting across his forehead…listen, you don’t have to paint his portrait.

Doctor, I have this problem. Some people count lamp posts. I describe them. You don’t think that’s a problem? You should try it sometimes, like five lamp posts one after the other, a word picture of each, to be handed in nowhere at the end of the day…

I is for Isobel, Amy Witting. 1990

The Uncanny Valley Club: Scenes In Colour.

Dale and Henry, the two pivotal characters in The Uncanny Valley Club, come together in this chapter, chapter four. Neither is who the other expects to be meeting. To Dale, Henry is the person she needs to get close to, a senior and dynamic business manager at Quinn Corp. Someone with the reputation of a manipulator who she needs to be careful of, but upon meeting him, he comes across as a bit of a loser. To Henry, Dale is the new intern, more of an inconvenience to Henry, but she’s to become the person who brings both him and Quinn Corp undone. (How I came to be drawing these pictures )

She embarked on this venture four weeks ago with the creation of a persona, one completely at odds with her own, allowing her to be the person she needs to be. But now, she’s rattled. She bolsters herself by reciting the list of attributes she had decided to take on: unflappable, uncaring, straightforward, daring—I don’t give a fuck. A personality to wear like a cloak.

She pulls her bag close against her legs. A woman heads toward her, her face focussed, and then moves on past while hurrying along her four small jiggling children—a family size that must be a pleasant throwback to the last government. The crowd thins. The trains become still. A fake vintage clock echoes throughout the station with a confected tick thunk, tick thunk, tick thunk, and the vast building pulsates with the emptiness.

Her phone vibrates in her pocket, and she takes it out. It’s Esther from QRC. She breathes in. It rings and rings. She breathes out. Train noise builds around her. Heels click, and the drones return to hover. The energised air needles her anxiety.

The Uncanny Valley Club, Julie Proudfoot

Drawing Scenes from The Uncanny Valley Club: Social Bots Chapter four with Pics Art

The social bots appear in unexpected places in The Uncanny Valley Club, and when Henry discovers his closest friend, Vince, who had always been hell-bent on making sure he remains completely biological himself, had purchased one, it doesn’t sit right with Henry. The Social Bots (or sexbots, depending on which character you are) are viewed differently by each of the characters, and their uses and valuability vary from therapeutic to life-changing, or fun-park to degrading. (For the why of how I came to draw scenes from each chapter see here)

“As Henry speaks, his attention is drawn to a swelling movement of the covers on the other side of the bed, and, in that moment, there emerges—like Gulliver from ropes—a pale face that, as the sheets slip away to the floor, gradually reveals itself to be the head, then the neck, and then the body of a woman.

Vince’s eyes follow Henry’s gaze. ‘Have you not met Greta?’ he asks, and he casually throws a thumb over his shoulder. Vince smiles because, of course, Henry has not met Greta. Greta is new.

‘Nope, I’m inclined to say I haven’t met Greta. And here I was thinking the piles of bubble wrap in the lounge were a new exercise machine.’

‘It is kind of a new exercise machine.’ Vince grins.

Vince grabs a plate as it begins to slide from the covers with the emergence of his bed companion, who has been so still and quiet this whole time that Henry suspects Vince intended to keep this new thing in his life hidden.

It’s a serene face that smiles at Henry, but her eyes dart down, up, down, then up again as it takes in the details of what it means to be Henry.

‘Hello Henry,’ it says. ‘Lovely to see you again.’

Although Henry has worked for Quinn for many years, he doesn’t deal with the social bots. It’s not his job. His focus is the business of getting contracts signed, deliveries delivered and debts paid. In fact, he prefers not to think about the bots as functioning beings and how they’re used, at all.

Vince watches Henry’s face.

‘We’ve met before?’ Henry asks it.

‘Not exactly,’ it says, ‘but I’ve been aware of you.’

And now Henry finds that, apart from complete surprise, he’s feeling agitated by the idea of it knowing him, but he not knowing it, and the only way he can manage to express an opinion is to mock Vince: ‘What were you just saying about being the real deal?’ Henry says, and he thumps his fist against his own chest.”

The Uncanny Valley Club, Chapter 4, Julie Proudfoot. 2022.

Drawing The Uncanny Valley Club: Scenes in Colour Chapter One

During downtime between drafts of The Uncanny Valley Club, I took to making drawings of scenes from the book, usually one or two drawings per chapter. Drawing was an easy way to keep engaged with the stories and themes in the book—which helped maintain continuity of the storylines when I came back to them.

They were simple drawings, I had no plans to show them, so no planning went into them other than seeking out a scene that stood out, and drawing it, then digitally enhancing it. Looking back on them now, I quite like some of them and so thought I’d share one occasionally along with its scene.

This first drawing is from chapter one.

A loud, hollow thump comes to Henry’s attention from across the circuit. A pedestrian lies on the road—with arms spread out and legs stiffened in fright, Jesus-style—stalling the honking traffic. A woman bends a knee to the road by the pedestrian’s side, to help, and shouts threats at the receding self-drive while holding her phone high to record its cold-hearted retreat.

A crowd gathers, drawn to an opportunity to air grievances, and they, too, reach out with their phones, as though in a synchronised Nazi salute, to film the self-drive as it tootles down the road, off and away, without a care. The entire shenanigans a result of the self-drive having selected the path of least damage: up the curb, onto the footpath, and neatly into a lone and oblivious pedestrian—thump.

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