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

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. 

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