The Uncanny Valley Club— a fictional look at how the way we treat robots might influence the way we treat each other.

It’s been eight years in the works, and The Uncanny Valley Club is finally done and dusted and set free in the world. I say robots above, but it’s essentially about sexbots. And, I’m going to say (bravely) I’m quite proud of this book. The characters have come to life and are now quite real to me—and I’m quite fond of them. The last few drafts really brought them to life, and the good scrub and polish given to it by Lindsay Corten (Corten Editorial) has taken away any fears I might have had about the book.

But mostly, I feel like I’ve written the book that has given me a chance to say what I’ve wanted to say. Why Robots? A few years ago, I watched a documentary about relationships with robots (or sexbots) and it stirred up my long-time interest in, and anxieties about (which started in my uni days) cyborgs and Bladerunner type stories. Before long I found myself deep in a research tunnel that led me to explore the way interactions with sexbots might change how we humans would relate to each other. The result is this new book, The Uncanny Valley Club.

Within the wider look at sexbots I’ve cheekily indulged in a thread that allows for some of my research to come to light, that being the interesting fact that traditionally people who identify as male are more likely (statistically) to be interested in the creation of robots in the image of humans, than in cyborg robotics or enhancement type robotics (cyborg engineering) which is more likely to be the domain of women. This has allowed for a really fun tension between female and male roboticists in the story, and for some explosive events.

On the face of, it’s a speculative fiction novel set in mid-21st Century—yes, not too far from now, but the focus is on relationships with robots, think The Stone Gods (Jeanette Winterson), or Machines Like Me (Ian McEwan). The story follows Henry King as he dabbles with the idea of using a sex doll to treat a medical condition. The deeper themes take a look at our relationship with a world of self-drive cars and artificial intelligence. It asks the question, can the way we treat robots influence the way we treat each other? And by extension, can the way we treat each other online, change how we treat each other in reality.

The book has been in the making for eight years. Not eight solid writing years, but on and off, with long periods of inaction due to ill health, on my part, putting it on ice for years at a time. (At times I couldn’t read a sentence let alone write one, and at one point decided I’d not write again.) But here we are with the book finished.

Blurb: Henry King manages Quinn Corp, a robotics company, but he’d rather spend his time with his vintage car, and his house full of vintage memorabilia. He often chases down the self-drive cars to nudge them off the road causing them to spin off into a kerbside crash. When Henry purchases a sex robot to treat a medical condition—at the encouragement of his friend Vince, who owns his own sex doll, and his therapist, who is a sex doll salesman—it changes who he is, how he feels about himself, and how he treats the women in his life. Henry struggles in his life trying to connect the two worlds of robots and humans, fiction and reality, lust and hate, until it all comes falling apart for him in The Uncanny Valley Club. Set in the mid-21st century, The Uncanny Valley Club asks the question, can the way we treat robots influence the way we treat each other? And by extension, can the way we treat each other online, change how we treat each other in reality. Treading the psychological path between human and robot relationships, The Uncanny Valley Club is a fast-paced speculative fiction novel by Julie Proudfoot, author of The Neighbour and winner of the Seizure Viva La Novella Prize. 

Passages of writing: On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan


Book: On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, p86 of 2008 Reclam edition. First published 2007.

Why: What I love specifically about this passage is the discussion on the power of words – the naming of the illness the mother has makes everything clear for the child (Edward) and how that changes everything for him.

Maybe this is more meaningful for any reader who grew up with a parent suffering a mental illness, suddenly becoming aware by being told the name of it, but it’s such a sad piece, (and so well written to evoke the sadness)  the way the child distances himself emotionally from the mother once he realises she has an illness:

‘The term dissolved intimacy, it coolly measured his mother by a public standard that everyone could understand.

But in a more general way it captures the moment when a child realises he’s not locked in to following in his family’s ways and will go on to be whoever he wants to be.

They stood side by side while Lionel lit his pipe at last, and Edward, with the adaptability of his years, continued to make the quiet transition from shock to recognition. Of course, he had always known. He had been maintained in a state of innocence by the absence of a term for her condition. He had never even thought of her as having a condition, and at the same time had always accepted that she was different. The contradiction was now resolved by this simple naming, by the power of words to make the unseen visible. Brain-damaged. The term dissolved intimacy, it coolly measured his mother by a public standard that everyone could understand. A sudden space began to open out, not only between Edward and his mother, but also between himself and his circumstances, and he felt his own being, the buried core of it he had never attended to before, come to a sudden, hard-edged existence, a glowing pinpoint that he wanted no one else to know about. She was brain-damaged, and he was not. He was not his mother, nor was he his family, and one day he would leave, and would return only as a visitor.

On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: